The Difference Between Route Planning and Route Optimization

The Difference Between Route Planning and Route Optimization

In today’s on-demand marketplace, it’s the very last step of the logistics process that is the most critical. The journey from warehouse, restaurant, or store to the final destination is what’s referred to as the last-mile of order delivery, and how you manage this critical function can make all the difference in the success of your business.

When it comes to last-mile delivery challenges, you’ll often hear the terms route planning and route optimization — and it’s even likely that the two will be used interchangeably. However, there’s a significant difference between planning and optimizing, and practicing one without the other could mean significantly higher delivery costs. Here’s what you need to know about route planning versus route optimization.

Route Planning: The Old Way of Doing Things

In simple terms, route planning takes a predetermined list of destinations and puts them in the most relevant and efficient order while primarily focusing on the shortest distance and the fastest time. There are many free route planners out there (such as Google maps) but they can’t handle the variables associated with a complex delivery business.

Route Optimization: A Necessity For Delivery Businesses   

Route optimization, on the other hand, uses a complex system of algorithms to evaluate hundreds and even thousands of variables to create the optimum delivery route. Route optimization software takes into account things such as driver schedules, vehicle capacities, driver coverage areas, and delivery window times to create the best, and most efficient route. 

With the right route optimization software, you can grow your business from one or two drivers to thousands, and you can increase productivity while reducing delivery costs — two more key factors in building a successful delivery business. 

Save Time and Money Through Route Optimization

The main challenge of last-mile delivery is that it is costly. That’s because it involves shipping smaller quantities to more locations. To offset these higher costs, it’s necessary to focus on planning and efficiency and the best way to do that is through route optimization. Here’s a closer look at the benefits of route optimization.

Reduce Transportation Costs

Fuel and labor are two of the most important factors to consider in your logistics cost equation. That’s because a large percentage of your total delivery cost can be attributed to them. Allowing your driver to spend all day on deliveries that should only take a few hours will eat away at your bottom line. And, going just a few miles out of the way for one delivery may not be the end of the world, but when you multiply that by several drivers and dozens of deliveries every day, that extra gas money can really add up. 

Faster Deliveries

Being able to shave time on your deliveries is not only good for boosting productivity, but it also has a positive effect on customer service. If you’re able to deliver goods faster than your competitors, this gives you a distinct advantage and shoppers will choose you over someone else if they know they can get what they want faster.

Grow Your Business

Driver capacity can be a bottleneck for delivery businesses. In order to invest in more drivers and more vehicles, you have to have the capital to support them. A better way to manage this is to first take a look at your current productivity. Is it possible that you could be doing more with the resources you have, without compromising customer service or safety? Route optimization can boost productivity by allowing you to do more, and do it more efficiently. This is the key to unlocking your growth potential. 

Choose GetSwift For Route Optimization Software

Effective and efficient driver routing is one of the most important controllable factors for a last-mile delivery business. If you’re still just putting together route plans based on the location of the destinations, then you’re missing out. Delivery route optimization software can help you account for an unlimited number of variables so that you can crush the delivery business.

GetSwift has developed delivery route management software that will not only help you with managing your driver’s routes but with all of the elements of your delivery business. From dispatching and real-time driver tracking to automatic customer alerts and an easy-to-use mobile driver app, GetSwift offers everything you need to run your business now, and to prepare it for the future.

Check out how our software can help by watching a free demo or starting a free trial today

Using Software To Improve Driver Retention

Using Software To Improve Driver Retention

Whether you employ a large fleet of cross-country drivers or a small number of local couriers, driver retention is a top priority for many business owners. Experienced drivers are usually capable of delivering more goods in a shorter period of time, increasing your capacity and saving your business money. 

The demand for delivery has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and now with COVID-19, more people than ever before are taking advantage of home delivery services. In fact, 37 percent of U.S. consumers are turning to contactless delivery more than before, according to a Salesforce survey. This means many could be seeing more business through delivery than through their brick-and-mortar stores — as long as they have enough drivers to fulfill orders.

