Route Planning Software and Distribution

Written by Integrated Skills

Sep 2, 2014

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Route Planning

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route planningDistribution logistics is concerned with the transport of goods between different agencies, which at their simplest are the producer and customer. The term covers everything from a supermarket receiving a fresh consignment from its distribution centre to the movement of specialist goods between retail outlets.
This form of logistics is characterised by very close links between the customer and producer, one reason for this is that distribution logistics often involves the movement of particular goods in particular types of containers. In addition, it tends to be interdependent and so linked to other industries that place extra onus on the quality of the route optimisation software used in the distribution infrastructure.
Computers in vehicle route planning
Due to the sheer number of variables involved in organising a delivery schedule, computers have become an essential part of any dynamic vehicle routing framework. Route planning at its heart is a mathematical construct which uses sophisticated algorithms. These solve a mathematical problem in the fewest number of steps, and so achieve a given aim, which in this scenario is the efficient delivery of goods. Route planning is a highly subjective undertaking because vehicle routing software can represent an expensive investment in the commercial vehicle fleet.
Therefore, the onus is on the organisation to ascertain the best possible fit for its fleet. This has generated a culture whereby there are commonalities in the technology across the industry. However, because every business is different, there is no one size fits all route planning software application. The investment and financial outlay it incurs must be measured against the long-term savings that the technology will garner for the logistics company.
How has route planning developed?
Any logistics organisation is constantly under pressure to improve its route optimisation strategy and as the technology becomes more sophisticated and widespread (and so more affordable), those who do not invest risk being left at a competitive disadvantage. The technology has become more important for the following reasons:

  • Put simple there is more traffic on the road than there was in the past. Vehicle route planning technology does not profess to solve this very real problem, but does seek to enable fleet managers to organise their vehicles accordingly and in real time.
  • As environmental awareness grows, the importance of reducing emissions by taking the shortest possible routes becomes increasingly apparent.
  • A follow on benefit from reducing emission is reduced fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Legislation concerning driver hours is becoming ever more stringent and so efficient route planning means that third party contracting will be reduced. The necessity for such route planning software represents another cost saving as well as clear health and safety benefits to all employees.
  • There is a huge stress placed on fleet managers to deliver goods and return vehicles to the appropriate depot as rapidly as possible. This means the technology employed must be robust and accommodate the unique challenges presented by multi-drop planning.

Establishing the optimum route for a commercial vehicle fleet is always going to be a challenging undertaking which must be embraced by distribution companies if they do not want to be left behind.

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