Smart delivery routing software has been proven to generate far more efficient routes than manual planning alternatives and to reduce route planning time from hours to minutes. The benefits are clear and well documented. But not every implementation is immediately successful.

So, what is it that separates the truly successful implementations from projects that require months and years to gain traction? We recently asked 25 of the most successful power users of routing and scheduling software to name the key implementation success factors that contribute to operational efficiency and rapid ROI.  The following are six top tips that came out of our research.

To read the full eBook on this research, download “Truck Routing Software: Power Users Share Lessons Learned.”

1) Start at the end

After implementing delivery routing software, what objectives will you want to have achieved? Reduced miles? More accurate estimates of delivery times? Lower fleet operating costs?

The right software can help you get there, but only you can define WHY you want to reengineer your route planning process. Your software partner can help you define your objectives, and can then apply their knowledge to fully tap the software’s potential.

The most efficient truck route starts with a clear end-destination. Likewise, a strategic journey such as optimizing fleet performance should start with a clear articulation of your desired end goals.

2) Gain internal buy-in

New route planning software directly or indirectly touches just about every department in your business. But change is hard and there will always be some resistance. The same people who benefit greatly from automated route planning can also undermine implementation.

That’s why it’s so important to clearly communicate the reasons for changing long-standing practices – even if those practices seem to be going well. Power users add that the communication must be two-way. The best implementations involve as much listening as telling. The more that associates feel part of the process, the less likely they’ll be to cling to “the way we’ve always done it.”

Lay the groundwork with communications well before any change, so that you’re taking vital team members along with you on the journey. Start with your route planners, but don’t forget customer service, sales, IT, finance and other team members.

3) Don’t rush implementation

The algorithms used by advanced delivery routing software are only as smart as the data that feeds them. If that data is incomplete or incorrect, software will simply get you to the wrong answer faster. If the delivery destinations are wrong, your arrival times will still be inaccurate, as drivers are forced to spend longer finding the drop-off point. Or if you fail to enter the information that product A takes 15 minutes to deliver but product C takes 30 minutes, your schedule will be out unrealistic.

Once you decide to automate route planning, it’s tempting to skirt the details as you focus on the big picture – transforming delivery operations and driving potential six- and seven-figure savings. But gaining the promised benefits and a rapid ROI requires methodical planning to ensure the accuracy of delivery locations, vehicle costs, trailer configurations, cube data and a host of other data points.

The devil is in the details, so spend time on those data-related tasks, to avoid dead ends and wasted effort during implementation.

4) Involve IT early

One of the issues that can derail a successful implementation of routing software, or any new software, is a failure to plan how that software will integrate with your existing systems elsewhere in the business.

Truck routing is not a silo function. Orders flow into routing software from other applications such as SOP or warehouse management systems and the output, in turn, may be shared with customer service, finance, sales and other departments. The process should be simple, but it’s critical to involve your IT team early in the process. The last thing you want is to schedule a rollout and then have that schedule delayed because time hasn’t been allocated to get two systems interfacing properly.

In successful implementations of delivery routing software, the seamless flow of data between systems is not an afterthought.

5) Ensure thorough staff training

Regarding software training, the message from our power users was to invest extra time to make sure the training is as engaging as possible. After all, training is where all your planning and systems integration work come together to ignite meaningful process change. Its importance can’t be underestimated.

Work closely with your chosen software provider to develop high-quality training sessions that not only show staff how to use the software, but also inspire them to be part of a transformative change in the business.

And don’t limit training to a small number of hands-on users.  Casting a broader net can help:

  • Provide planning bench-strength when key players are out
  • Show other departments the power of the new tool to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction

6) Configure the software to work with your unique processes

The number one barrier to automation of route planning is resistance to change. Businesses get comfortable with long-standing work processes. While you may be looking to change some of your processes as part of your automation project, your chosen technology provider should be able to help you preserve what is important to your business.

One example is simple semantics. Said one of our power users, a CEO of a catering business: “We don’t speak in the typical language of product deliveries. Our software was adapted to use our language, and that made things easier.”

This change sounds simple, but many routing software companies have standard interfaces that can’t be changed without custom (i.e. expensive) programming.

Another way your technology partner should be able to help is by automating common tasks using business intelligence logic – usually created by the software company’s support consultant. For instance, one plant grower/distributor occasionally needs all orders for a particular salesperson to be delivered first, even though it results in sub-optimized routes that the software was designed to avoid. Now, when such situations arise, users simply check a box to run this specialized exception.

Choosing flexible, configurable routing software has its advantages

In closing…

If you are considering implementation of delivery routing software for the first time, there’s no need to make rookie mistakes. Follow the advice of some of the most successful users of routing software for faster, smoother implementations.

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