Businesses that are able to keep up with demand during these trying times — and do it in a way that meets customer expectations — will likely come out ahead and grow their long-term customer base well after the pandemic is over. To do this, it’s essential to focus on driver retention and last-mile route optimization software can help you do just that.

Safe Drivers Are Happy Drivers

A top priority for any employer is to ensure that your staff has a safe and secure working environment. This holds true for employees working in an office, a warehouse, a production facility, or driving a vehicle. While you may not be able to prevent all accidents from occurring, you can take measures to ensure your drivers aren’t overloaded with an unrealistic delivery schedule that requires them to work long hours or back-to-back shifts. 

Last-mile route optimization software can help them complete their deliveries faster and more efficiently so they can get more done in less time. A mobile driver app also helps to keep them connected to the office and the rest of the team so if they do run into an issue while on the road, their location can be tracked.    

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Manually mapping routes and managing an ever-changing delivery schedule can be stressful, not to mention inefficient. Constantly having to change routes or update your driver by phone can make an already challenging job even more difficult. By enlisting the help of route optimization software, your drivers don’t have to worry about where they need to go next or the best way to get there. With the right technology, they can receive turn-by-turn directions and real-time route updates, making their job that much easier.

Acknowledge Good Performance

Like most employees, drivers seek acknowledgment for a job well done. Although they may be out of sight and working solo most of the time, it’s important to still track — and recognize — good performance. With software like that from GetSwift, you can easily track KPIs like the number of deliveries per day, percent of on-time deliveries, or customer feedback ratings. Using that data to show your appreciation will go a long way toward helping to retain your best drivers.

Empower Drivers With the Tools They Need To Do a Good Job

In the past, many delivery drivers simply had to pick something up from point A and drop it off at point B. Now, drivers are expected to make multiple deliveries along a route, all at a precise moment in time. If they miss that time buy just a few minutes, it could result in a failed delivery or an unhappy customer. 

With drivers being held to such a high standard, it only makes sense to give them the tools they need to succeed. Last-mile route optimization software can help them find the most efficient routes, communicate unexpected delays with the customer, and protect their reputation with an electronic means of documenting proof of delivery. 

Improve Driver Retention With GetSwift

GetSwift’s last-mile route optimization software is the complete solution for all of your delivery needs. It includes tools for easier dispatching, more efficient routing, and improved communication between your drivers, customers, and your office. It comes with an easy-to-use driver app that will provide your drivers with the information they need at every stage of the delivery process.

Learn more about GetSwift and how our software can help you with driver retention and success in the delivery business — contact a member of our team or sign up for a free 30-day trial. 

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What You Need To Know About Reverse Logistics

What You Need To Know About Reverse Logistics

If you’re in the last-mile delivery business then you know how important it is to optimize each step in the process to keep costs down. The combination of multiple stops and potentially smaller order sizes can create significant inefficiencies compared to a more traditional logistics model where items are shipped in large truckload quantities to a warehouse or a select few locations. 

Reverse Logistics Explained

Standard last-mile logistics involves moving goods from one store or warehouse to the consumer. Reverse logistics is—you guessed it—moving goods in the opposite direction. An example would be a delivery driver picking up a return from a customer and taking it back to restock or throw out. Or, a more routine example for certain companies like a water or milk delivery service, it includes regularly picking up empty bottles from a customer.

Why Reverse Logistics Is Important 

There are many different reasons that a delivery driver may have to transport goods back to where they came from, and these return trips need to be considered in your overall delivery cost equation as well as their impact on the customer experience. Planned returns, such as picking up empty milk bottles, are easier to manage with the right kind of software–such as our integrated eCommerce & Delivery software which gives drivers built-in options to pick up bottle returns. It’s the unplanned returns that are more difficult and can add significant costs from the extra time and fuel. For businesses delivering perishable goods, the cost can be even greater if a return means the product won’t be able to be resold, and instead, will need to be disposed of. 

