According to Gartner’s latest market guide on routing software, interest is heating up further as fleet owners struggle to adapt to the new routing reality of increased last-mile deliveries, reduced truck capacity and fewer drivers.
If your business is one of the many seeking a smarter, more automated solution to vehicle routing, we have some advice before you begin that journey: FOLLOW THE LEADERS!
You’re not the first to travel down this path. The best advice you’ll get is from the businesses, and the specific people, who’ve gone before and can share invaluable insights learned along the way from successful routing software implementations.
In an effort to mine these insights, Paragon spoke to 25 power users of routing software to identify what they consider to be the keys to a successful route optimization initiative. Their main message: Good planning leads to good results. Specifically, they pointed to four key steps that need to happen before the first load is planned or moved:
The first thing you want to do is define your “why.”
Why are you investing in a more automated, data-driven approach to vehicle routing? Is it to reduce miles and fuel? To improve asset utilization? To increase customer satisfaction through accurate, predictable deliveries?
The answer will impact how you sell the program internally, your ROI calculation, and the software you choose. Once you answer the critical WHY question, define your baseline metrics and establish what degree of change is required to achieve success.
Everyone’s got to be on board with that, right?
Well, not necessarily.
Here’s what one of our routing software power users said:
“We assumed that because we were investing in this fancy new software, everyone would love it. Well, everyone hated it because it took away their power to do their own loads.”
That story actually ended well. Years into implementation, the biggest skeptics of the automated solution became the software’s biggest advocates within the company. But the journey to routing success was longer and bumpier than it would have been with better buy-in up front.
Which areas across a business can produce pushback that threatens to slow or derail a routing software implementation initiative?
Our user group felt that buy-in was important at every level of the organization, from the top down. But they saw buy-in from planners, particularly, as the linchpin for success. Old habits are hard to break, particularly for people whose value has been largely defined by their personal knowledge of customer requirements, equipment and local routes. Success requires planners to accept a clear evolution of their jobs from simply developing route plans to optimizing fleet performance and the overall customer experience in order to achieve a competitive advantage.
With scheduling and routing software, as with any software, garbage in means garbage out. You must make sure that the data you import into the routing software is accurate.
Have you ever met with a financial advisor? Most use software to aid in financial plan development. But the process starts with a very long list of questions and data requirements about assets, goals, risk tolerance and other factors. Unless the numbers and assumptions are spot on, the plan won’t be accurate. (What do you mean I need to work until I’m 82!?)
It’s the same with planning your route optimization project. You’ll need accurate information on trailer configurations, delivery schedules, time windows, per-top cube data and a host of other data points. The right software partner can help with this effort by identifying the essential data and making sure it’s formatted correctly.
Speaking of software partners, obviously your planning process needs to include finding and evaluating your routing software options.
Here, our power-users group offered this piece of advice: Don’t assume you’re buying lines of code; instead, approach it like you’re buying a relationship.
To be sure, the software must do what you want it to do. So, by all means, document your needed functionality and prepare your checklist. But, to our user group, functionality was almost secondary to two other criteria they deemed particularly essential:
Said one software user about his company’s journey from manual to automated routing:
“We were new to any sort of routing software, so we needed some hand-holding. Our support consultant gave us the time we needed to set up the routes and feel comfortable.”
It’s essential to choose a routing software provider with smart technical support people who are there when you need them – before and after GO LIVE.
Abe Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Implementation of scheduling and routing software can involve hundreds of steps during the full duration of the project. But the primary success drivers, at least according to those who have successfully adopted the software, happen during the planning stage when the project is conceived and scoped.
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