Producten&diensten Logistiek en distributie

8 tips to improve your delivery routes

The more efficient you can deliver your products, the more successful you’ll be as a carrier. Optimizing delivery routes - and going from A to B as efficiently as possible - is the key success factor in this sector. Johan Ruijten, route optimization specialist at Geodan, has 8 tips for you.

1. Take a critical look at your data

Of course, you want to make a planning as tight as possible and reduce travel time, but that goal is often not feasible in practice. Sound familiar? In that case, it’s possible that you haven’t been hard enough on your data. Because even though you’re allowed to drive 80 at some point, that doesn’t mean you can do so all the time - especially if you have to make some deliveries along the way. So, take a critical look at your data and ask yourself: are those travel times realistic? Does the software take traffic slowdowns during rush hour into account? A lot of software calculates travel times based on optimal traffic flow, but that’s rarely the case in practice.

2. Account for stops in your travel time calculations

When we plan routes, we always look at travel time. Stops, however, and the time they take are frequently ignored. As soon as your delivery person has to deliver a package on the third floor of a building that doesn’t have an elevator, though, your plans will be affected. That’s a shame! Above all, it’s unnecessary: there are data that can provide you with greater certainty and more security, such as information regarding the type of building, the number of floors, and the distance from the road to the front door. Then there’s factors such as the driver’s experience and the size and the time of delivery, which may also be of influence. You probably already have lots of these data in your possession: use them.

3. Think about how you want to organize your routes

It may be useful to tweak your software or settings so that routes are organized differently. You may not be stuck in traffic for very long if you deliver to the addresses that are furthest away first. Are you always driving during peak hours? Keeping your routes compact may serve you well.

4. Use the right mode of transportation for the area

Using a car for deliveries in the center of town usually isn’t very practical. Downtown traffic is often best traversed using a bicycle or stint (an electric hand cart). Clearly, you won’t be using either of these to make deliveries in outlying areas. Location intelligence is everything! Look for the degree of urbanization or drop density - the number of delivery addresses in a given area - to select the best mode of transportation.

5. Consider the heart of your route

Hubs or transshipment points are the heart of your route, so think hard about where you want to locate them. Moreover, think carefully about when they’ll be used the most. Getting stuck in a traffic jam every night because the transshipment point you use during rush hour is right next to the motorway isn’t very practical. An optimal spread of delivery areas is also important. Do you take natural borders or critical points in the infrastructure into account? It may save you lots of time in delays as well as in mileage.

6. Input your specific processes in your software.

Look critically at your own organization: are there processes in your organization that can be optimized for company-specific challenges? Standard scheduling algorithms are valuable, but they are not always fine-tuned to your organization and processes. Online supermarket Picnic, for instance, mainly operates in cities and discovered that this insight allowed them to develop a 'better' planning algorithm than ORTEC. They also didn’t want their little electric vehicles driving on motorways or other controlled-access highways. Again, they found that standard route tooling just wouldn’t do and made changes to the algorithms.

7. Be smart about delivery options

Same-day delivery, next-day delivery or specific delivery dates? Mornings, afternoons, or evenings? We have more delivery options to choose from than ever before. Although it’s convenient, it doesn’t help in making delivery routes more efficient. Reducing the number of delivery options is preferable. If the customer knows what they can expect, all those delivery options won’t be necessary! Another smart solution is to nudge the customer towards picking certain options. If you already have another order out for delivery in the same area at a specific time, be flexible with your delivery options and offer that time slot at a reduced price!

8. Collect data!

This might just be the most important item on the list: collect as much data from the routes you drive as you can. It’s impossible to make routes completely reliable and efficient in one go. You can learn a lot from your data. For example: at what point in the route did the delays start and under what circumstances did they occur? These insights allow you to improve your planning. It’s such a shame that a lot of companies don’t utilize their data.