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GIS based asset management and route optimisation software integration can become complex for organisations where service location data relies solely on manually recorded address data and/or the client database does not have GIS fields, such as, latitude and longitude. Specifically related to route planning, ERP and job management systems also often fail to include weight or size data per product which makes the load planning element of route optimisation more problematic. Added to these issues are problems relating to internal IT infrastructure and keeping the latest versions of software platforms up-to–date. Regardless of your experience with software integration the process can be made much easier when you ensure these common issues have been addressed first.
A ‘data cleansing’ exercise is often required before the physical integration occurs to ensure the necessary data is available in the correct format. Most cleansing exercises focus on address data, typically ensuring the postcode is complete and accurate. For GIS solutions the address needs to be ‘geocoded’ associating the latitude and longitude of the exact service point to the address. With GIS solutions the precise location, such as the letter box, gas meter or back door can be geocoded which is especially important where the postcodes can cover a collection of buildings over a wide area. The ERP or CRM system from which the ‘master’ address data is stored should ideally have a field to hold the latitude and longitude.
When invoicing clients the product weight or how it fits into a truck is irrelevant but for route planning it is critical. If a load can be split across vehicles or if a certain set of products planned together makes a vehicle over laden has an instant impact of the effectiveness of route planning software. If this data is not held within the ERP or invoicing software it is possible to add ‘intelligence’ into the interface to add the weight or size dimensions per order but this adds to the complexity and time taken to specify and write it.
Web Interface vs. Mobile App
Many types of multi-drop route planning software will have a web interface that any employee can access away from the HQ or depot. However, compatibility issues with mobile web browsers can make for a frustrating experience when users try and load the web interface onto their devices especially when organisations have older, unsupported versions of Internet Explorer or a mix of web browsers in use. The best solution for this common issue is to use – where possible – the official mobile app for the software. Ensuring all employees have downloaded the app and know how to use it will eliminate wasted time in dealing with compatibility.
The non-registration of security certificates can cause many issues during the software integration process. Many route planning software solutions will require that a security certificate be registered on both your server and the individual machines on which it is being used. To resolve this issue, check to make sure that both files are correctly registered and are valid.
Port Forwarding Verification
The software you’ve chosen may need to be configured for port forwarding. This will be necessary in order for any change notifications to be received on the main server and individual machines. Check your software’s manual for specified port numbers, and then ensure proper configuration on your router. As well, set any existing firewalls to allow the connection.
File Permission Verification
A common issue with many integration scenarios is the corruption of data. Data corruption commonly occurs with file permissions. For integrated route planning software to work correctly, it must be able to read and write to the database at any given time. Checking data to ensure that it can be accessed by all of the apps that require it will eliminate this issue.
Connectivity of the Network
When an integrated GIS asset or route planning management system fails, one of the most common culprits is lost network connectivity. Before any solution is implemented it’s important to check that the Network Comms are configured to meet the stated minimum requirements. Along with this is ensuring that all components are connected properly to the network. Connectivity can also be an issue for systems using GPS tracking, as this relies on mobile networks for the purpose of transmitting data.
While basic, the above tips can save your operational and IT teams a considerable amount of time in trying to resolve integration issues with vendors.