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  April 10th, 2024 | Written by

Build Streamlined Logistics with Route Optimization Algorithms

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Today’s fleet owners and other logistics professionals seek practical solutions to boost competitiveness and cut unnecessary costs. Many are beginning to explore route optimization algorithms as the answer to their problems.

What Is Route Optimization?

Route optimization assesses numerous factors to find the most cost-efficient ways to make all deliveries. Field technicians, home care assistants, and sales professionals who visit customers at their homes or businesses are some examples of people outside logistics who benefit from route optimization.

How Does Route Optimization Work?

A well-optimized route is not necessarily the shortest one. Planners must consider things such as:

  • Drivers’ hours and break requirements
  • The number of parcels to deliver
  • Areas of heavy traffic or road construction
  • Access methods and related challenges
  • The number of drivers working at a given time

Dispatchers and other specialists crunch all the available data — often using advanced route optimization algorithms — evaluating it when deciding which vehicles and drivers should handle a particular day’s needs. The algorithms process the information and make tailored recommendations. They can also propose changes based on developing conditions, such as traffic backups or severe wrecks.

Drivers usually must continually interact with route optimization tools throughout the day. However, the engagement is generally minor. For example, they might tap a button in an app to indicate when they’ve delivered each parcel, are on a scheduled break or must go off the clock to deal with an unforeseen situation. Those inputs give the algorithms real-time feedback to update people’s routes as necessary.

What Are the Benefits of Route Optimization?

One of the biggest advantages of route optimization algorithms is better productivity. Drivers can make the most of their time because there’s usually no need to make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Instead, they can periodically check dash-mounted smartphones or tablets, and follow the instructions there.

These algorithms also help fleet organizations save time because vehicles are moving for larger percentages of time instead of being stuck in traffic. Since they usually work constantly in the background, these algorithms continuously update routes according to conditions in the driver’s area. Many also make suggestions based on historical data, combining that information with what’s happening in real time.

They enable better decision-making capabilities for the dispatchers, managers and others overseeing the routes, too. Even the most experienced and detail-oriented professionals likely can’t process as much information as quickly as today’s algorithms. Technologies are like people in that they can both make mistakes. However, combining humans and advanced technologies is typically very powerful, especially when applied to dynamic situations.

Customers also benefit from route optimization algorithms when they receive more accurate information about when parcels will arrive. They appreciate that convenience, particularly when they’re about to receive an expensive, signature-required, or long-awaited delivery and can’t feasibly wait at home all day for it to come.

People often receive emails specifying one- or two-hour windows during which their parcels should show up at their doors. However, route optimization algorithms can do even more by supporting real-time tracking.

Making the Most of Route Optimization Algorithms

People interested in using algorithms for route planning should start by thinking about the challenges they most want to overcome. Another way to analyze the present situation is for fleet owners and other leaders to consider how algorithms could help them succeed in the future.

In one example, a leading less-than-truckload brand used algorithms as part of a digital transformation strategy. An executive said this application allows the firm to increase flexibility and manage line-haul costs during market fluctuations. Additionally, decision-making within the business has improved.

Once leaders identify how route algorithms could address their current and future needs, they should begin exploring which software vendors best suit their budget, size and other specific factors. After creating a shortlist of possible enterprises, people should develop questions for sales representatives, anticipating that the answers will help them make the best decisions about which products to purchase.

Many decision-makers are already using advanced technologies for reasons other than route optimization, such as to help them determine when to do maintenance. That’s important because the timing depends on driving conditions.

For example, air filters prevent contaminants from damaging vehicles’ engines. Replacements of said filter can occur about every 20,000 miles for trucks experiencing average dirt and pollution levels. However, those driving on dusty roads and in more polluted areas need changes sooner. Some fleet owners use sensors and algorithms to learn precisely when to do maintenance on specific vehicles.

Anyone already depending on algorithms in other parts of their businesses should confirm whether their route planning tools will integrate smoothly with the other technologies. There’s a good chance they will, especially as many fleet owners gradually increase their reliance on algorithms in their operations.

Route Optimization Algorithms Support a Greener Future

Many leaders begin using route optimization algorithms after recognizing doing so will save them time and money. However, people may also notice such technologies align with their sustainability strategies.

In a broad sense, these algorithms can reduce idle time, improve fuel efficiency and significantly reduce failed delivery attempts. These benefits combine to minimize individual vehicle emissions. However, route optimization algorithms can also make entire organizations more sustainable.

Such was the case with a trucking company established in 1934. An executive said he and his fellow leaders were immediately excited about the efficiency gains they could achieve by adding the algorithms to an 80-vehicle fleet. However, the results of a trial revealed some unexpected benefits.

More specifically, after bringing the algorithms into its workflow, the brand had a 15% reduction in mileage and emissions. When executives from such firms can show how route optimization algorithms support a shrinking carbon footprint, eco-minded consumers will be more likely to give them their business for the long term.

The leaders of brands in this position can also use the algorithms to prove their actions to regulators and other authorities requiring the progressive reductions of emissions and the prioritization of greener practices. Demonstrating gradual progress in this area could help logistics providers avoid fines and confirm their sustainability commitments.

Route Optimization Is Worthwhile 

Logistics is a fast-paced and high-demand industry. Algorithms help enterprises save time and make deliveries more strategically. Regardless of a leader’s fleet size or goals, they should strongly consider investigating how these technological tools can help.