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Could Route Planning Software Lead to Better Performance?

Organisational changes such as winning a big contract, adding a new depot or hub to your network, or merging with another organisation can make the job of route planning more complex.

The challenge created by trying to manage such changes manually will be felt most keenly in your transport department. For example, the following will be difficult to achieve:

  • Maximising use of all drivers every day
  • Confidently completing a transport plan in minutes rather than hours
  • Ensuring that individual customers’ delivery preferences are observed
  • Quickly and accurately modelling what-if scenarios to identify operational improvements or savings

But the shortcomings created by sticking with a manual process, or a rudimentary system that your business has outgrown, won’t just hold back the transport office. It will have implications across your whole business.

Customer service and new business

Customer expectations are changing. As a minimum, your customers will expect more accurate time windows and more regular communication. If you can’t meet these demands then your business might be experiencing some or all of these issues:

  • Losing customers to competitors that can provide better service levels
  • Struggling to win new business because credible proof points are hard to find
  • Incorporating new customers into your schedule impacts service levels to existing customers
  • Growing volumes of inbound calls from customers simply wanting to know “what time will it arrive” putting customer services staff under pressure
  • Struggling to maintain customer satisfaction
  • Staff across the business leaving because of these pressures

Every organisation is different but we have seen a large number of transport operations achieve significant improvements in all of these areas with the introduction of route planning software.

For example, during annual customer surveys both NRS Healthcare and AMP Clean Energy were told that their customers wanted to see service improvements.

“Our annual customer satisfaction survey identified a need for shorter lead times and better communications, making it clear that we needed to improve our customer experience as well as maximise operational efficiency,” explains Tony Vick, Logistics Director at AMP Clean Energy.

Now that AMP Clean Energy has implemented Paragon’s route planning software they are able to provide automated SMS updates to confirm the date of delivery and provide a two to three hour time window on the day. Meanwhile, implementing Paragon’s proof of delivery service fleXipod will allow the company to further enhance customer communications as well as streamline back office systems by initiating the invoicing process immediately as proof of delivery is received.

Across the pond, US food distributor Frozen Food Express found that the ability to provide a more consistent and reliable delivery service resulted in an increase of 9% in year on year sales growth after just 6 months.

Typically organisations that have implemented advanced route planning software can benefit from the ability to

  • offer tighter time windows
  • provide more accurate ETAs
  • automate communication improving customer confidence and reducing inbound call volumes
  • understand how much it costs to serve new customers, or fulfil new contracts for existing customers.

With these improvements in place, it is easier to acquire new customers and grow the revenue from existing customers.

Making sure you can keep up with growth

If your sales team is busy successfully acquiring customers, or word of mouth is generating a lot of new business that’s great. But it’s unlikely that the operational processes set up in your first year of trading will scale.

In other areas of your business, you are likely to replace a spreadsheet with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or an Order Management System (OMS) to eliminate the risk of human error and cope with the volume of data you need to maintain. If you have an inefficient, manual route planning process then buying more trucks and/or employing more drivers is not the answer. Spending more hours planning shouldn’t be the answer either. If you are only just about managing to meet service levels today then increasing volumes are likely to result in failure. The trick is to recognise the potential issue and deal with it before it impacts your bottom line.

Marigolds & Onions is a great example of a customer that started small. The catering company began with just two guys renting a garage but it has been so successful that they now cater the Roger Cup – Canada’s largest tennis tournament –as well as providing food and beverages for a large number of corporate HQs in downtown Toronto.

Business owner John Valente realised that a manual planning approach, based on just one team member’s knowledge was not sustainable. It was getting in the way of the company’s growth, and jeopardising the level of customer service they were committed to providing.

“Paragon frees up our team to focus on the complex logistics of delivering the event, while giving us the confidence that we are going to meet all of the delivery promises we have to our equally important regular customers.”

Once you have implemented route planning software, scaling up to accommodate new customers or to deliver a wider range of products is a straightforward process. Details only need to be entered into the system once and the process can be achieved in a few manageable steps.

Performance reporting

Whether it’s your customer services team under pressure to give more accurate answers to the question “when will my delivery arrive”, or your Finance Director who wants to know how many miles were driven last month, automated reporting saves time and usually provides more accurate information. If you can report using real-time data then that information becomes even more useful.

Route planning software combined with Route Execution software allows you to compare planned versus actual in simple, tailored Crystal Reports that show you the KPIs that are important to your business. If you need more information then adding software like Paragon’s Live Management module can allow you to view real-time performance against KPIs in an easy to understand dashboard using a mobile, tablet or desktop. Access to all of this information can be automated with weekly, daily or monthly emails, or accessed in real-time when the question arises.

Regulatory change

Regulations. We’re all subject to them. Whether it’s the Working Time Directive, the London Lorry Control Scheme, or industry-specific regulations such as the Good Distribution Practice that governs the pharmaceutical sector.

You need to be able to respond to these usually complex requirements without lengthy system changes, or the cost of additional staff or overtime to carry out manual processes. You also need to be able to confidently produce reports to prove adherence to the regulations.

LF&E is a specialist temperature-controlled logistics company. They deliver 1000s of different products for some of the largest organisations in the pharmaceutical, medical, healthcare and clinical trial sectors. As you can imagine, delivering this type of product to patients’ homes, hospitals and clinics is a complex operation. It is essential that a high level of delivery success is achieved and evidence can be provided that targets have been met. Founder and Managing Director Jason Buckley is passionate about the service the business provides but also very conscious of the restrictions that are key to successful service delivery:

“Maximising our vehicles and drivers is critical to the efficiency of our operation, but the nature of the work means it is also important to factor in delivery requirements by product type and/or patient where relevant. The flexibility of Paragon’s software allows us to achieve this essential balance between operational excellence and duty of care.”

Route planning software companies like Paragon continuously invest in R&D. Functionality that allows customers to mitigate the impact of the London Lorry Control Scheme or plan a mixed fleet containing sustainable vehicles ensure customers can be confident that regulatory demands or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) requirements won’t knock you off course.

Automated route planning offers a way forward

Taking account of hundreds of variables in order to deliver an optimised plan can challenge even the most experienced of transport planners. In reality, a far more efficient result comes from using advanced route planning software to create the best routes and schedules.

If your staff are spending hours every day trying to create transport plans that make the best use of your vehicles and drivers while the sales and customer services teams are struggling to serve customers and prospects then you are ill-prepared for growth. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you stop wasting time and money to stand still.

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