Route optimisation, put simply, is the process of planning the most efficient order in which to organise a path between multiple collection or delivery points. It goes by many names, including routing software, route planner and scheduling system, but they all mean the same thing: more efficient driving.

Well-planned stops mean fewer miles, more time for extra customers, less wear on the vehicles, more efficient staff and ultimately, a healthier bottom line.

But simply having a route optimisation system in place isn’t the end of the road – make sure you consider these 7 top tips.

Leverage the knowledge of your supplier when you use route optimisation software

When you buy route optimisation software, you’re not just buying the software – you are buying access to a wealth of information from that provider. This will of course include how to use their software but at a less granular level, they will be able to guide and support on wider, more strategic conversations.

When you are at that point where you are deciding between vendors, choose a provider that gives ongoing customer support. This will help you to really get the most out of the platform as your business develops.

Train your staff

Having a vendor who wants to work with you, helping your company grow through their platform, will help ensure your staff are using the system in the best way. This applies to your driving fleet learning how to use the mobile software, most likely by correctly updating delivery/collection statuses and logging issues while on the road, but it also relates to the depot staff planning and communicating the routes.

Dispatch staff need to be fully versed in the route optimisation software so they can use it efficiently and to its full potential.

Think about how often you’ll need to optimise your route

Is once a day sufficient or will you need to be constantly optimising? This will have an impact on the kind of route optimisation software you go for and the level of support it will give you.

It’s best to think about what you need from the software, how much of the process you’ll want it to do for you, what level of manual intervention you’re prepared to facilitate on a daily basis.

Go beyond routing

Thinking beyond the primary function of route optimisation, i.e. plotting out a route based on the most efficient path, there are other ways you can improve your drivers’ effectiveness.

Peripheral features will depend on what software solution you opt for, but automatic checking of addresses and eSignature software (also known as ePOD – electronic proof of delivery) make the whole process much smoother and greatly reduce admin time.

You can also look at optimising your vehicles, this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Identify the capacity of each vehicle so you can best allocate your fleet to the needs of your deliveries/collections
  • Train your drivers to load the goods in the order of the optimised delivery route, to save time out on the road
  • Tracking a vehicle’s mileage, maintenance history and servicing requirements can prevent breakdowns en route and save money as proactive maintenance is cheaper than repairs

Audit your requirements regularly

It’s important to look at two major elements of your route optimisation strategy on a regular basis:

  • Your route optimisation software – is it performing as you need it to? Does it meet your needs in an efficient and cost-effective way?
  • Your requirements – have they changed? Will they have to change to keep up with your customers’ expectations or wider business needs?

Look at the major changes in, well… everything, but specifically in operating a business in 2019 compared to 2020. A lot more people were at home in 2020, so timeframes may not have been as strict as they had been previously, but with many brick-and-mortar stores being closed, this also meant companies who offered delivery services were much busier. 2021 saw conditions edge back towards a new normal for many but not for all, so once again businesses had to adapt. From the perspective of Brexit and the ending of freedom of movement between the UK and the EU, there has also been a skills shortage in the last couple of years which has obviously had an impact on staff levels.

As we move into 2022, Brexit and coronavirus, along with a multitude of other macro and micro factors, will continue to affect businesses, for better or worse.

It is best to make sure that your route optimisation strategy is suited to your changing needs on a regular basis; this will enable you to drive business performance through informed, strategic decisions.

Focus on the customer

One of the main benefits of route optimisation software is that you will be able to better serve your customers – you’ll be able to provide tighter and more meaningful delivery/collection times, customers may even be able to see their driver’s location, helping them plan out their own day.

With improved efficiencies in time and mileage, your drivers will have the opportunity to see more customers in a day, and there is a possibility here to boost customer satisfaction and brand reputation further.

There are two main opportunities here, the first is making it easier for customers to provide feedback, for two reasons: operational improvements and positive reviews.

The second is to ensure drivers are sufficiently trained in customer service. Poor service can be damning, while great service can bring repeat custom and positive word of mouth.

Facilitate open communication between office teams and drivers

Your planning staff and your delivery staff will have very different experiences of your route optimisation strategy and it’s beneficial for all to enable regular conversations between both groups.

Open feedback from driving personnel will help office staff identify opportunities for improvements in how the system is used, how it can be better calibrated and how routes can be more efficiently planned.

Regular conversations between drivers and managers can improve driver performance, supported by the data that a route optimisation software records, including actual routes taken (vs planned), time taken, any missed deliveries etc. This is also an opportunity to highlight star performers.

If you’d like to talk about route optimisation and what it could do for you, please get in touch.

Jane Geary

More by this author