Definition – 7 MIN READ | 03-03-2020
What is route optimisation software?
A route optimization software is an IT system that smartly schedules and builds optimized routes. In this article, we will cover the following subjects:
Cases for which route optimization software is required ;
The different route optimisation software ;
Performance and quality of optimisation ;
Criteria to take into consideration when choosing software.
Let’s start with a quick definition. A route is an itinerary passing through different places to finally return to the starting point. For each place visited, actions can be carried out. For example, simple visits, deliveries or operations. These deliveries and operations have some specific constraints: weight, volume, skills and more.
When to use route optimisation software
If you are in charge of many field workers (drivers or technicians) or a large number of deliveries and visits to carry out, using a route optimisation software could be useful. When to use route optimisation software? In which situation is route optimisation software really useful and profitable?
The answer to this question depends on the level of complexity of route scheduling and building. When the number of constraints is larger and more complex, route management without optimisation tool is more complicated.
What are the essential factors requiring the use of route optimization software
The number of field workers to manage ;
Level of constraint: expectations of customers, available resources, required skills, capacities of vehicles and more ;
The number of operations, visits or deliveries to carry out during a route ;
The number of orders to spread over a period of time.
There are other factors that may encourage you to use route optimization software. In particular, the software allows the interchangeability of schedulers to manage absences and leaves. Thus, the tool ensures the continuity of service.
To use route optimisation software, what is the minimum number of field workers required
From 3 field workers, using route optimization software becomes interesting to determine schedules. With a minimum of fifteen orders per day, the route optimization software enables operations managers to cut down planning time.
There are three main types of constraints that must be managed by the operations managers or the team in charge of the scheduling are usually:
The constraints related to vehicles like capacity, cost or parking place ;
The constraints related to field workers like availability, absences or skills ;
And the constraints related to customers like address, time slot, expectations in terms of time of appointment or frequency.
Thus, when the routes to be managed involve at least two of these constraints, it becomes complicated to manually optimize these routes. The use of route optimization software becomes necessary.
From how many orders per field workers does the route optimisation software become necessary
Today, from five daily operations or deliveries per field worker and more than three field workers, so that’s fifteen daily orders, the route optimization software becomes useful to determine the best routes.
From how many visits per day does the route optimisation software become necessary
From fifteen orders to spread over five days, route planning software is necessary to ensure the geographic consistency during the appointment making.
Two types of route optimisation software
Route optimisation software can be used for studies or on daily basis. The use defines the type of software. It can be:
either strategical ;
What is the use of the strategical route optimisation software
The strategical route optimisation software is used for specific studies. The expected result is to know which warehouses must be implemented in the area and where agencies should be located regarding the location of customers. Therefore, it involves carrying out several simulations using the software.
These types of applications are usually exhaustive. Nevertheless, it requires experts to configure them. Therefore, the use of this software is occasional for professionals. Acquiring such a solution is not necessary.
What is operational route optimisation software
Operational route optimisation software is an application designed for operations managers or schedulers to manage daily operations. The first feature is to plan visits, either as we go along the calls from customers, or in one time over a time period. A second method is more for maintenance operations and deliveries. The smarter is the first step, the faster and more efficient will be the second step. This second step in the process is the building of routes. The efficiency of algorithms also ensures the performance of the optimization.
Finally, some operational route optimisation software offers other features to manage unexpected situations. For exemple, the tracking in real time or not. Discover the benefits from using such software here.
How to ensure the efficiency and quality of route optimisation software
The efficiency of route optimisation software can be defined according to the optimum reached in a defined period. This analysis must take into account four criteria:
The objectives of the optimisation ;
Your customer promise ;
The logistics constraints regarding your business ;
The expected optimisation duration.
Thus, you must define your needs beforehand to ensure the software is designed to your business.
Define the optimum expected
First, it is necessary to ensure that the optimisation meet your needs and the expected operational performance. For exemple, some companies want to minimize miles travelled regardless of the number of field workers or vehicles used. Other businesses want to maximize the number of visits per route.
The most widespread objective of route optimisation is to maximize the number of orders completed, minimize the number of field workers or vehicles used and the miles travelled by the fleet. This feature is designed to satisfy most of uses. In addition, priorities can be added. Experts in optimisation can guide you in a few questions.
Define the customer promise
The desired operational performance cannot be dissociated from your customer promise. Therefore, the definition of your customer promise will have an influence over the function of optimisation. Once again, expert in optimisation will probably ask you the following questions:
What do you promise to your customers ;
Do you promise deliveries or operations within 24 hours or within a week ;
Does your business offer customers the possibility to choose the time slots ;
Do you impose the date on customers.
Define the logistics constraints
For professionals, who have been working for server year in a specific field, defining the logistics constraints is probably a complex part of the process. All these constraints are usually fixed and not easy to define. During the presentation of the software, experts in route optimisation will ask professionals about these constraints.
Define the expected duration of optimisation
The route optimisation requires iterative calculation. When the number of iterations is larger, the chance for the optimum to become more refined is greater. How long are you willing to wait to get a result? Depending on the number of visits to be scheduled, the number of field workers or vehicles and the level of constraints, experts in route optimisation can advise you on a reasonable optimisation period.
How to choose operational route optimisation software
4 criteria have to be taken into account to choose the best route optimisation software:
An optimisation engine designed for your use ;
Extra features designed for your specific field ;
Easy-to-use interface ;
Technical aspects offering good availability and integration.
As mentioned before, the definition of needs will enable you to define the performance and quality of route optimisation software. Several tests are required to validate these algorithms.
Route optimisation software offer usually more features than those only associated with the optimisation. These tools also have features which are similar to the one of TMS (Transport Management System or transportation management software) and field service management software. Thus, there are extra features to manage the communication with customers, to help drivers to navigate and to create report. Several solutions, which are available on the market, can be used separately from other software.
Validate the ergonomic aspects
To ensure the performance of a route optimisation engine, the results must be displayed on an interface. The interface must be intuitive, easy-to-use and efficient to allow operators to modify suggested optimum when necessary.
Validate technical aspects
These aspects are essential and common to all software. There are two questions to ask:
Is the chosen software on promise (hosted on a local server) or cloud-based?
Does the software can be interfaced to other software via API?
The SaaS software offers advantages like availability, quickness of calculation when the hosting is multi-node and adaptative. Furthermore, the presence of API REST will reassure users about the possibilities for upgrading and interconnecting route optimisation software with other software via ERP.