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Route Planning Software 101
- What is Route Planning Software?
- Common Features
- How Cloud-based Route Planning
Software Compares to Manual Processes
Steps in Choosing the Right Vendor
How Route Planning Software Benefits Your Business
Whether you are focusing on growth, customer satisfaction, or are looking to free up your time – route planning software can be an easy (and quick) way to help you meet your goals. To find the right solution, you’ll need to review your current processes, identify any gaps, and define goals.
This Buyer’s Guide will help you understand the power and importance of a route planning software, how it can help your business succeed, and define what an optimal tool looks like. It will also help you prepare for vendor calls with quick tips, best practices, and checklists.
Routing Planning Software 101
What is Route Planning Software?
Route planning software (aka routing software, route automation, or route optimization) simplifies the complexities of scheduling orders for businesses. It is an automated process that uses maps and math to balance customer requests and business constraints, such as:
Time-windows assignments – so that you can set and meet customer expectations with on-time arrivals
Load capacities for vehicles – so that you never exceed weight/size limitations for your vehicles (IE, van 1 can hold 100 pallets)
Time capacities for drivers – so that your drivers will never work beyond the defined working hours (IE, set Driver 1 to work 7am- 3pm and Driver 2 to work 9am-5pm)
Special requests – automatically plan for needs like “driver must have government clearance”, “vehicle with gate lift”, or “customer needs it delivered by next Thursday”
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Route planning software provides powerful functionality including live GPS tracking, proof of delivery, reporting and analytics, API integration, driver mobile app, real-time planning, and advanced settings.
Set working availability, starting and ending locations, and break times to plan around your driver’s available hours and preferences.
Account for maximum mileage, special tags, speed, and fixed costs (this info will be used behind the scenes to build smarter, cost-effective routes).
Quickly choose the date range you want to plan for (single or multiple dates) - or review previous dates.
Time Window Planning
Build your routes based around the earliest and latest times your driver can arrive at an order - and to make sure you are meeting customer expectations.
Drag & Drop
Ability to move optimized orders between vehicles or days, regardless of what a software has planned. Keeping you in control!
Drawing tool used for selecting multiple orders on the map.
Ability to quickly switch routes between vehicles.
Best Fit Orders
Squeeze unserved orders into your plan without removing or rescheduling planned routes in the click of a button.
A skill, piece of equipment, or other special aspect that makes a vehicle or group of vehicles the only qualified resources to serve an Order.
Plan last minute orders on the fly or re-plan your day if you need to adjust planned routes.
Proof of Delivery
Record photos, signatures, notes, or voice notes that your driver collects from an order.
Keep your drivers on schedule and allow them to click any order and then use the navigation app of their choice (like Waze, Google Maps, etc.).
Receive real-time GPS information from your drivers to update the estimated time of arrival for the next orders in the route.
Planned vs. Actual
Check in on how the planned was executed and monitor performance.
Route Simulation Planning
Test your routes, plan expansions, or see how changes can affect your business in a safe environment before you dispatch to your drivers.
Get a quick snapshot into your team’s performance metrics to see where you are succeeding and where you might be underperforming.
Record Driver Arrival / Departure Times
Receive timestamps on when drivers arrived and/or left locations.
Mark dates that your team is not available so that you do not plan unavailable resources, like approved vacation days or vehicle maintenance.
Define areas that could impact your routes so that you “slow down” and provide accurate arrival times.
Limit vehicle entry and exits or pre-determine what Vehicles are eligible to enter defined geographic areas.
Block or “disfavor” specific roads when planning your routes.
Costs can be the real, dollar value challenges you face in your business or more general costs, like customer satisfaction, that you must consider when building routes.
View Only Mode
A setting that allows users to check on routes without having the ability to make changes.
How do routing algorithms work?
They are built on a brute-force or heuristics approach.
A brute-force approach will analyze all of the possible combinations of sequences and assignments. A route with 85 stops (or nodes) has an unimaginable number of solutions (if there aren’t peculiar constraints). This is impractical and the result is not worth the time to compute...it could take years of computation.
The heuristics approach is based on local map data, set constraints, and runs sophisticated mathematical algorithms behind the scenes. They’ll quickly build efficient routes that comply with your constraints within a few minutes.
How Cloud-based Route Planning Software Compares to Manual Processes?
It’s not a competition of human vs. computer. The best in class routing solutions are powered by smart routing algorithms that can compute millions of delivery scenarios in a short amount of time – and can quickly provide an optimal solution.
Route planning tools should be considered decision support tools that help you reach your goals. When you receive the plan, you can choose to dispatch “as is” or make adjustments. The output is a starting point – but you might need to add in your real-world knowledge like: moving a high priority order to your best driver, adjusting the traffic due to an event or parade, blocking off certain roads due to construction.
When Can a Route Planning Software Help You Do the Heavy Lifting?
