Why should I schedule deliveries?

Delivery scheduling is the process that determines which orders get delivered on what routes and the sequence of delivery. Delivery scheduling may or may not include optimization.

For example, delivery scheduling may involve manual assignment or sequencing of stops on a route where the goal is to simply get orders on routes. Optimized scheduling is the process of evaluating the potential combination of options and constraints to produce a delivery schedule that makes the most effective use of the fleet resources.

Today, the delivery scheduling process involves using optimization technology because of its ability to more extensively and quickly determine the most effective delivery schedule. Delivery scheduling optimization technology employs algorithms and other techniques such as artificial intelligence or machine learning to create the best results.

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What are the benefits of scheduling my deliveries?

Scheduling deliveries can result lower delivery costs, more reliable delivery performance and better utilization of delivery resources. In many industries such as retail and distribution delivery scheduling during the buying process is critical to capturing the customer and seen as a competitive differentiator.

The best benefits of delivery scheduling come through the use of optimization technology to provide the greatest customer experiences while minimizing costs and maximizing fleet productivity.

Danny Griffiths, central planning manager of John Lewis Partnership, provides an overview of the business and how Descartes is enhancing their delivery operations.

What are the most important elements to planning a delivery route?

The most important elements to creating a delivery route plan are data accuracy and route optimization software that can accurately model the physical and operational conditions and the flexibility to model business objectives, and a clear understanding of the desired business goals.

Without high quality customer order data (e.g. address, operating hours and unloading restrictions), product data (e.g. dimensions, weight and stacking rules) and vehicle and facility data (e.g. truck capacity and loading requirements) plans will be inaccurate resulting in missed delivery windows, over-capacity routes and other operational misses that will impact customer service and reduce planner confidence in the results.

The optimization software used in planning a delivery must be able to accurately model the real-world conditions (e.g. road network, vehicle and facility characteristics) and operational practices and policies (e.g. load bulk items first or it is acceptable to put ambient goods in refrigerated compartments to maximize vehicle utilization). The optimization software used in planning a delivery route must also be able to accurately model the business goals for the plan (e.g. the lowest cost route, but with 50% of the deliveries before 8am).

Lastly, the business goals need to be realistic, but stretch the organization and have a good balance between the customer experience and financial performance. A critical component of the goals is getting agreement from all of the stakeholders in advance of planning as there is inevitably compromise.

What kind of cost savings can I expect when planning a delivery route?

Optimized planning of delivery routes can save between 5% - 15% of fleet operating costs because of the number of areas that can be positively impacted. Optimized planning of a delivery route can reduce the distance (e.g. miles) driven per stop.

Not only does this mean lower fuel costs, but it can reduce vehicle maintenance costs. Another benefit of distance reduction is increased productivity, which can lead to less vehicles, drivers or overtime pay.

Automating planning of delivery routes can reduce the number of planners required as the building of routes occurs without manual intervention and only requires limited review before use. Planning of delivery routes can be used as part of a dynamic delivery appointment scheduling solution to steer customers to select delivery appointment times that require lower distance and hence costs.

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