You might think of today’s routing and onboard systems as ubiquitous CCTV systems that continually follow and monitor the movements of your fleet of drivers and trucks. When routing and dispatch systems integrate and communicate with onboard communications and computing systems, the real-time data collected can inform powerfully efficient business decisions that contribute significantly to the bottom line.
The availability of real-time data allows logistics managers to respond to any unexpected situation that otherwise would impede the execution of the most efficiently developed routing plan. Knowledge is power, so the adage goes. But the power of that knowledge can be achieved only if the data is acted upon immediately—and today’s technology providers have the magic to make that happen.
Routing On Steroids
A mere five years ago, routing and onboard solutions were primarily discrete systems without the technological ability to communicate with each other, reports James Stevenson, vice president of Appian Logistics in Oklahoma City. “One of the biggest features our customers are pushing for now is to have these systems integrate and communicate with each other to provide enhanced visibility throughout the entire organization regarding the plan, which can be updated and revised continually based on what is actually happening on the route in real time.”
Now companies can generate, in real time, highly granular KPIs and other metrics specific to their operations. Today’s integrated systems can report things like fast starts, sudden braking, miles-per-gallon consumption, actual drive and stop times and unscheduled stops. Systems can customize reports by customer, by day of the week, and by examining how many times a logistics company is servicing a customer vs. how many times the company should be servicing that customer, reports Stevenson.
“We can show each stop, how many cases were delivered, and how long it took the driver to complete the delivery. We can also show the relationship between sales and service frequency and what the KPIs are for on-time delivery performance for a given customer—and what the cost is to serve any given customer.”
At Roadnet Technologies Inc. (Formerly UPS Logistics Technologies), the focus is on how to help food logistics companies optimize their routes while increasing the bottom line, says Cyndi Brandt, vice president of marketing at the Baltimore-based company. “We do this by reducing the cost to deliver using our Roadnet daily routing tool that helps customers optimize their customer service levels while decreasing the total number of miles driven.”
The company’s latest product —MobileCast—is a complementary application to Roadnet. “MobileCast is our real-time dispatch and tracking solution using GPS that informs logistics managers where their driver is supposed to be and where he or she actually is located in real time,” explains Brandt.
A routing plan is only as good as how closely it is monitored and acted upon in real time in order to achieve predetermined goals. “Your plan might have you running 1,000 miles a week,” continues Brandt. “But if some of your drivers are making unscheduled stops, you might discover that only at the end of the year when you learn you actually ran 100,000 miles rather than the planned 52,000 miles. Our comprehensive suite of real-time reporting shows you the metrics in terms of what you are supposed to do versus what you actually did.”
Roadnet also reports on location delivery cost. “I might be selling a customer $200 worth of product, with my gross profit of $50, but it’s costing me $75 to deliver,” says Brandt. “I might then want to examine this from a strategic standpoint, by using one of our strategic products in order to regroup some customers so they are all on the same route for a particular day.”