The Covid 19 pandemic has seen a rise in consumer demand for fast delivery models. The enforced closure of high street outlets and the perceived risk at essential stores has spurred on demand for home delivery. At the same time, the pandemic has exacerbated an existing shortage of HGV drivers – from a pre-pandemic deficit of around 60,000 to a post-lockdown shortage estimated to now stand at approximately 100,000. Never before has it been more important to ensure that every resource at the disposal of transport managers is fully utilised.
So has the pandemic signalled the need for a step change in the way businesses plan their operations? Has it signalled the end of planning movements manually as many fleet operators do today? The sheer human effort involved in marrying up jobs with resources and organising them into workable routes is a burden and has more often than not, been riddled with inefficiencies. A transport planning and optimisation solution can provide fleet managers with the capacity to dramatically reduce the time taken to create a plan whilst considerably improving the quality of the output.
The right planning and optimisation package can quickly create an optimised plan which mirrors near real world routes whilst fully utilising assets, it allows export for forward execution plus the capacity to feed improvements back into future plans.
Planning & Optimisation
Assets such as tractors, trailers, rigids, vans (in their various forms) and drivers transport goods from A-B, but it all comes at a cost. It is critical that assets are used to their maximum capacity and in the most efficient way in terms of mileage run.
Planning tools essentially take your list of jobs, allocate them to available resources and continually plot them into routes until the most efficient routes are fed into a plan. This ensures that assets are fully utilised and that any exceptions like spare assets or overspill of work is flagged to be dealt with. All planning tools increase efficiency compared to manual planning… some planning tools simply do it faster and more accurately than others.
Microlise Planning & Optimisation allows you to set KPIs in line with what is important to your operation, for example, some operations may prioritise that time windows are met regardless of costs whilst others may insist that vehicles are fully loaded. Whatever the KPIs, the solution will allow you to run the algorithm and see it progress using the visualisation screen, so you can decide when the plan has met your requirements and cut down on the algorithm run time.
Its accuracy means that near real-world routes can be incorporated into the initial plan. This cuts down on the amount of manual intervention needed but the system still allows for manual adjustments should they prove necessary, on both a timeline and on a map view.
The speed and accuracy of Microlise Planning and Optimisation saves time… and it also significantly increases flexibility. Last-minute jobs can be added and the plan (or part of it) simply re-spun meaning the deadline for accepting late jobs can be extended later into the day, even up to the point of delivery.
Microlise Planning & Optimisation capability is almost entirely, geared toward increasing efficiency through smoothing the delivery process. Load builder functionality aims to use vehicle information to produce a simple set of recommendations for how warehouse staff should best load pallet contents onto vehicles, so that delivery staff have the fastest and most efficient unload possible. Planners can also choose to group multiple visits to the same customer to avoid repeat deliveries / collections on the same day and plan visits around fixed or flexible time windows.
What happens once the plan is finalised? With manual planning, drivers will invariably be given a list of jobs to complete often with discretion as to how these are to be carried out. When a basic telematics system is used, the routes can be tracked but they are not always adhered to so the value rests in knowing where vehicles are at any given time.
The efficiencies gained from using Microlise Planning & Optimisation don’t stop when a plan is produced. Through integration, the benefits are realised through plan execution and beyond.
A single click publishes the finalised plan through to our Journey Management product allowing users to monitor the progress of each route. Job lists can be sent to an in-cab device along with their agreed routes. A driver simply logs in via their digital tachograph head unit and begins their journey using one touch satnav to guide them from their departure point.
Back in the office, detailed ETAs are displayed on the Schedule Execution Board giving office staff visibility of routes as they progress, the assigned resources and colour coded details of any jobs running early, late or on-time is displayed and can be relayed proactively to customers and depots. EPOD information can also be gathered to allow office staff to maintain full visibility of what has been delivered… and more importantly, what hasn’t.
Post execution analysis is delivered via a series of reports covering everything from route adherence through to Plan vs Actual to provide intelligence that can be fed back to improve future planning.
With the right integrated solution in place, internal planning processes and operational efficiency is enhanced to:
- Reduce planning time
- Incorporate last minute jobs later
- Reduce manual intervention
- Increase delivery success
- Improve utilisation
- Minimise empty running
- Reduce environmental impact
- Improve customer service levels and,
- Strengthen driver engagement.