Minimizing unplanned returns, and optimizing how they are managed when they do occur, should be a key part of any delivery strategy. While you likely can’t bring returns down to zero, you can control the number of certain returns, including having to return to a location because of failed delivery attempts. With our delivery management software, you automatically send out SMS alerts the moment an order goes out for delivery, including sending the customer a tracking link, and an always-updated ETA so that customers know when they need to be home. In turn, customers can reply with a text message about needing to change the delivery time. This way, if there needs to be a change, this gives you the chance to correct it before you deliver, rather than having to make a return trip. 

It’s important to remember that all returns, whether planned or unplanned, are part of the overall customer experience. An incorrect order doesn’t have to mean a lost customer if the return is handled properly. That’s why it’s vital to create a strategy for handling returns promptly and efficiently, and include methods for communicating with customers and your drivers.

How To Optimize Reverse Logistics

To start, of course, you’ve got to enlist the help of the right cloud-based delivery management tech. But, it has to be the right one for your business. If you’re a subscription-based business like farm or CSA, and your drivers have a very similar route every time they deliver, you’re going to want subscription delivery software with purpose-built features for returns, last-minute order changes, and box, bag, or bottle returns–all synced over the cloud in real-time from your driver’s mobile phones to your office. Those features, and much more, are built into our Delivery Biz Pro software

If on the other hand, you operate a restaurant or shop, and it’s all about on-demand deliveries that are less predictable, you’ll want to look into our flagship last-mile delivery software: it has the ultimate route optimization tech, that takes in hundreds of inputs from traffic to weather to added or subtracted stops to make your routes extremely efficient. It’s also got a suite of customizable alerts to keep your customers up-to-date so that they always know where their order is, plus customers, can choose proof of delivery and ask the driver to take a photo of the package (especially if it’s being delivered contact-free), so that everyone is on the same page and any mistakes can be immediately corrected. 

Find Out More About How GetSwift Can Help You With Reverse Logistics

If you’re looking for a comprehensive last-mile delivery software that can help you optimize your delivery business. It offers features such as automatic dispatching, route optimization, real-time driver tracking, customer alerts, and proof of delivery — and everything can be accessed from our user-friendly mobile app. 

Are you interested in learning more about how our delivery software can help you minimize and manage returns? Contact us today to schedule a free demo.


3 Cures To Your Last-Mile Delivery Headaches

3 Cures To Your Last-Mile Delivery Headaches

A focus on the last mile of delivery — the final leg of shipping your product to the buyer’s door — has been a growing trend for businesses for several years, but there are challenges. It’s expensive and there are lots of inefficiencies to overcome.  In fact, some estimates say last mile delivery comprises 53% of the total cost of shipping.

We’re going to explore why last-mile delivery is so challenging, and what business owners can do to overcome those challenges. Smart planning, a focus on customer satisfaction, and on-demand and flexible delivery software are just a few of the things we’ll discuss. Read on to learn about three of the main challenges in last-mile delivery and how GetSwift’s platform addresses each one. 

A Few Last-Mile Delivery Challenges

Let’s start with three thorny challenges.

1. Multiple Stops 

Rather than traveling to and from one warehouse or office, with last-mile delivery, drivers need to make several individual stops to make their deliveries.  Each stop along a driver’s route takes time. There’s the time involved with driving to the area and finding the exact home or place of business. They may have to stop for several traffic lights or stop signs. Once they arrive, there’s the time involved with walking up to the building, possibly interacting with a customer, and then walking back to their vehicle only to have to do it all over again many times throughout the day. 

2. Dense Neighborhoods 

Think of how quickly you can get 40,000 pounds of goods to a destination when you’re using a semi on a national highway to get to one or two warehouse locations. Then, think of how long it would take a driver in a small van to get the same amount of goods to homes and businesses scattered throughout a congested urban area — it takes significantly more time. One reason why is the multiple stops we discussed above, but it’s also because of the reduced travel speed. 

