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Cost management
Route planning / -optimisation
Transport management

Monday, 04. November 2019

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Automatic truck route planning - more than just cost-cutting!

“Do I actually need automatic truck route planning or can I manage without it?”. This is currently a frequently asked question. “Will I save anything at all in the end?”. Another interesting one. The truth is that automated truck routing can help take dispatching processes to another level! Automation – done right – helps companies on several levels right away.

Process acceleration

A very important aspect in the course of automating scheduling is process efficiency. Simple, repetitive, unchanging manual activities can be almost completely eliminated. Interestingly, these are the least stimulating activities for humans and the ones that can be automated best. First and foremost, these include searching and compiling and providing data as the basis for planning. This alone is an enormous relief for human schedulers. Already at this point, resources can be freed up for other value-adding activities within the framework of scheduling – e.g. for communication with customers. As a result, process costs can already be significantly reduced by eliminating manual activities.

In the course of automating dispatching, however, it is not only about simple manual activities. The creation of route plans is an intellectually very demanding activity. As a rule, dispatchers with a great deal of experience are needed here, who then spend a large part of their time on planning tasks on a recurring basis. However, efficient planning procedures can carry out these tasks in a much shorter time. As a rule, the time required to create a new plan is reduced from several hours originally to a few minutes. Manual input is not necessary at all or only downstream for checking. At this point, process costs can again be saved to a considerable extent.

Motivation

The above-mentioned aspects are usually accompanied by increased motivation of the employees and more fun at work. By eliminating monotonous tasks, motivation and fun at work can often be significantly increased. The use of a modern tool itself can also significantly increase the motivation of employees. For young, tech-savvy people, the use of digital tools and artificial intelligence methods is a great incentive. Pride in a modern workplace affects employees’ self-esteem and has an additional motivating effect that should not be underestimated.

Abb. Disponent

Higher plan quality, fewer delays, lower costs

Another aspect – and also the most frequently expected aspect of the automation of dispatching – is the improvement of plan and result quality. A powerful optimisation process is able to reliably generate good tour plans with consistently high result quality. This is achieved through a more efficient combination of orders and tours. The result is shorter driving times and shorter overall distances, and thus less CO2 and other pollutants for the environment. In addition, with the help of optimised route plans, delays can usually be significantly reduced and the service level increased.

Exactly how much can be saved depends on how well the schedulers have done their work so far. Experienced dispatchers who have known their business for years are often able to create very good plans themselves. One advantage of automation, however, is that good route plans can be reliably created even when things are stressful or when people with expertise are on holiday. Therefore, the bottom line is always an improvement in quality and a reduction in costs.

More transparency

The above-mentioned aspects are accompanied by another important aspect, namely the increase in transparency. Through the automatically scheduled plans, an initial plan and thus an outlook can be generated at any time, without much effort, as to what needs to be done in the coming periods according to the current order situation and how high the expected resource utilisation will be, for example. Accordingly, bottlenecks can be recognised at an early stage and counteracted.

Furthermore, due to the short calculation times of automatic route planning procedures, it is possible to have various alternative scenarios calculated in order to check the effect of increasing or reducing the available vehicle resources.

And looking at the past also becomes much easier. All data on plans that have already been executed are available digitally. The determination of key figures becomes possible in a simple way.

Independence from individual experiential knowledge

All in all, through the standardisation and automation of processes, knowledge is explicitly digitalised that was previously only implicit and in part only available to individual experienced persons. Thus, greater independence from the knowledge of individuals is achieved. As already described, good transport plans can thus still be created even if, for example, know-how carriers are not available at short notice. Dispatchers from different areas can be replaced more easily in case of holiday or illness. The training period for new employees is also considerably shortened and it is easier to cope with the departure of long-standing employees.

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Conclusion

The topic of scheduling automation clearly deserves more enthusiasm! It is not a pure efficiency issue. It is not about mindless cost-cutting. It is about modernising the work tools and processes of dispatchers, drivers and related areas. It’s about automating monotonous, repetitive tasks and creating space for new exciting tasks that previously fell short. And last but not least, it is about sustainably improving the competitive position.
So it is not the toad that everyone has to swallow. The automation of scheduling is a great opportunity to make almost all scheduling activities easier, more exciting and at the same time more effective.

This post also appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.