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The primary target of Vehicle Routing Software (usually called route planning software) is improved ROI through improvements in the efficiency of the planning function – vehicles, bicycles and/or people. It has become a de facto aspect of effective management of transport intensive logistic operations.
Many senior managers assume that route planning functionality is inherently part of “transportation management software” (TMS). The reality is that the majority of TMS vendors have no route planning functionality within their solutions.
An effective transport management process has a number of key factors that influence whether or not logistics businesses succeed, one being the relationship between the Vehicle Routing Software and the Transport Management System.
1) VRS and the TMS
For any organisation to succeed it has to implement proper planning and decision-making processes. The TMS contains all the orders (jobs) that need processing for a given period of time (next day, week, month, etc). For each order there is a significant amount of data for the TMS to maintain and process, such as, clients contact details, payment terms, payment history, product data, stock, etc. 90% of this data is not relevant for route planning.
The VRS only requires data pertinent to the delivery: Postcode and/or latitude and longitude, access restrictions, product size & weight, time of delivery (1 hour, am/pm, all day) and the list of orders to be delivered/collected. And, err… that is about it! Not much data compared to the TMS.
The clever (and very, very specialised) thing that the VRS has that the TMS does not are the algorithms to calculate the best routes over the road network.
Ensuring that the data flows from the TMS into the VRS (just one way) in an accurate and timely fashion is the key to a successful planning operation. In the vast majority of cases there is no need for a two way interface (to and from) the TMS and VRS as, once the routes are planned and with the drivers, the TMS really only wants to know if the product has been dispatched and delivered – nothing to do with the plan itself.
2) Managing the delivery day and customer follow-Up
With GPS vehicle tracking integrated with the TMS and/or the VRS customer services can inform clients about the location of the vehicle compared to the plan. This helps in dealing with client enquiries at first point of contact, making clients satisfied and happy.
3) Measurement: Plan versus actual
A transportation management system provides customised and detailed analytics providing a better understanding of a given business. Certain systems enable users to drill down to compare the planned route versus the actual route the drivers took. Any deviation can be viewed and, most importantly, costed.