Last-mile drivers are often traveling in areas with lower posted speed limits — like small rural cities, busy downtowns, and residential areas. In densely populated areas they also have to deal with pedestrians and public transportation as well as traffic congestion. All of these things mean that to deliver directly to someone’s door, it’s going to take more time. 

 3. Failed and Missed Deliveries

A common problem with direct-to-consumer deliveries is a failure to complete the transaction. This can be because of any number of reasons including an incorrect address, the customer not at home, or the customer unaware of when the delivery was going to arrive. A failed delivery is not only bad business in the eyes of your customers, but it also creates additional problems in the form of redelivery cost, or even worse, lost business and negative customer reviews.  

Three Solutions In Last-Mile Delivery

Let’s look at solutions to these three major problems, one by one.

1. Real-Time Routing

When you and your driver have GetSwift’s cloud-based platform, it’s all real-time routing, so if there’s a traffic jam or an added stop, that data automatically updates the driver’s route to provide the most efficient route along with the order or stops that now makes the most sense. Saving your time and keeping customers happier. Learn more about how our AI team improves your routing.

2. Routing + Scheduling Analytics

While there’s no complete solution to having to move at lower speeds, you have lots of options to make your routes much more efficient. If your business takes advance scheduled orders, you can use our software to see how long a route will take at certain times and try to schedule your deliveries for faster times (such as delivering at night). You can also see which zip codes are too expensive to deliver to, and either decline customers who order from there or, for instance, automatically require them to make an order of a certain size.

You have many more options to save time on routes. If your delivering on demand, you can look at the analytics section of GetSwift’s platform, like our client Flowers A Bunch did, to track all your trip times in a week to analyze what routes were the least efficient, and look into why: was it one driver who you need to talk to, for instance, about strategies for getting more efficient, or is it always one route that causes problems. The opposite may be true as well: one route or neighborhood may be particularly efficient for your drivers, and you can look to increase your marketing from your store near that route to focus even more on those customers.

3. Reliable Network + Live Driver Tracking

Let’s turn this one around. The source of a failed delivery is varied: one course could unfortunately be a driver having the wrong address. That’s why it’s important to make sure your delivery management system is robustly built with the most accurate locational data and a reliable network. If your drivers are out delivering and all of a sudden the network is down, you’d not only have to scramble to get them the right addresses but it can lead to missed deliveries, and it’s hard to afford a day like that. Your drivers want to be out in the field with the confidence that they’re on the most reliable network, and that if they were to encounter a problem, they have a customer support team ready to help solve it, fast. 

Another way to turn around missed deliveries are real-time alerts, tracking links, and ETAs, along with open two-way communication between the driver and customer, so that a customer knows exactly when the driver will arrive. To minimize the likelihood of any mix-up, customers can also request that the driver record proof of delivery, including taking a photo of the package. 

Fix Your Last Mile With GetSwift

Three problems and three solutions. Talk to us about what challenges you’re having, and hear from us about how our tech, onboarding, and customer support will solve them. 

Photo: Norma Mortenson via Pexels

AI Expert Explains: How Does Artificial Intelligence Work To Improve Logistics and Delivery?

AI Expert Explains: How Does Artificial Intelligence Work To Improve Logistics and Delivery?

What exactly has AI’s impact on logistics been, and where will AI continue to improve the last mile? And what does this innovation mean for a company like yours, involved in delivery?

Luckily, we have our resident AI expert, Jim Barnebee, who is also our VP of Infrastructure. He’s been digging into components of AI for over 15 years so that we all don’t have to.

It couldn’t be a more important topic. 98 percent of logistics companies have said that data-driven decision-making is essential to their future success, and Big Data and Artificial Intelligence go hand in hand. AI in logistics is also where companies can get a lot of bang for their investment—over half the cost of all delivery logistics is contained within the first and last mile of the logistics supply chain.

