Vehicle Route Optimization and Pre-Planned Routes

10 min read

Working on route optimization can be a crucial process for a delivery company to manage its routine stop points. A carefully planned and optimized route can increase efficiency and reduce the cost of dispatching for them. And these days, mostly different software and tools are helping companies in the process.

However, what if we can make it even more effective and cost-efficient by dispatching it in advance? It is a method many delivery companies are unaware of or do not bat an eye about. Here, we will talk about route optimization, its challenges, and how advanced dispatching can solve it. So, let’s go!

What is Route Optimization?

Route optimization

Credit Source: Wikimedia

Route optimization is ubiquitous through transportation and logistics. Let’s say your truck or car has to go through a route with multiple stops. So, route optimization is the best route, effectively covering all destinations in minimum time and traveling. It saves time by planning the shortest distance the vehicle will travel while making all stops and increase cost-efficiency by reducing fuel consumption.

Almost every delivering or dispatching company requires route-optimizing software to provide their drivers and customers with quick and efficient services with minimum hassle. Efficient routing is important to many businesses, and yet it is often overlooked or under-optimized. Here are some companies that can benefit from route optimization:

  • Taxi services and ride-sharing services

  • Food delivery companies

  • Laundry companies

  • Trucking companies

  • Shipping companies

  • Freight companies

  • Supply chain companies

  • Fleet management companies

  • And many more

Why is Route Optimization Important?

In short, understanding the optimal route for a vehicle to travel is a prerequisite to having efficient driver dispatch systems. If you understand the most efficient routes for drivers, then you can optimize routes across your company. This leads to increased efficiency and decreased costs.

While route optimization, many side factors also affect the efficiency that is mostly overlooked as non-essential. It includes traffic, signals, left/right turn (crossing a traffic line on a signal, side based on the country), and other intersectional slowdowns. Ignoring such points may cause delays, and you may fall two or more deliveries lesser.

To overcome such delays, route optimization is important to select the shortest, fastest, most effective, and with less hassle route. Companies today use different software and applications for the best route optimization. It readily calibrates all the possible paths and shows the best one for quick operations.

If companies ignore it, food deliveries will bring cold (or melted in the alternate case) eatables to the customers. The taxi services like Uber will take their rides late to their destinations. Or the courier trucks will miss deliveries by one or two days due to fewer daily drops.

Basic Factors of Route Optimization

Two factors play a significant role in preparing efficient route optimization software. These problems largely determine how fast or delayed a dispatch will occur.

  • Traveling Salesperson Problem

Traveling Salesperson Problem

Credit Source: Wikimedia

The Traveling Salesperson Problem (TSP), also known as Traveling Salesman Problem, is commonly studied among computer sciences algorithm problems. The methodology identifies the shortest and most efficient route a salesperson can take if he has to stop at multiple points.

The solution consists of a path in which a salesperson doesn’t visit one destination twice and returns to his starting point after completing the trip. It is a vital key in route optimization as it provides drivers with a quick and cost-effective solution.

The problem is crucial for the studies as many other problems require TSP solutions as benchmarks. A route optimizing software is programmed to analyze TSP in many possible solutions, like Brute-Force Approach, Branch and Bound Method, and the Nearest Neighbor Method.

The Traveling Salesperson Problem is a basic way to look at vehicle route optimization. The problem is exacerbated in real life, when you often have a ton of different trucks or drivers that you need to optimize at the same time, requiring dispatchers to dispatch the optimal fleet of trucks to different routes.

  • Vehicle Routing Problem

Vehicle Routing Problem

Credit Source: Wikimedia

Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP) is the same as TSP but with multiple vehicles. If a set of different vehicles has to complete a route with different dispatches, the software analyzes VRP for the best routes for each vehicle. The problem becomes more complex due to capacity constraints and time windows.

Capacity constraints are when vehicles have to pick up some load after stopping at each destination, but they have a maximum load capacity. So, all the load quantities should be considered while managing their stops. Time windows, on the other hand, are if the delivery has to be made within or at a specific time.

For the latter scenario, many other small factors include traffic conditions, under-construction, damaged or blocked roads, traffic peak times, or any possible situation that can cause a delay.

Other factors may impact your vehicle routing algorithms as well. The VPR builds upon the TSP and makes it more applicable to real-life businesses. However, the fact is that route optimization is different for different companies, and in the real world you will experience different constraints and different ways to optimize your own driving routes.

