For many years now, Google Maps has been THE world reference for web mapping services. There are more than 200 countries mapped and nearly one billion active users every month. It’s quite impressive! The navigation application is used by individuals or professionals who want to determine the shortest route to get from point A to point B. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major changes in our society. In recent months, many companies have been offering a home delivery service. At the beginning, schedulers started to use the Google Maps navigation application to organize routes with several stops. But is it really possible to plan optimised routes with Google Maps? What about companies with several drivers? What about routes with many stops? These are all questions that we will answer in this article.
Since its launch in 2005, Google Maps’ features have been constantly evolving. Today, the application is one of the most powerful navigation tools. Whether you’re walking, driving or going cycling, the Google application allows you to find the best path to take to get to your destination. Google Maps is appreciated by its users as it is free and does not require any technical skills.
First, Google Maps geocodes two points A and B on a map. In other words, the application identifies the latitude and longitude coordinates of these two addresses before positioning them on a map.
The iOS and Android application determines the best route based on distance, travel time and traffic. Google Maps also offers some alternative paths.
The navigation application communicates an estimated time of arrival to point B. This ETA is particularly accurate thanks to the real-time traffic via the smartphones of users who are connected to the application. In addition, Google Maps takes into account the usual traffic conditions, i.e. the variations in traffic depending on the time of day and the day of the year.
Google Maps makes route planning with multiple destinations possible starting in 2016. Users can now plan up to 10 stops within a route. But they usually confuse the Google application with route optimisation tools.
Google Maps does not determine the order of the stops …
The user must enter the multiple addresses by hand before determining the most efficient order with drag and drop. This can be a time-consuming task without ever being able to find the optimal order. Here is the feature that differentiates Google Maps from route optimization solutions: the ordering is not automated. Therefore, the navigation tool allows you to find the shortest route between two stops A and B and to plan up to 10 stops within a route. However, Google Maps cannot determine the optimal order for making stops A, B, C, etc. Consequently, Google Maps cant’ be used as route optimization solution.
And that’s not all! These stops cannot be assigned to two or more drivers. In addition, the management of certain logistics or maintenance operations sometimes requires to take into account factors like time and business constraints. Therefore, the functionalities of Google Maps are limited to the planning of a simple route.
Determine a route with less than 10 stops ;
Assign all stops to a single driver ;
Plan routes that do not necessarily must meet constraints (time slot, drivers’ working hours, limited vehicle capacity, etc.).
As you may have understood, beyond a few stops to be divided between two or more drivers, the use of Google Maps is no longer suitable. The route optimization platforms then take over and offer more functions than a simple GPS navigation tool.
These platforms manage to differentiate themselves thanks to their high-performance algorithms that make it possible to determine in a minute the optimal order for the multiple stops. They not only take into account traffic, but also a set of business constraints. Therefore, route optimization solutions are based on artificial intelligence. Today, AI is becoming more widespread in companies and is also attractive in the logistics field for a simple reason: time saving and growth.
The route optimisation is THE best solution to improve the profitability of logistic or service activities. The operational costs associated with the travelling of agents in the field are reduced by almost 35%. Using these technologies is even more important for sectors that face fierce competition. Managers now need to find solutions to meet demand while limiting the related operational costs and saving time, not only for the field staff, but also for the planners in charge of organising route and supervising agents.
Time slots: your customers are only available at a certain time of the day to receive a parcel or benefit from a service. Between 10:00 and 12:00, for example.
Duration: you offer services that sometimes require a variable duration to be completed on site.
Deadline: you must respect a deadline to complete certain orders.
Preferred agents: your field workers must sometimes be assigned according to specific customer relationship or according to the sectorisation of the territory.
Repeating orders: your services sometimes require regular visits to certain clients involving the scheduling of repeating appointments with a daily, weekly or monthly frequency.
Working hours of drivers: you must take into account the variable working hours, breaks and staff absences when determining routes.
Departure and arrival addresses: you must take into consideration the places of departure and arrival of your agents (warehouse, office, home, specific address, etc.).
Skills: you must assign orders according to the skills of your agents to ensure a better resolution rate in the first visit.
Type of vehicle: you need different types of vehicle to complete some operations (commercial vehicle, heavy goods vehicle, refrigerated vehicle, vehicle with compartments).
Vehicle capacity: you must respect the loading capacity of each vehicle, assign the suitable one according to the weight, volume or number of parcels to be transported and manage returns to the warehouse to reload the vehicles when necessary before the agents continue their routes.
Pick-up & delivery: your business requires to collect goods at one address before unloading them at another address or goods to be loaded at a point A before being delivered to a point B.
As explained before, the Google Maps application does not have algorithms to automatically determine the best order of stops. The user must determine himself this order using drag and drop. However, beyond 5 stops, determining the best order to reduce the number of kilometres travelled over the entire route becomes a headache. For the organisation of these routes, professionals need to automate the calculations. Therefore, there are turning to route optimisation solutions. The manager simply has to import a list of appointments and the platform smartly define the best order fore these stops in a few minutes. Guaranteed time saving for your team!
The scheduler usually has a list of orders to be divided among several agents. It is obvious that the number of possible routes increases with the number of drivers. Manually and smartly assigning these orders to the drivers becomes almost impossible for a human being.
All this is especially important, as the scheduler should not only try to reduce the kilometres travelled between the different stops, it should also take into account the factors linked to the agents which were mentioned above. For example, the departure and arrival addresses of the agents, the breaks and working hours must be considered to meet the time slots imposed by each customer.
Furthermore, the manual allocation of deliveries or services respectively leads to an unequal distribution of orders per vehicle and the workload between the different agents. There is one thing for sure: with a route optimisation platform you no longer need to worry about this. As soon as the settings have been defined, the tool smartly divides orders and balances schedules according to vehicle capacity and the availability of agents, while reducing driving times.
In a competitive environment, the ultimate goal for a manager is to ensure the satisfaction of the end customer. That’s why the delivery of a parcel or the completion of an operation must respect the deadlines initially communicated to customers. Therefore, this loyalty necessarily involves the acquisition of new technologies, in particular route optimization software making possible the construction of feasible routes which ensure compliance with the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) indicated to the customer.
Nowadays, there are platforms offering even more powerful features. You may not be aware of it, but some route optimization software also has solutions for the sending of notifications to customers: SMS or email alerts with arrival time, automated alerts when the agent is approaching, alerts after the completion to get review from the customer about the quality of service offered. The sending of custom notifications not only improves your level of customer satisfaction, but also ensures that the customer is at home to receive a parcel. Avoiding therefore a second visit, which is very costly for the company.
The route optimization platforms usually offer drivers a mobile application that allows them to view all the stops of the day and access the information needed to complete orders. These applications generally have an automated data entry and feedback features: photos and the customer’s signature.
The information collected during the routes is then used to generate dematerialised service or delivery reports. In addition, this data is analysed in order to continuously improve the performance.
Determine the best order of stops in a few of minutes ;
Increase the productivity of mobile workers to meet demand (better resolution rate and increase in the number of orders per route) ;
Improve the profitability of the activity (fuel and maintenance costs savings up to 30%) ;
Meet customer expectations (respect of deadlines, real-time notifications).
You now have all the information you need to determine which solution is best to meet your needs. Do you still have some questions? Would you like to find out more about how route optimization platforms work? Good news! You will be able to discover by yourself the power of these tools, as most of them offer a free trial period.