Recently Jim appeared on two podcasts, where he answered lots of big questions on our mind related to AI’s impact on and logistics. Here’s a summary of the questions he was asked:

First, what does every company, especially smaller companies, wanting to up their logistics game need to know?

First, the fundamentals. Perhaps the biggest leap forward that’s already taken place for logistics companies is the cloud. It takes an enormous amount of computing power to constantly calculate and recalculate the best route from Point A to Point B depending on changing conditions. Fortunately, small companies do not have to invest in that cloud infrastructure or AI expertise because they’ve been able to hire a Platform as a Service (PaaS) or Software as a Service (SaaS) such as GetSwift to handle that power for them. That’s been a major step forward, already, for logistics and delivery companies.

Logistics companies have invested big in robotics automation, especially in the crucial and costly first mile of delivery. Think of warehouses, autonomous drones, and self-driving vehicles, all of which have grown in importance during the Covid-19 pandemic. Investing in these areas can push margins higher and so there’s been big strides here.

What are the areas where AI can give you the most bang for your buck in last mile delivery?

Over half the cost of all delivery logistics is contained within the first and last mile of the logistics supply chain. Each company will want to look at ROI. They should ask, “What are the areas or components that would improve their last mile delivery journey and yield the biggest ROI for customers?” It turns out the answer is usually in improving Dispatch, Tracking, Route Optimization, and Customer Notifications.

Can you go through each of these areas, one by one, and talk about AI’s impact? 

Dispatching is being optimized using AI in determining the best way to make sure the best person or vehicle or even company gets an order for delivery. Many factors may play into these types of decisions, other than the obvious closest person working to the pickup and drop-off.

Such things as who has capacity to move the item, who has a more fuel efficient vehicle, who has to pay tolls, even pay or benefits differentials or partial load optimization (like sharing of space) can play into these decisions.

In Tracking, optimizations such as how often to request a location, status, what kind of information to track, etc., can all play into decision making. Some companies will improve fuel efficiency or driver alertness by tracking how many miles at what speed drivers log between rest breaks. Or perhaps if GPS directs the shortest route but that route has tolls, it might be cheaper once the tracking is optimized to take a little longer but pay less in tolls using more efficient vehicles.

A lot of work has gone into Route Optimization. In last mile delivery, a company has to move people or goods not just from Point A to Point B, but from Point A to Point F, with stops and changing conditions along the way. Because of AI, there is a way to pipe in real-time data–traffic, weather conditions, construction, and more—along with dynamic changes such as added stops—into an algorithm that can continuously update the route to make it the most efficient. There may actually be 300 or 400 changing conditions along the way, and there is a race in the logistics and delivery industry to integrate those changing conditions with your systems to come up with the most efficient routes.

Now, you can also think about how business analytics can improve your route. Let’s think of a big trucking company that delivers 10,000 packages a day in New York City. How many packages get delivered quickly, by how many trucks, to how many places, crossing how many bridges, and what’s the toll cost? Something as simple as: if all of your trucks take a different bridge, which actually increases your routing time, but all of the tolls are 50 cents less. You’ve taken an extra 30 minutes to deliver the package, which may not cost you anything in customer satisfaction but it’s saved you $5,000 a day in toll fees. That’s the kind of thing you can do when you have access to big data, giving you the business impact of making these kinds of decisions.

Customers expect to know what’s happening every step of the way with their orders now. Being able to provide tracking of packages has become standard for large companies in most circumstances, and cloud platform providers have made this capability available to smaller businesses who could never supply it on their own.

Wrapping Up

That’s just a snapshot of what Jim’s team works on. To hear more about AI’s impact on logistics and delivery industry, and how Jim sees AI impacting the present and future of logistics, check out Jim’s appearances on these two podcasts:

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