1. You don’t have hours to dedicate to route planning
2. You want an easy way to increase efficiency and productivity
3. Customers want same day or next-day deliveries
4. You’re expanding and anticipate major growth
5. Paperwork has become overwhelming
6. You want to review performance (compare plan vs. actual)
7. You need a central location for planning – no more maps or sticky notes
STEP 1: Review Your Current Processes
First, meet with your team and review your current route planning process. Identify gaps, inefficiencies, and dig into your team’s pain-points. Scoping out the project early will help you stay organized, make better use of your time - and help you make a decision that everyone is on-board with!
Are you a business owner route planning on your own?
You’ll be interested in making sure that software:
- Is easy to get started with from day 1
- Integrates into your current workflow
- Provides free onboarding & ongoing support
How much time is
spent route planning
How do your
drivers receive their
How do you
How do you confirm
How do you
Do you handle
issues related to
Can you plan around
specific delivery or
How do you measure
or report on your
STEP 2: Define Your Business Goals
Now that you have outlined your current processes, you’ll want to discuss why you are looking for an easier, smarter way to route plan. Sure, every business is looking to improve processes and streamline operations… but identify requirements from the different departments that could be impacted by your decision.
Tip: Make sure you have a positive sales experience! Use this time to get a feel for the company culture and if they have a customer-centric approach.
1. What are you looking to achieve?
2. What are your top 3 requirements?
3. Do you have a dedicated resource to implement a new solution? (Tip: Choose a vendor that has an open, well-documented API that your IT team has reviewed)
4. Do you want to keep your drivers organized with a mobile app or use print-outs to share schedules?
5. Do you plan on integrating route planning with your current business system? What system do you currently use?
6. What requirements does your IT team have? (if any
7. How much time are you willing to dedicate to implementing a new software? How many team members will need to be trained?
8. What is your budget?
STEP 3: Evaluate and Compare the Competition
Make sure you ask the following questions when speaking with software vendors and run through the post-call checklist to keep your notes organized. These answers will help you narrow down your search and identify the top vendors.
|Features and Benefits||Vendor 1||Vendor 2||Vendor 3|
|Is the solution cloud-based or on premise?|
|How do I input my data?|
|Can the system take into account different modes of transportation? (Heavy truck, motorcycle, bike, etc.)|
|Does it take into account time windows?|
|How does it plan around traffic?|
|How many orders can you plan at once?|
|Do you offer GPS tracking? Is it through your company or a 3rd party integration? (Note: if through a 3rd party integration, you may need to sign additional contracts and manage the setup and integration - which can become time-consuming.)|
|Can your solution use GPS location to plan in real-time?|
|How can I dispatch routes to my drivers?|
|Do you have a native mobile app or web-based?|
|Can I use this solution outside of the U.S.?|
|Can I access reports or performance metrics?|
|What are my expected savings? Can you run one of my routes and share my expected results?|
|Technology||Vendor 1||Vendor 2||Vendor 3|
|Who is your map provider? How often are the maps updated?|
|How often do you release new updates? Do I need to pay to use the updated version?|
|Will I have access to your APIs? Does a standard subscription include the APIs?|
|Can you integrate with my customer database easily? How much time would my team need to invest?|
|Company||Vendor 1||Vendor 2||Vendor 3|
|Can you provide a customer reference?|
|How long have you been in business?|
|How many employees do you have?|
|What is your NPS?|
|What separates you from your competition?|
|Can you run one of my routes and share the output?|
|What is your security policy?|
|What is your current uptime?|
|Support and Pricing||Vendor 1||Vendor 2||Vendor 3|
|Is onboarding and/or support included?|
|How long will it take to get started?|
|Is support outsourced or in-house?|
|How can I contact support?|
|Will I be charged any maintenance fees?|
|What is the pricing model? What is the contract length?|
|What is your security policy?|
STEP 4: Make the Right Decision
After you complete your demos, review the final solutions and make a decision as a team. Route planning is an important part of your operations and can affect several teams. With the right solution in place you’ll start to free up your time, increase customer service levels, and see gains in efficiency.
1. Does this solution meet your top 3 requirements?
2. Can this solution grow with your business?
3. Are you satisfied with the support and service level?
4. Is the solution user-friendly? Will it be easy to learn?
5. Did you contact each customer reference?
6. Is this solution built for someone in your industry? What are your industry peers using?
7. Have you read online reviews?
8. Does this solution generate acceptable results?
How Route Planning Software Benefits Your Business
By automating route planning, you will plan the more efficient route in minutes, reduce human-error, and increase your team’s productivity. When you can rely on a cloud-based, decision-support tool, you’re able to focus your time on meeting and exceeding customer requests - while at the same time increasing revenue and reducing overhead costs.
You’ll be able to make smarter, data-driven decisions while gaining control and visibility into your day.
Keep up with competition
Focus on customer service
Gain and keep customer trust
Confirm proof of delivery
Make data driven decisions
Easily communicate with drivers
Manage your day in real-time
Support & improve current workflows
Improve accountability & productivity