Transport planning is a complex problem and is not just about calculating routes from A to B. Planners need to consider a host of variables when organising shipments such as meeting customer service requirements, better utilising assets and reducing operational costs. This means there is often way too much data – including vehicle availability and capacity, driver availability, traffic information, delivery time windows, customer locations and unloading/loading times – for them to analyse and calculate effectively in their heads.

Yet, many planners still try to create routes and schedules manually without the use of an advanced computer system or route optimisation software. This means that once the order cut-off time is reached, they will typically take the printed orders, sort through them, and try to put them into logical and realistic routes. This is a highly skilled and time-consuming task, requiring the planner to know a considerable amount about local road layouts, customers and assets, which often takes a full-day to create a suitable schedule.

In reality, the planner may have to start working on the plan before all the orders have arrived. If a flurry of late orders then arrives, the plan must be redone from scratch. Planners are continually having to estimate journey times, think about customers’ opening times, any vehicle access restrictions, vehicle capacities and how long to allow per delivery. And all the while, the planner is thinking about the need to continually minimise costs and ensure routes are realistic, and within legal working hour regulations, while also ensuring customer delivery requirements are met. It is not hard to imagine how this is both laborious and complicated for even the most experienced planner to get right.

On the day of delivery, the drivers carry out the routes and return to the depot. In an ideal world, the transport manager would then debrief the drivers, find out if anything went wrong, and feed that information back into the next day’s route planning task. However, it is rarely possible to debrief everyone immediately upon their return and any feedback needs to be collated and communicated to planners for future requirements.

If your planner has not quit by now, this process starts all over again the next day. So when is it time for you to make the decision to move from manual processes to transport optimisation software?

Users of routing and scheduling software typically report cost savings and efficiency benefits of between 5 and 20 per cent or more, depending on how efficient they were to start with. If you take 10 per cent as a reasonable assumption, it is easy to convert this to a monetary saving. If you have 10 vehicles, a 10 per cent productivity gain equates to cutting your fleet to 9 vehicles. The total operating cost of one vehicle ranges between £35,000 and £100,000 per year. Compare this with the cost of route optimisation software, and you quickly get a return on investment within a matter of months.

Even if you can manage to manually plan for 20 vehicles or more, there are often stronger factors, which force the decision, which can be:

  • Recessional factors – in a recession the pressure to cut costs and be more efficient increases dramatically
  • Customers demanding shorter lead times, which means accelerating the route planning process
  • Growing operations make manual planning impossible
  • Increasing operational complexity in order to improve efficiency makes manual planning much more difficult

Fortunately, eight hours spent planning manually can often be handled in a matter of minutes with route planning software. Not only will you save time, but transport costs, CO2 emissions and fuel usage will be greatly reduced too.

To find out how Paragon can help you reduce your planning time, why not get in touch. One of our experienced team will be happy to discuss your requirements in detail with you.

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