How to speed up your planning process?

Posted by Louis D'hondt on 21/05/2019

A lot of businesses and organizations perceive planning as a tedious and time-consuming process. A Route optimization tool can help planners. But even with these kind of tools, creating a planning can still be a struggle. Here are four ways to speed up your planning process.

Brown Hourglass on Brown Wooden Table

Algorithms

A lot of businesses only use the visual aspect of the planning tool, the actual assignment of orders is still done by hand. It's like washing your dishes before you put them in the dish washer: a serious waste of a great asset. Yes, we know, the correct use of an algorithm takes training. Sometimes the word ‘algorithm’ is even mistaken for ‘effortless’, which it is not. You must properly define your business rules and validate the associated data. Data is the most important ‘fuel’ for an algorithm to do its job properly.

You do might have to figure out some key information:

  1. For your drivers:
    How long do your drivers work? What can they do and what not? How fast can they work? Which are their preferred regions? ...
  2. For your orders:
    When can orders be executed? By whom? Which driver executed the order faster than the others? ...

Should you not be convinced about the quality of your data, then you can always setup a track-and-trace process to gather data and use that as a quality-benchmark.

Usability

There is no denying: algorithms are powerful tools, but people will only deploy them if they are easy to use and bring added value.

That means your system needs:

  1. A modern and easy to understand interface that preferably runs on SaaS-technology (in the cloud).
  2. A service desk is crucial. If problems do arise, the provider must have right people in the right place at the right time to provide correct answers to the customer's solution.
  3. Last but not least: do not underestimate the value of serious training and proper documentation, like a decent up-to-date manual.

Start your planning early on

When assessing the time at which a planning should be created, you're faced with conflicting interests:

  1. Postponing decisions gives better results because you have more information. It's a principle that accounts for planning optimization too: postponing the planning process means more orders, meaning a larger set of pieces to lay the puzzle with, which will result in a more efficient plan.
  2. But that's theory, in practice that's often impossible due to factors such as vehicle loading or docking preparations. Here the old adage 'if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail' certainly counts.

→ So you're left balancing on a fine line between two conflicting incentives: postponing for an optimal plan vs preparing not to fail.

But do not worry, state-of-the-art optimization technologies provide a solution by minimizing the area of opportunities you're cutting away when making early decisions:

  1. Plan the orders you already know of at the start of the day
  2. Add new ones when they come in. Adding orders to an existing plan should not be an issue
  3. neither should re-optimizing the existing plan that receives new orders.
  4. In some situations, the question might rise 'what to do when a re-optimization reallocates a package from truck A to truck B when it's already loaded onto truck A?'. 
    → If the planning tool allows you to lock the orders that have already been loaded, then that won't cause any problems because orders that are already loaded are kept in place.

So, if you have the right tools then start your planning early on. Do not wait until the last order, because you will be left with too little time for processing, adjustments and last-minute modifications. It takes time to go fast. 

Strategic Analysis

As in the case with postponing planning as long as possible, planning all depots in one run is optimal for planning optimization purposes but might be difficult to achieve in practice due to operational circumstances or due to the absence of a powerful algorithm.

When optimizing all depots at once is not possible due to operational constraints, then re-evaluating the approach on a strategic level once every few years and on a tactical level once every few months will enhance the smoothness of daily operations. 

Topics: Route optimization, track and trace, SaaS, Planners, Rittenplanning, Routeplanning, Cloud

Louis D'hondt

Written by Louis D'hondt