January 2014 | Sponsored | Knowledge Base

Transportation Planning – A Manual Headache Or an Optimized Dream

Tags: Logistics I.T., Trucking, Legislation, Public Policy, and Regulations, Transportation Management, Transportation

William Salter is President & CEO, Paragon Software Systems, Inc., 972-731-4308

You can't optimize your transportation plans in your head, although many companies still think their planners should be able to. These companies are in serious danger of falling behind their competition as they continue to plan their transportation operations manually, often using an Excel spreadsheet and a map. With increasing customer demands for service, speed, competitive price, and pre-defined delivery slots, combined with escalating levels of aggressive competition, companies must turn away from manual route planning and embrace the range of solutions that can help revolutionize the route planning and optimization process at the level of sophistication and complexity required by today's transportation operators.

Many variables go into transportation planning; so much information is available and needed to make the best, optimized transportation decisions. With fluctuating gas prices, green initiatives, customer service requirements, driver shortages, and hours of service regulations, the need for optimized routing and scheduling is even greater than ever.

For every shipment there can be twenty or more variables and combinations of variables required to execute the shipment. Variables that need to be considered for optimized routing and scheduling include:

  • Delivery time windows & dock restrictions
  • Suitability of truck types, truck availability & maintenance schedules
  • Traffic congestion and concerns
  • Customer locations & delivery quantities
  • Driver shift times & layover requirements
  • Truck size and height restrictions
  • Unloading/re-loading times
  • Traffic speeds, temporary road work & road closures
  • Number of people required to unload/load trucks
  • Requirement to take away old products or packaging
  • One-way streets and other street limitations
  • Travel times and distances, meal & HOS breaks
  • Categories of roads—urban, rural…and so on…

Taking account of all of these variables at the same time as delivering an optimized plan is a complex business and one that must challenge even the most experienced of transportation planners. In reality it takes a powerful optimization engine to create the best routes and schedules that make the most of your available transportation fleet while meeting customer delivery demands in a cost-effective way.

Paragon Software Systems provides optimized routing and scheduling solutions that utilize a highly developed algorithm designed specifically for optimizing road-based transportation operations. It uses digital mapping to calculate the most effective delivery and collection sequences with accurate journey times, allocating loads to appropriate trucks and drivers accordingly. This ensures that delivery schedules are geographically feasible, meet promised arrival time windows, while at the same time improving fleet utilization and productivity through optimized truck routes with minimal total mileage incurred and reduced empty running.

Paragon's standard route optimization software stores information about customer delivery requirements, truck fleets, required delivery windows, truck capacities, driver shift details and other transportation parameters and then calculates the best routes for trucks located at one central DC. Additional software options take automated planning one step further. For example:

  • Paragon Multi Depot truck routing software also selects the best DC for each delivery as part of the route optimization process. This avoids situations where some DCs have spare truck capacity, while others have to hire extra carrier trucks.
  • Paragon Integrated Fleets enables truck fleets at different DCs to interact - providing even more transportation efficiencies. This is suitable for more complex transportation operations, such as those involving multiple DCs with different product ranges at each, or where you want to combine pickups and deliveries on the same truck routes. This creates route schedules with efficient backhauls that reduce your empty mileage, improve productivity and reduce total transportation costs.

Without tools such as these you are heavily reliant on the knowledge and skills of individuals. What happens if your transportation planner retires and he holds all the specific information about each customer and their delivery variables in his head? Automating these processes means you don't have to rely on someone's memory or worry if they take a vacation, are absent from the office or they retire.

And it doesn't end there. In this context automation also means optimization. Companies using truck routing and scheduling systems can extract up to 15-20 percent savings or more from their transportation operations, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved annually.