Today, companies are integrating software into the back-end of the GPS equation that is allowing shippers to take the tracking information provided to them and then use it to improve their routing and scheduling in order to get more control over their routes. The days of manual route optimization are over.
When a driver stops his vehicle for a predetermined amount of time, the system will compare where he is to the list of planned stops and if it's within 1,000 feet, it will assume the stop is the actual one that the company gave him. The system will then update his actual arrival. It will also provide an update when he departs. These systems are also using GPS data to actually re-forecast the ETAs on all the remaining stops.
"You want to know if there is going to be a customer service violation somewhere in the route," says Appian's Stevenson. "Most of these customers are fairly strict about when you can make deliveries-you just can't show up at any time."
The system can be set up to automatically flag a dispatcher if there will be a time-window violation and he can then notify the next customer when they should expect their delivery. The system also allows dispatchers to add stops or remove stops. This new information will show up on the driver's phone, making it a completely interactive two-way communication between the driver and the office.
GPS-enabled cell phones are also improving the accuracy of routes themselves.
"A route is only as good as its execution," says Cindi Brandt, Marketing Manager for UPS Logistics Technology in Baltimore. "GPS systems allow you to clock service time. If it always takes 25 minutes to service 'Cindi's Diner,' you need to know that because then you can create your plan with more accuracy."
UPS' Roadnet Transportation Suite software allows routers to select the "least scored" average delivery time to a particular location, throwing out the higher and lower rates, in order to forecast more accurate services times to that location.
"Typically," says Descartes' Roszko, "planners are building their routes on a series of estimates. If you think the driver can do 12 stops in eight hours and then you get the information back and you see he did 12 stops in six hours, you know you can add more stops on that route."
Another routing issue that the new technology addresses is the "returns" problem. Typically, if a driver shows up outside of a time window and the receiving department is closed, he'll have to come back another day, which means additional costs are incurred. The system allows companies to stay ahead of such problems.
"If your driver was delayed at the first costumer for 45 minutes, which means that downstream he's going to be late on customer number eight, you'll see an alert on the screen that says you should reschedule the driver and have him go there earlier, or call the customer and see if it's okay that you're 15 minutes late," explains Roszko.
He notes that if a company can bring its return percentages down, it can save a great deal of money, perhaps hundreds of dollars a day, on its bottom line.
"To put the numbers in perspective, when we go from routing manually to routing with a piece of software, we see 10 to 15 percent mileage savings."
With GPS tracking "you'll definitely see a productivity bump," says Jason Koch, president of OnTrack, the GPS fleet management solution for Irvine, CA-based Telogis. "It's the standard 'I know that someone is watching me' thing, what I refer to as the 'GPS Effect.' If you just track them, what's going to happen is you'll see an initial productivity bump. Over a couple of months, that productivity bumps is going to wane once they realize that you're not really looking at it on a daily basis."
In order to avoid "watching the dots," Koch says companies need to utilize fleet management solutions like OnTrack to turn their systems into exception-based ones, rather than a system that requires constant monitoring. Dispatchers can instruct system software to send them exception reports if a driver deviates from their route.
Deviations might include unplanned stops, early arrivals, late departures, service time violations, running routes out of sequence, going outside of geo fences, speeding violations, even violation of Department of Transportation Hours of Service rules.