Having a solid route planning system and software to back it up can make all the difference in the world in terms of how quickly and efficiently you are able to get packages out the warehouse door and well on their way to your customer's doorstep.
A good routing system can greatly benefit your business and the overall flow of operations by lowering fuel costs, providing quick delivery times to your customers, and keeping your carbon footprint as small as possible.
Building and implementing such a route planning system is usually a very complicated and highly-detailed process that takes many hours, lots of brainstorming, and a fair amount of research to get just right. All of that expertise does not come cheap, nor are all route planning systems built equally. Therefore, it is super-important that you know exactly what a good route planning system looks like, how well it should perform, and how to pick one that will meet all of your delivery routing needs.
To help you get started, we have rounded up some advice that will get you moving in the right direction. So, if you are ready to start optimizing that old transportation schedule, let’s jump in!
It All Starts With the Basics of Good Route Planning
Planning routes for just a few trucks or other vessels can be a daunting task. There are numerous complex situations that must be taken into consideration. And this is especially true when you are talking about LTL shipping.
You have loading/unloading stages in addition to various exchanges of goods between carriers on both short and long-haul deliveries. Because of this, if shipping is not carefully planned you may find that your goods are sitting at some distribution center half-way across the state waiting on the next vessel it is scheduled to go out on to its next destination. Oh, and that next movement it makes may be days away.
To resolve this issue, you need to plan it all out strategically so that your shipments are times to arrive and head back out to the next destination as quickly as possible, with as little time spent in shipping limbo as possible. By utilizing some basic real-time tracking of your packages, you can begin to monitor how long your goods are sitting in one location before making it to the next dock or destination.
With this information in hand, you are able to fine-tune your timing just a bit so that all of the different modes of transportation sync up as quickly as possible and that they start and end their journey in the same location. This will minimize the time that your goods are exposed to situations that could potentially lead to damages, and it helps to get your products moving out to your customers in a more timely manner.
Good route planning is pretty self-explanatory… it is all about planning.
How to Ensure Good Route Optimization
When you begin to optimize your routes, every small detail needs to be combed over a few times to work out all the kinks before moving forward. There are plenty of things that you must work through, this would include issues such as USDOT regulations, labor laws, new expenses, and various other components that, as a whole, contribute to making your route planning efforts… work.
First and foremost, your goods need to be on the move as much as possible. You want to get shipments loaded up, shipped out, and delivered to your customers in a timely and well-regulated manner. If you have a lot of shipments with multi-stops to schedule, track, and manage on a daily basis, you are going to need help.
Fortunately, this is where a solid software system really shines. A good system will have the ability to automatically generate efficient truck routes, full with multiple scheduled stops without needing much human interaction. Having a planning system in place that has this capability will not only make your job a little less stressful, but it will also reduce the number of miles your carriers are driving, saving money in the long-run.
No matter what software you choose to implement, one thing should never change; reporting and recording of data.
If you are going to continue scaling your business, you absolutely must understand that reporting and recording of data are vital to growth. Without being able to track and compare your various KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), how can you truly know if you are growing or simply and slowly headed down a decline? How will you know which links in your supply chain need improvement?
A good route planning system will automatically record all of this data for you as soon as it grabs it. Later, you can sit down with all of the data nicely organized and ready to be analyzed. From there, you just need to approve a few changes and most systems are off to adjust personnel schedules, modify specific routes, and restructure things according to the data it collects without any further input.
While most systems are managed in-house, you still want to be sure that the system provider you are going to be using has outstanding customer/client support. These are the people you will be communicating with your system provider any time you experience an issue that you don’t know how to resolve, or in the worst case scenario, your system completely crashes… bringing business to a halt.
In these events, you need to be sure you have a support team that is available 24/7 in addition to a consultant who has been assigned to your case and help things run smoothly for you.
A well-built route planning system can be a game changer for your business if it is utilized correctly, maintained consistently, and subsequently adhered to.
However, no single piece of software is going to be able to do it all on its own. You will need to get down there in the trenches and identify pain points that you want to eliminate milestones you want to achieve, and time gaps that you need to fill with movement.
We hope that this article helps you get the process of better route planning started and headed in the right direction.