One of the challenges of route planning for operations with multiple depots is knowing which customer should be served from which distribution center.
This decision is often not as obvious as it might appear. Physical proximity can easily be trumped by other factors, such as driver availability, delivery time windows, vehicle availability and even average road speeds. When it comes to planning deliveries from multiple locations, route planning software allows you to make the best use of all of your vehicles and staff and deliver on all your customer promises. And it does that without any emotions or thoughts about “this is the way we have always done it”. Instead it can rapidly assess many thousands of routing scenarios before quickly producing the most time-efficient routes across all of your depots – what we call multi depot routing.
Multi depot routing software is able to dynamically allocate your customers’ delivery locations to a depot based on myriad critical factors, then re-plan it all when circumstances shift. This consistently works to reduce bottlenecks in some places and slack in others, and to optimize resource usage across your entire operation.
Sounds simple, right? Every operation with more than one depot should use routing software to manage the whole fleet as a single entity.
If only! Many routing software solutions are simply not designed to maximize the efficiency of a delivery network in this way. And many businesses are content to treat each DC as a separate entity for the purposes of planning routes and delivering orders. After all, these sites are chosen to serve regional markets, right? Why would you send an order to Area B from the warehouse you built or rented to serve Area A?
The answer is: things change. Not only are your delivery operations subject to massive complexity; they also evolve in response to internal and external pressures. You win and lose customers. Existing customers want different products or delivery services or time windows. Your own product range changes. Seasonal peaks, Holidays such as the 4th of July or big sporting events drive up demand. The list goes on and on.
Route planning software that has evolved in response to years of real-world transportation management problems is designed to be flexible and has acquired the depth of functionality to master all this complexity. Without the ability to dynamically adjust depot allocation, planners who have identified that a delivery should be made from one DC rather than another, are forced to make manual interventions. This negates the whole point of automated route planning and will cost you time and money.
Another powerful benefit is that you can centralize planning, thereby reducing the time it takes to put route plans together. We often see businesses that treat each DC separately. Typically, these locations each have their own time-strapped member of staff building separate route plans. With multi depot routing, these functions can be centralized, saving time (and money, from more efficient delivery operations). When our customer, Frozen Food Express, consolidated its planning activities using our Multi Depot routing software, it discovered it could free up local staff to focus on operating the service centers instead of being under pressure to find time to plan deliveries.
Another great example of the benefits of multi depot routing comes from a distributor of fresh food based in Dallas with 14 DCs across the region. The company had recently won some business in Atlanta, and was picking up orders in Nashville, TN, then cross-docking in Memphis to pick up needed products there. Their existing routing software couldn’t plan for multiple DCs, and when we built a multi depot planning model for them, we discovered it was actually more efficient to deliver product direct from Nashville and direct from Memphis. In fact, it turned out some of the product was best delivered out of Jackson, MS, even though it was further away. The food distributor was on the point of setting up a new cross-dock facility to service this new customer. Now, they didn’t need to.
Route planning software can also make a critical difference when it comes to assessing what to charge a new customer. During that process, it’s important to be able to examine all the variables that together make up the difference between a realistic bid that will bring a profit, and an unrealistic one that will impact the bottom line. You need to assess what orders might require or benefit from cross-docking, and you will definitely want to know which locations to fulfill orders from.
Multi depot routing software can be used for both operational and strategic planning. Not only can it trim the fat from your existing operations; it can help you take a holistic view of your entire delivery network. Not only can you bid for new business, confident that you’re offering the most efficient routes; you can also use the multi depot routing software to carry out any amount of “what if” modeling, based on actual historical data from your transportation operations, before making any changes on existing business.
With multi depot routing software you can also:
Delivery route planning for multi depot scenarios offers a great opportunity to improve operational efficiency, because plans devised at depot level often lead to large imbalances in resource demands across the organization.
By giving your planning team visibility of all distribution options, multi depot routing software allows them to plan across an entire region, as a whole. That way, planners can be confident they are assigning the origin distribution center that gives them most efficient route, while at the same time satisfying customer demands for delivery scheduling.
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