Reducing the complexity from route planning and execution for small package and less-than-truckload (LTL) operators and couriers

Scenario: A global courier  company  has a dedicated express delivery operation that moves everything from small envelopes and packages to pallet-sized goods across  its vast network.  In any given day, thousands of trucks are dispatched from multiple locations performing same day or in some cases, time-specific deliveries. Stops per truck range from 20 to 200 a day, including pickups and deliveries.

Challenge: Like many courier and LTL companies, the company is dealing with a highly variable logistics network, in which each day, deliveries do not go to the same destination and new customers could come from any  location. The variability and density of daily delivery schedules makes it extremely challenging for managers to optimize resources on the road. Adding to  the complexity is the fact  that the  courier’s  fleet is  comprised of both  managed and third-party services. 

Opportunity: Scheduling and routing  have  been  done manually via spreadsheets. While  the operation has done some spreadsheet-based stop counts using map overlays and other PC-based mapping solutions, these do not scale to address the company’s entire planning needs, are timeconsuming to use, and do not update delivery  information  in real time as orders came in .The company realizes that more effective pick-up and delivery route planning would be an important contributing  factor in  increasing productivity and  helping to  achieve cost reductions within the business. Improving on-the-road efficiency would  assist towards  optimized  driver time on the road and thereby help control unnecessary payroll costs. Making sense of extreme complexity

Whether one is running regional, national or global delivery operations, courier and LTL delivery companies could be dealing with hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road. An LTL carrier could have anywhere from  five to 800 vehicles, and eight or more terminal locations servicing 1,000 to 1,500 customers a day. On average, high density routes could require 20 to 200 stops a day.

The variable nature and speed of execution  can make route planning  a complex and dauntingchallenge, since in many cases, operators may be unable to confirm delivery and pickups more than 24 hours to one hour before they execute them.  As a result, mapping the appropriate number of routes and scheduling of warehouse dock workers can be a guessing game at best. 

Making manual decisions on route planning  may  increase the potential for service failure or oversizing/undersizing capacity requirements on routes.  In addition, with  last minute delivery requests, routes are not always optimized the way they  could be. All of these factors can add unnecessarily to delivery and pickup costs and undermine customer satisfaction. 

Couriers and LTL companies with limited route building capabilities are now  turning to solutions such as Descartes Area Planner in their drive to reduce operational costs, improve delivery cycles, adapt to fluctuating logistics network volumes, and standardize and automate processes across global operations. 

A solution for real world delivery demands

Descartes Area Planner™ is a mobile resource management (MRM) solution that has been specifically designed for LTL carriers and couriers to help them address the  complex  issues related to high volumes of pick-ups and deliveries and a highly variable customer base. This offering is unique in its ability to combine planning, tracking and mobile technology in a single integrated solution that works with updates from the field to standardize and automate delivery operations.  As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, Descartes Area Planner can deliver the functionality and the flexibility carriers need to help reduce  operational costs and  assist with successful execution of time-sensitive  delivery services  without the need for infrastructure changes. 

Developed in conjunction with one of the world’s leading small package carriers, Descartes Area Planner combines advanced planning features with mobile wireless-enabled tracking technology so LTL operators and couriers can “right size” their fleets and determine operational requirements.  Unlike traditional on-premise planning systems, planning, dispatch and mobile functionality is integrated with updates from the field. The master data is maintained in a singlerepository rather than multiple, disparate systems, and  can be used to enable a full range of reporting, planning and analysis functions. 

Descartes Area Planner is made up of two main components: 

Route Plan – This component works with available data to establish parameters and shift times for defining daily deliveries, schedule stops and routing. The output – known as route trace instances – provides an outline of stops/sequences with a geographic representation of the path a vehicle is expected to follow so users can view the route temporally and spatially and generate appropriate metrics.

Dataset Management – This component collects historical, theoretical and actual data sets on drivers, stops, locations, area metrics, time commitments and volumes to allow users to improve planning, analysis and reporting. This data is used to feed the Route Planning function to enable better modeling of network demand, pick-up and delivery density and capacity.

With Descartes Area Planner, delivery organizations can:

Help reduce costs and complexity – Area Planner uses simulation techniques to help managers determine the right number of vehicles and drivers and the requirements to support time-critical services before delivery. As an on-demand, client-based, SaaS solution, it requires minimal infrastructure change, can be rapidly deployed, and delivers a rapid return on investment.

Improve real-time accuracy and customer service – Mobile-enabled tracking enablesDescartes Area Planner to record and evaluate the actual performance of drivers and areas to ensure that operational strategies deliver the greatest value. With real-time tracking of field activities, organizations can provide more accurate delivery windows, as well as notify customers of any unexpected delays.  

Help improve productivity through effective reporting – Route trace instances can be used to generate manifests reporting and metrics, and help understand the productivity of route plans, loading and dispatch.

Delivering efficiencies across a complex processWhen dealing with variable delivery schedules, where routes and volumes change each day, realtime visibility into delivery performance and planning can be an invaluable resource in optimizing performance and productivity. With advanced mobile resource management capabilities, organizations can better respond to fluctuations in demand, reduce on-road resources, maximize driver efficiency and measure performance.

Download the Product Information data sheet for Descartes Area Planner™.