For private fleet owners, every mile driven costs $1.59, according to the American Transportation Research Institute.
That’s why it’s so important to create the most efficient fleet operation possible.
Routing software is one of the fastest ways to streamline fleet operations and reduce costs by as much as 10–30 percent. But purchasing the software is no guarantee of success. HOW you implement the software and integrate it with your existing processes ultimately determines how quickly routing software generates a return on investment.
To reduce the risk of a poor implementation, some of the best routing software advice you can get is from people who have successfully used the software to transform their company’s delivery operations.
It’s one of the reasons Paragon invested the time recently to develop an eBook based on surveys and discussions with 25 active and successful users of routing software: “Truck Routing Software: Power Users Share Lessons Learned.”
If you’d like to read the full eBook, download it here.
If not, here’s a shorthand version that shares 11 tips from our research group.
What improvements do you want to see after implementing routing software? Reduced miles and freight? More predictable delivery windows?
Defining your objectives up front is the only way to determine the value of investing in a more sophisticated routing method. And your predicted benefits will be key to winning budget support for a software purchase.
As you research the best routing software partner, remember one thing: the more context that partner has about your operation and what you want to achieve, the more that company can leverage its experience to advise you along the way. A logistics director at Lawrence Transportation, a regional trucking company, put it this way:
“When it comes to the capabilities of the software, we don’t know what we don’t know. When the people who have that knowledge really understand our business and what we’re trying to do, you start to tap into the real potential of the software.”
Any change to longstanding work processes will trigger resistance. Our survey group learned the hard way on this and they suggest that you seek support early, and from all factions of the business, especially route planners. These comments from routing software power users sum up our survey group’s input:
“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. After nine years, however, the biggest skeptics are now the software’s biggest champions.”
“Experienced planners will believe their knowledge of the business will allow them to do it better than the software. You have to get them to believe the software will improve their jobs and make them more efficient. If they don’t believe that, they will be looking for reasons for it to fail.”
Why? Because it provides bench strength – trained people who can step in and use the system when day-to-day users are out. It also provides context to other departments that are impacted by the new approach to route planning. For example, the logistics lead at forklift manufacturer Raymond Corporation said:
“We could have done a better job showing our customer service and systems teams how they would be integrating with and using the data from the routing program.”
When it comes to systems, you’ve heard the expression “garbage in, garbage out.” Well, routing software is no different. The algorithms used are very smart, but the calculations presume accurate data on delivery locations, product dimensions, time windows and a host of other parameters. A software power user at leading gas supplier Linde Group, summarized it this way:
“Having correct lat/long data for go-live is important. Mistakes breed skepticism among drivers and customer service teams and undermine support for the new process.”
Too often, selecting the top routing software comes down to comparing the software’s functionality with your own list of requirements. The winner is determined based on what vendor gets the most check marks.
Big mistake – at least according to the routing software power users we interviewed.
If you are changing the way you do route planning, then you are not just buying lines of code from your software partner, you are buying a relationship – one where the partner’s commitment to helping you achieve ongoing success is as important as the software’s functionality. So it’s critical to have excellent technical support resources available through project implementation and beyond.
A transportation lead at Egg Farmers of Canada summed up the feedback on this subject pretty well:
“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.”
Truck delivery is in many ways the heart of a business. So it touches many other departments and systems. Orders flow into the routing software from a sales order processing or warehouse system and the output is shared with Customer Service, Sales, Finance, and other groups. For these reasons, you want to make sure your various internal systems are compatible with the new routing software – and you want to have that comfort level before launching it. Power users of routing software recommend programming and testing all the necessary systems integrations well before GO LIVE. Our research suggests that this does not always happen:
“At Raymond Group, there were three main systems we needed to tie together and we did not get those experts fully engaged early. That slowed us down quite a bit.”
One suggestion from a transportation manager at global distributor Martin Brower, a large and active user of routing software, was to get rid of any previously used software.
“If you have software that previously was used to aid the routing process, get it off your server, get it off your computers. People tend to resist change and you want to eliminate the option to revert to prior processes.”
Some may consider this suggestion radical. However, if you think your team might use familiar old tools and processes as a crutch that could slow down the transition to a newer, better way, it could be something to consider.
Just about any software can be customized – but usually for a hefty programming fee. Our power users suggest that the best routing software should easily adapt to your business’s unique processes without custom programming
One example comes down to simple semantics. Marigolds and Onions is a catering business. The company has many of the same delivery requirements as a classic distributor, but they use specific terminology across their business to describe their delivery units.
“The software was adapted to use our language and that made things easier,” said the company’s owner.
Another aspect of custom configuration involves automating common tasks with business intelligence logic that can be programmed into the software. This is usually set up by the company’s tech staff as part of a customized set up process. Said a power user at one large corn seed company:
“It’s nice to have software that, with some simple setting changes or added fields, can be tweaked to better fit your needs. As part of the software selection process, it’s a good idea to determine how flexible the software can be.”
In our research, most power users did not see a need to actively involve drivers when planning route automation projects. But a very vocal minority thinks that’s a mistake. One transportation manager at The Linde Group said:
“You might have a driver who has lived in an area his entire life and knows it like the back of his hand. Now you’ve got software telling him the best way to get from one side of town to the other. There’s logic to the software’s recommendation, but it helps to explain that logic to the people doing the work.”
Drivers ultimately deliver the planned routes, so it’s a good idea to have them understand how their work days are planned.
Unless customers are complaining, or the finance team has recognized a concerning uptick in freight delivery costs, it’s easy for the truck dispatch department to fly under the radar, continuing to use 30-year-old route planning methods that drain company profits. Our power users agree that lobbying for software investments requires a champion to shine a spotlight on existing inefficiencies.
Interestingly, a good many of the most vocal advocates for “routing reinvention” were outside hires who successfully argued for change at their existing companies based on their objective view of the upside potential they saw. But homegrown managers can be successful change agents, as well. It’s just a question of understanding the delta between what is and what could be.
To be the change agent that your company needs, ask Paragon or another specialist in truck routing optimization to model your existing fleet operations to determine the savings potential. Then make a business case for fully exploring the opportunity to reduce total fleet operations costs as much as 10–30 percent.
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