When it comes to choosing routing software the first thing you need to ensure is that you have all the appropriate data including customer codes, delivery addresses and time windows as well as the orders. You should have this information in your order processing systems which simply means transferring the data from here to the routing software. You also need to consider that if you are also using a warehouse management system, once the routes have been selected, they will then have to be sent to this system too. Next comes extracting this information: you should speak to your software provider to find out how easy transferring your data will be. If you are lucky enough to have an IT department, they will be able to create an interface that allows the data to be extracted easily and clean up the data so you are only getting the information that you actually need.
The best thing you can do is get your IT department involved in the selection process, after all they are the ones that will be doing the initial hard work so it is important that they are happy with the provider and feel involved in the decision.
Get others involved
Another team that you need to get involved in the process is the planning department. These members of staff are currently planning the journeys each of your commercial vehicles make, therefore it is important that they know how to use the system selected. If they aren’t involved in the deciding process then they will feel anxious about the new system especially as it will be an automated system for what is essentially their job at the moment. Their roles will change too, as rather than planning the journeys they will be using the system, so you need to ensure that they don’t become too “anti” towards the decision. People that are resistant to the change can slow the whole process down so reassurance and involvement in the project is essential. The routing software will save you plenty of money but having a delay in the launch means extra money spent that could have been saved and used for your commercial vehicle insurance.
Knowing what you want
When researching which software you need remember that it is important to actually explain your operation to the provider. When you go to buy a car for example, you don’t accidentally purchase a vehicle that has 4 seats because you forgot to mention that in fact you have 3 children and need a vehicle with 5 seats. Although surprisingly when it comes to purchasing software this happens all the time. However, it is unlikely that you know as much about routing software as you do about how many seats you need in your family car. Don’t worry though because you do know how your business works and you know what you are moving, when and how often. If the software doesn’t fit into your operation easily then it isn’t the right software to be using. Therefore, you might not realise that you need 5 seats in your vehicle but you do know that you need a vehicle big enough for you, your spouse and your 3 children. The best thing you can do is describe your operation to the salesman in detail, it is his job to then find a solution that will work for you.
Here a few pointers to get you started in the right direction:
• You need to state what products you are moving and how they are packaged e.g do you transport them in pallets or cages?
• You then need to state where the products are coming from and where they are going. You need to state where your depots are and who your customers are, e.g. are they businesses? Or are they distribution centres etc.?
• You need to explain your ordering process, everything from the time it takes from order to delivery to whether you have multiple orders that go to the same address each day.
• Next is your operation times: what are your customers’ opening and closing times and are there are any delivery restraints that need to be mentioned? You also need to state when the deliveries are planned and when picking and loading occurs.
• How long do these processes take? What is your average loading and unloading time both at your depot and when you reach the customer?
• You need to state your resources too, including how many commercial vehicles you have in your fleet as well as how many drivers you have. Do you outsource some of the deliveries? If so where are these vehicles stored?
• If you are using a mixture of packaging e.g. roll cages and pallets then you need to explain the packing system of your vehicles in detail.
Overall, you need to explain all of these points to each provider you speak to in order for them to truly understand your business and present you with a plan that is going to fit into your business. There will be huge variants between systems so ensure that the plan isn’t filled out with add-ons that you simply aren’t going to use!