Delivery planning is a challenging task for even small wholesale or retail distributors. Many companies have GPS tracking software installed on their trucks, such as Samsara, Geotab, GoPilot, Verizon connect, Keeptruckin, to name a few, which have telematics, fleet management, and routing functionality. When we summarize their different functionality, we could say that GPS tracking devices are doing a very good job in:
- Tracking vehicles
- Collecting and analyzing data that comes mainly from vehicles’ engines
- Routing vehicles between predefined stops
Some of these applications also provide stop management options such as;
- Scheduling drivers
- Getting ETAs
While these are valuable functions, they don’t allow us to decide how to route and schedule trucks. Let’s see why it is a difficult task.
Your orders have three main and a dozen supplementary variables inherent to them. When you put your stops in google maps or give it to a navigation app, you assume that you already have your truck filled and know your stops. So, navigation apps should figure out or route the best way to get between those stops. By saying the best way, we usually mean the fastest time. Wholesale distributors deliver their orders from distribution centers (DC) to final customers. Retail distributors deliver orders from DCs to their stores. Despite differences, both will have tight delivery windows. So you can’t sequence them as you please, and you can’t ask a GPS tracker to do that as well.
Variable Service Times
Secondly, your orders have different sizes, even for the same customers from one day to another. It results in variable service durations. We often do not have oversight on how much time your drivers will spend at the customers’ locations. Service times massively affect the composition and sequence of orders in different trucks.
Different Size of Orders for the Same Customer
Thirdly, as in the case of service duration, different orders imply different sizes day-to-day. Companies usually operate vehicles with various capacities, and usually, they have static routes for repetitive customers. As order sizes can substantially vary from day to day, the static routing creates either underused or not-enough capacities.
Other Variables Affecting the Routing
As I have mentioned earlier, there are several other variables, such as HoS and customer requirements, sequence priority, and rush hour influences. Many large companies won’t limit the route planning by a single shift or day. Instead, planners should have multi-day multi-stop routes with HoS requirements (mandatory sleep and breaks) included.
Accurate Estimated Times of Arrivals (ETA)
Route planning is not the only limitation for GPS apps. None of these applications can capture varying service times at different stops, HoS requirements, and breaks, resulting in inaccurate ETAs. It would be good to know the ETAs of 100s of stops and the feasibility checks of getting into delivery windows by taking variable service durations into account.
The route planning becomes one of the most challenging tasks when one factors in all the mentioned variables into delivery plans. The result is lost hours of planners’ time, utilization of more vehicles, inefficient routes, driving more miles, and losing hefty sums of money.
So if you are in a wholesale or retail distribution business, you should think twice if the map with your moving trucks on it is enough for planning and managing your deliveries.