Once you’ve made your decision to invest in routing and scheduling software, how do you go about choosing the best solution for your organisation’s needs?
Whatever your reason, you need to investigate all the options available to you weighing up cost, functionality and future flexibility to make an informed decision so as to avoid having to buy twice.
Here’s a list of considerations to get you started.
The maths behind the screen. The algorithms at the heart of routing and scheduling systems are all different. Yet it is the algorithm which is the key to consistently maximising the performance of your transport operation. The software should create reliable routes and schedules that take into consideration vehicle sizes, vehicle access, driver shifts, time windows, despatch windows, product constraints, priority, congestion, etc. Routes also need to be practical so they can actually be operated by the drivers!
Routes should always be feasible. Calculations should factor in low bridges or one way streets, as well as restrictions that are time-related such as the London Lorry Control Scheme, If you can automate all of this then you can free up your planner’s time to focus on more strategic work…and keep your drivers happy!
Flexibility to accommodate your business needs. Every transport operation is different. You will have your own ways of working, your own business rules and objectives, and in-house systems that need to be integrated with your routing and scheduling software. Find out how your potential solution will tackle this in advance. It will be easier than finding a workaround halfway through the implementation process, or searching in vain for a non-existent solution.
Choose a solution that will grow with your needs. Cheaper solutions can show transport efficiency improvements, but these can be short-lived. As your business becomes more efficient, you will need extra functionality to create savings. With little functionality for complex distribution scenarios and limited customer support, a solution that initially seemed a good fit for purpose may not provide the long term business benefits you’re looking for.
Make sure the product is developed on an ongoing basis. Does your chosen routing and scheduling software provider have plans to develop the product to take advantage of new technologies and changes in the market? Ask how the upgrade process works. Will there be additional costs, or are software releases part of your standard contract. Understanding the structure of the product training, support and product development areas will give you a clearer idea of how your transport operations will be supported once you are a customer.
Understand the implementation process. Your chosen partner will be essential to guiding you through the process of setting up the routing and scheduling software. This initial set-up phase will contribute to the speed of your Return on Investment and the adoption within your organisation. They should be interested in understanding the way that your business works and critically have the depth of experience to implement the software and train your team.
Investigate the quality of support the supplier provides. Working with experienced support consultants who understand the issues you are likely to encounter will help you get the most from your software. Find out how day to day support works, understand the level of knowledge that the team has and ensure telephone support offered is not just a “triage” service. A good support team will have an impressive depth of knowledge that makes you confident you will be supported as your business needs evolve.
Does the supplier have a good track record? Have they worked with similar companies? Did they deliver the promised benefits? Were their timescales realistic? Are the routes that are being planned realistic and practical on a daily basis? As with any other purchasing process, you should be able to speak to reference customers in your sector, in the country you operate in.
Make sure the supplier is a suitable long term partner. It is important to choose a routing and scheduling software provider that can accommodate any changes or growth in your operation over time. It is also important that the provider listens to the needs of their user base and develops the software to meet these needs, giving you the confidence that they will be truly prepared to work in partnership with you.
Your transport operation is at the heart of your business but it’s also costly. The right system, implemented properly, should deliver you a significant savings, and not just in the first year. If you choose the right system and the right supplier, then your financial benefits will far outweigh the software cost, so it’s worth getting it right first time!
If you’d like to find out whether Paragon is the right routing and scheduling software for your transport operation, get in touch with us today of a chat with one of the team.
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