For many companies, planning routes is not as easy as just consulting Google Maps. Many factors must be taken into account such as time windows of customers, different vehicle types with different capacities, (equal) division of the workload among drivers, …. As such, the route planning quickly becomes very complicated and difficult to solve.
Human databases and common sense
Finding a solution to the problem is often quite challenging and the planner can deservedly be satisfied if his solution does not harm too many conditions. However, the question remains whether this is an efficient solution and whether better solutions are possible.
Many companies plan their routes for the following days based on previously-used routes. These routes will be adjusted to accommodate changes in the orders. As such, historically grown routes are created and an overall overview of the planning is lost. This is rarely an optimal solution.
Other companies have an unhealthy dependency on their key employees. Planners who know the geographical maps by heart and know for each customer when and how they should be supplied are no exception. Colleagues are rightly concerned if these human databases are on a holiday or suddenly absent due to illness.
In short, you can state that planning software is relevant when the planning problem can no longer be solved with common sense and the company relies heavily on individuals who know all the parameters by heart. If this is the case, it's time to get help. In contrast to basic management systems (ERP, TMS or WMS, ...), a route planning software is much more intelligent. After all, it solves complex problems by calculating a multitude of combinations. There are too many possible combinations for the human brain to capture and the planner can never beat a number of computer processors who simultaneously work out useful solutions in parallel.
Good planning software not only quickly finds a solution for the complex puzzle, but will also optimize this solution. In the next blog post we will go into more detail about how this optimization technically works, but here is the end result: a lower transport cost and more time available for the planner that he can now spend efficiently on things that really matter.
Planning software is relevant when the planning problem can no longer be solved with common sense and the company relies heavily on individuals who know all the parameters by heart.
Planning software needs structured data
Every company is different and has different objectives and requirements for planning. A requirements assessment is therefore indispensable. After all, the software needs to know exactly what objectives and conditions the planner takes into account on a day-to-day basis.
The company's KPIs and their importance, the fleet characteristics (loading capacity, speed, etc.), the customer requirements and the driver conditions are all aspects that need be examined because of their impact on planning. Only in this way the correct parameters and weights can be set for good planning software.
In addition, the algorithm must be correctly fed with structured data (after all, garbage in is garbage out). To be able to plan automatically, it is necessary that the planning data can be delivered in a structured way. Companies that keep track of orders with pen and paper today must first undertake the step to automation. However, you do not need a complete ERP integration for automatic planning. A good logistics software package can, for example, also read in the data from a structured Excel file in a certain format.
However, many companies work with a management system. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is used within organizations to support all processes within the company. Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are designed to optimize warehouse functionality and a Transport Management System (TMS) supports the logistical processes. It would not be efficient if all data such as addresses, information about deliveries, vehicles, employees and customers had to be manually exported from these systems in order to be imported into the planning software. Good planning software can be integrated into the software through APIs. As such, the digital environment does not significantly change for the planner and the used management system becomes a lot more intelligent in one smooth swoop.
If it becomes very difficult for the planner to find a solution to the planning issue or if the company becomes too dependent on human databases, the help of software is necessary. Intelligent planning software provides an optimized solution that takes into account the KPIs and conditions of the company. After an in-depth pre-analysis, the structured data can be imported or the planning software can be integrated into the used management systems.
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