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8 proven ways to ensure your route planning software project succeeds

By the time you’re ready to implement route planning software, you will have already invested a lot of time defining your requirements, researching potential suppliers, obtaining stakeholder approval and securing the required budget.

So when the implementation process finally begins, you want it to be quick and painless, with rapid ROI.

Many of the projects that we work on with our clients are straightforward, but every transport operation is different. To help you ensure your route planning software project succeeds, we’ve gathered together a list of the top 8 lessons that we’ve learnt from working with a wide range of clients over the past 20 years.

1. Ensure that the right people are sitting around the table

Every company and every project is different. Some of our customers have large project management teams while other companies we work with are smaller, family-run businesses where everybody is focused on their day-to-day objectives.

Irrespective of the structure of your organisation, the success of the project will be dependent on buy-in from all relevant parties and their commitment in terms of time and resources. Also, having frank and honest conversations upfront will help shape the project plan and identify potential challenges, priorities and timings.

We have a fairly standard list of people that we recommend should attend the project kick-off meeting. Naturally some individuals may wear more than one hat but here’s our starting point:

  • Project sponsor
  • Project manager
  • End users
  • IT representative
  • Warehouse or customer services team where appropriate

2. Establish a clear project objective

At the project kick-off meetings we always ask a lot of questions including: What is the objective? Why are we doing this? How are we going to measure success? What benefits are we seeking to achieve?

Establishing a clear project objective ensures that everybody around the table has the same expectations of what can be achieved. This helps establish common goals, timescales and the resource required at the start of the project, bringing the team together and increasing the chances of success.

Once agreed, the project objectives should be communicated clearly across the business allowing you to win the hearts and minds of everybody impacted by the new project.

Never underestimate the importance of achieving this buy-in, because planners that have been manually planning for 10 years may feel threatened by the introduction of route planning software, while customer service or warehouse teams may be unaware of what is required to implement a new IT system.

3. Data, data, data – ensure you have accurate, up to date transport data.

This is one of the biggest reasons for project delays in our experience. The sooner you can start capturing accurate operational data, the better. It’s really important to understand what is actually happening and not just the times you are contracted to arrive or the planner’s estimated journey duration.

If you haven’t got any systems in place that can do this for you then ask your drivers to record their actual arrival times at customer sites, how long it takes to unload and their departure times. After just 1 or 2 weeks, you will have a good baseline of true data. This “true data” is vital because we find that manual planners will sometimes build slack into their plans to ensure plans don’t fail and that both the customer and the drivers are happy.

In addition, it’s important to have product-related data – whether it’s crates, pallets or individual items – and truck dimensions. Waiting until a vehicle is full before it sets off won’t be the most cost-efficient way to run your transport operation.

Finally, capturing non-core activities is also critical. Picking up empty packaging every second Thursday, or carrying out ad hoc deliveries such as when a store needs new display stock delivered all adds up. Including these activities in the formal planning process will help cut down on empty running and ensure all journeys are planned with maximum efficiency of resources and minimum costs in mind.

4. Agree KPIs / measures

In a lot of organisations measurement is left to the finance department. A member of the finance team will record the cost of the operation and report back to the board but not all transport departments have the data available to measure KPIs such as average cost per pallet, number of drops per vehicle or number of miles covered.

Discussing what needs to be measured – and the information that needs to be reported to the senior management team or board to prove that the implementation has been successful – should be covered at the project kick off stage. In fact, you need to ensure you are measuring performance before you begin the implementation to provide a benchmark that can be reviewed after go-live.

5. Full understanding of the current operation and business processes

While our customers don’t have to change the way they do business to benefit from Paragon’s route planning software, it is worth reviewing business process at the start of the project to understand how it works and whether there can be improvements.

For example, if picking starts in the warehouse before the transport plan is completed, there may be a requirement for the warehouse team to change the way they work in order to save money on transport.

Honest discussions about how things currently work and what could be improved will get better results in the end.

6. Identifying any forthcoming business changes

Many of our single depot customers are moving from a manual planning process to route planning software for the first time. Reducing the cost of the transport operation and improving the level of service they can provide to their customers are the reasons for implementing route planning software.

However, with some larger projects there may be a new contract, a change of depot or a new customer proposition. It’s important that this is established at the beginning of the project. Ensuring that all of the information is shared across the project team at the beginning of the project will reduce the risk of a delay part-way through the process when plans need to be reset to include an unknown factor.

7. Allocating time to learn

Once the software implementation is complete, it’s critical that time is allocated for training using your actual data. While every requirement is different, what’s important is that adequate time is allocated to allow users to practise each day once your system is implemented. This training can be completed remotely or face to face, and is split into two chunks of two weeks each:

  • Tuning: this involves running data through the system and looking at the results and details – making sure the data and interface are OK and everyone’s happy with what the software is doing.
  • Parallel running: Parallel running ensures there are no anomalies, you can output reports easily and help users become comfortable with the new approach, without impacting on your day-to-day operation.
    This element of the process must to be factored into your project plan so that everything is ready and working well after go-live.

8. Engagement with IT

Whether you are implementing route planning software for the first time, or upgrading from a system that your operation has outgrown, dialogue with the people that look after IT is vital.

Getting your IT team – whether this is an internal or outsourced resource – involved in the discussion as soon as possible is a good idea. This will help you scope the hardware; identify any other systems that your route planning software will need to integrate with; and ensure the resource is available to help you through the process.

Ready to start?

In the very simplest of terms people buy Paragon to save money and use less vehicles and drivers. If the implementation involves changes to the way people operate, this will require the appropriate management layers to be in place that possess the confidence to deliver these desired improvements.

All members of staff must be on board throughout the adoption process or they won’t have the belief that this is the right thing to do. Having the right resources available, the right technical set up and the necessary data flow is key, but it is also about changing the way the company works and a lot of this is about bringing people’s hearts and minds with you.

You can find our approach to route planning software implementation here. It’s based on over 30 years’ experience of implementing Paragon’s software for clients. In fact, many of our more senior support consultants have implemented nearly 100 systems each.

Talk to Paragon today to find out how you could benefit from our route planning software and implementation experience.

Other resources you might find useful include:

When should I move to route optimisation software?
9 things to consider when buying routing and scheduling software
Using transport optimisation software to improve deliveries in urban areas
White paper: Managing logistics complexity


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