Routing and scheduling software is a proven and established way of simplifying delivery planning processes to reduce costs and make best use of available resources, while meeting business KPIs and customer delivery needs. Simply switching from manual to automated planning can dramatically reduce transport overheads by as much as 30%, but the latest systems go way beyond this and offer a breadth of business and operational benefits.

The proliferation of telematics within the marketplace in recent years is creating opportunities for integrated technology solutions. There are huge advantages to be had from the convergence of systems—encompassing planning, execution and reporting—so critical data can be accessible via a single system. By removing the operational silos that often exist between planners, transport offices, warehouse teams and drivers, distribution operations can achieve the highest levels of visibility and control.

Combining routing and scheduling, vehicle tracking and electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) into an end-to-end solution makes it possible to optimise every step of the delivery process and deliver the best operation possible. It allows an organisation to plan, do, review and then act, providing the tools and data needed to analyse operational performance, model the impact of potential improvements and, ultimately, implement the changes that achieve continuous improvement.

Keeping on Track

Daily transport operations are becoming increasingly complicated, so it is critical to have planning processes in place to create robust and achievable routes quickly and efficiently—but what happens when the vehicles are out on the road? Our own customer research found that 45% are interfacing vehicle tracking with their routing and scheduling software to address this exact issue. By doing so, they can gain complete visibility during execution of a plan, to easily compare the progress of drivers against it and minimise any discrepancies, while alerting customers to any potential delays.

A vehicle tracking system can also feed actual driver hours into routing and scheduling software, which can then be combined with data about shift times and skillsets. Considering driver and vehicle availability on an individual basis ensures plans are achievable in the real-world, compliant with European Working Time Directive rules and less likely to be changed by the transport team tasked with putting them into action. Furthermore, it can take into account the impact of current and completed schedules on future plans and adjust them in-line with available time and resources.

United Thinking

Streamlining efficiency is a key requirement at every step of the supply chain, so exploring where data can be shared is now an essential part of any planning process. Traditionally, there have been issues with critical information being stored in siloed systems, but there is now growing recognition that increased visibility across an operation can deliver real savings and improvements. This is driving integration with TMS, ERP and WMS systems to connect teams and achieve greater control over distribution operations.

For example, routing and scheduling software can provide vital information to the warehouse to make efficiency and productivity gains, while avoiding unnecessary disruption. Supplying the warehouse team with accurate order information in timely fashion removes the pressure to pick large volumes at the last moment and ensures that vehicles and drivers leave the depot on time. Meanwhile, allocating a vehicle to the right bay at the right time means that unnecessary loading delays can be prevented, and warehouse operatives are not left waiting around to complete order picks and work unnecessary overtime.

Mobile Visibility and Control

Drivers are a crucial part of any delivery operation, so why would a business not have them as a connected part of their supply chain? Bringing together an electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) and mobile job management tool with planning software means critical data can be automatically uploaded to a device, so a driver can access route manifests and call sequences. This assists the driver with their work for the day, while enabling real-time updates to customers and feeding fulfilment data back into the system.

In fact, recent advances in map-based “track my driver” functionality allows businesses to provide their customers with access to live status updates on the progress of a delivery. Operations then benefit from improved first-time delivery success, increased customer confidence and reduced inbound call volumes. A range of information is available, such as how many deliveries are left before an order arrives, providing the customer with accurate details about arrival times or windows so they can plan accordingly.

With customers demanding faster, more convenient delivery, cheaper than ever before—coupled with the demand to reduce environmental impact and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic—distribution operations have never faced more pressure. Having integrated systems in place that bring together the planning, transport, warehouse and driver functions can help deliver real savings, improve operational performance and meet the needs of customers.

Written by David Shaw, Manager of Strategic Projects at Aptean’s Paragon Software Systems