How does Dispatching Work?

The software used by many companies to solve the above problems do so by dispatch in real-time. Some dispatching and routing systems are standalone. Others might be found inside your Transportation Management System (TMS). The algorithm in these applications analyzes the current best routes for drivers in real time, changing them according to their movement and traffic conditions. Although it helps in adaptive routing, the process reduces efficiency and requires extra computational power.

Since the program constantly optimizes the best possible routes, it stresses the servers. The algorithm keeps updating its list of available drivers by including or removing them according to the situation. Many big companies like Uber or Lyft use such dispatching techniques, and surprisingly don’t consider experimenting with other methods like dispatching in advance.

Pre-Planned Routing Vs. Real-Time Dispatching

Pre-planned routing or dispatching in advance is the process of planning and optimizing routes before dispatching any of your drivers to any of the routes. In simple terms, it analyzes and understands the routes, traffic signals, and blockages and then pre-plans the best dispatching points for the drivers. The procedure is immensely efficient as when the drivers will already know where to go and which route, they will work on the plan faster.

It is more efficient than real-time dispatching because dispatching in advance tells the drivers what they will do next. Software that works on dispatching in advance will formulate a network of the best possible routes before the delivery process even start. In such a way, all the vehicles will already know where they will head, their stop points for which duration, and how they will return to their initial point by covering a minimum distance.

While real-time dispatching continues to be a need and companies like Uber and Lyft allow for real-time dispatching to make their service more user-friendly, the fact is that real-time dispatching is suboptimal compared to dispatching in advance. To illustrate why to consider a shipment dispatcher that is dispatching jobs for the next day with the following conditions:

  1. All shipments and truck drivers are at a warehouse

  2. All of the driver’s schedules are planned for the next day

  3. All of the locations that shipments will go to are known

Under these conditions, you can actually brute force calculate the absolute most efficient set of routes to dispatch each driver to. You could simply draw a huge matrix of all of the possible ways that shipments could be handled and find the combination of driver routes that are most optimal for your business. Mathematically speaking this is feasible. That being said, it might be time-consuming and less than optimal for a dispatcher. However, the point remains that you can more efficiently allocate drivers to routes when you are planning routes ahead of time instead of dispatching in real time.

How Pre-Planning can Help your Business

Dispatching drivers in advance can address many problems effectively that may miss out on real-time route optimization or reduce efficiency. The method may seem slower and time-consuming as the software will work even before the delivery starts. However, it will immensely save time and resources by giving a solid route plan to the drivers.

  • Smooth Operations: As the pre-planned routing will increase efficiency, it will bring a smoother workflow and delivery of services.

  • Improved Management: Since the software and team already know which vehicle will be where and when it will assist in better management.

  • Better ETA: By organizing the arrivals and departures from different dispatches, everyone will better understand ETAs for the vehicles.

  • Customer Satisfaction: Since everything will be done timely and managed with proper ETAs, it will leave a better customer experience and satisfaction.

Where Dispatching in Advance can be Optimal?

Dispatching in advance is better for many delivery services. For example, taxi services like Uber or Lyft can better provide routing to drivers for rider’s pickup and dropping points. Food delivery companies like Uber Eats or Food Panda drivers will have faster routes even before they pick up the order to deliver it to the customer efficiently. And, if you are part of a shipment company that can plan driver routes ahead of time, that would be a good use case as well. In general, many parts of supply chain management can benefit from pre-planning driver routes.

Courier service vehicles may also find it a good use as they can give reliable ETAs about the order product’s delivery to the customers and plan how to formulate their dispatching points. Briefly, most companies that rely on route optimization and delivery services will become more efficient. Medical couriers who offer confidential same-day delivery of patient prescriptions rely heavily on advanced dispatch and route optimization services. It improves efficiency and speed, making their same-day Dropoff services smoother.

Route Planning and Optimization with Flatirons Development

Route optimization is vital for any trucking company, transportation company, shipment company, or logistics company. Dispatching in advance is an excellent approach for this purpose as it is efficient and cost-cutting. Companies can rely on route-optimizing software that uses this method or integrate such an algorithm into their existing applications.

Whether or not pre-planned routes are right for your business, the expert team of Flatirons Development can provide you with routing software or integrate the algorithm into your current programs that can perform dispatching in advance. So, adopt an advanced dispatching process to make your deliveries more efficient and excel in your business. Contact Flatirons Development for help with route optimization.

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