As technology improves and foodservice and grocery distributors ask for increasingly sophisticated tools, today’s logistics service providers will be here to answer their needs. In fact, some are already looking ahead for tomorrow’s solutions.
Schijns says the next big thing in route optimization may be time of day routing.
“We’re working on collecting data that will tell you if it’s better to leave at 4 a.m. from Connecticut to get through New York City, or better to leave at 1 p.m.,” he says. “We have many customers voluntarily giving us that kind of information, such as how fast trucks can go through a certain area at a certain time of day. We can then model and map exactly how fast you can go through an urban area depending on the time of day and the route you take.”
Another trend Schijns foresees coming to fruition is the integration of visual imagery. Using technology similar to Google Earth, this feature would display a picture of the actual dock the driver is supposed to pull into on their onboard computer. This could eliminate driver confusion when arriving at an address that doesn’t have a clear shipping and receiving bay.
Silver says many features and applications Qualcomm is preparing for the future are significantly driven by regulatory compliance.
“The Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 will play a key role in some of the applications we’re considering moving forward,” she says. “A lot of time these regulations come from the top down, without a lot of understanding within the industry, so we work closely with the American Trucking Association to try to identify where there are implications to our systems.”
UPS Logistics’ RoadNet currently offers a carbon emissions reporting tool that Brandt believes will become increasingly valuable going forward.
“I think we can expect to see big changes regarding emissions laws in this country,” says Brandt. “We’ve seen it in Europe and the talk is becoming more serious here in the United States.”
The report works using data from the planned route, such as number of miles in the route, the MPG for the vehicle and the translation of a gallon of gas to emissions, and determines each vehicle’s carbon footprint. The report can then calculate the fleet’s total emissions.
“With these reports, distributors can compare their carbon footprint to what the averages are and benchmark themselves,” says Brandt. “If you can reduce your mileage, burn less fuel, reduce your idle times, maintain your vehicles and increase your MPGs, you can reduce your carbon footprint.”
Routing programs, dispatcher software and onboard computers each play an integral role in moving food throughout the supply chain. These sophisticated systems do far more than simply give drivers turn-by-turn directions.
The ROI from purchasing any combination of software and hardware systems is clear: better customer service, reduced labor costs, decreased fuel consumption and easier regulatory compliance.
Mabry believes that there is no time better than the present to invest in a complete routing solution.
“Many operations are a bit down right now, so this is the perfect time to imbed these solutions into your operations,” he says. “Then when everything picks up, you can hit the ground running. Although the investment may seem significant, you can’t afford not to do this.”