In the following blog, small business owners and operators share their best practices when it comes to route planning and route optimization.
#1: Print shipping labels after planning delivery routes
Parker Atkins, Owner, Bear’s Blooms - Route planning for flower delivery in Vancouver, Canada
Parker used to spend a lot of time doing two tasks: planning delivery routes and then printing and sorting shipping labels for his flower deliveries. Previously, he used Google Maps to plan a route with multiple stops. Recently, he’s learned to kill two birds with one stone:
“I use [route optimization] software to plan multiple stops, and then I print the route solution out in CSV format,” Parker explains.
“I make sure to include all the delivery information but I also include our box label. When I download the solution, I can then print everything including the box labels by driver. That way, they’re already sorted. It helps me stay a bit more organized.”
By using routing software for his small business, Parker saves at least two hours every day.
#2: Develop a system to assign service calls to appropriate technicians
Jeremy’s business has to plan routes for up to six service technicians every day, so he needed route management software to do the following:
- Map a route with multiple stops
- Prioritize the dozens of service calls he receives
- Assign multiple stops to the right driver/service technician
Some service calls are more urgent than others, meanwhile some calls require a specific technician with a specific skill. How does Jeremy figure out which technician should go where?
“We have technicians where a lot of times, they'll do a first visit. We have to get approval from the property manager, since they're footing the bill, and then we have to order in the parts and send [the technicians] back [at a later date],” Jeremy explains.
“We can't necessarily send technician B to whichever work order technician A went to the first time, because it messes with their pay, and their schedule, and all that other fun stuff. So we use software to tag the service call with the technician’s name.”
By using route optimization software to tag service calls, Jeremy’s business is able to ensure that the same technicians are able to return to the same jobs and that the right service calls are being assigned to the technician with the appropriate skills.
#3: Share customer details with drivers to speed up deliveries and improve customer service
Chris Fernando, Co-owner, Big Light Letters - Route planning for special events delivery in Brisbane, Australia
At Big Light Letters, Chris rents big light-up letters and numbers for special events. His drivers use a multi drop route planner for iPhone and Android.
There, Chris leaves notes with customer details to help his drivers with their delivery:
“There is a notes section where I can put: "This is what you're delivering. This is the customer's name. This is their contact number. The venue manager is this person. You have to go through a boom gate and dial, whatever, to get access." Or I'd say, "Customer wants the letters set up in this particular place."
#4: Make sure you have enough drivers by planning ahead for busy delivery times
Because Chris is hauling rather large delivery items, resource planning is key. He needs to know how many orders can fit in his delivery vans ahead of time, or if he will even need to hire an extra driver on some days.
“I do all the planning in advance to see if I need to get an extra staff member to do deliveries or if they will be able to do the full delivery run in the specified time limit that I have. Those time limits are usually given to me by my customers, who ask that I get an item to them or have an item picked up by,” Chris explains.
“Because we have different sized vans and our small van can't take as many items than our big van, it’s really good to know how many units can fit in a particular van. That really does change the way we work. Previous to that...I was just kind of going in blind. And now I don't have to do that because we use route optimization software to help us figure it all out.”
#5: Keep track of your drivers while they’re on their delivery runs
Kevin used to hand his drivers a stack of delivery orders and let them decide where to go and when. He had no visibility where his drivers had gone and when they’d be back.
With routing software, things have changed:
“If I know that the guy is supposed to be back at five o'clock and it's 5:30 and he's still not done for the day, I can call him and say, "Hey man, route planner said you're supposed to be back at five, what's going on?" Kevin says.
“Or on the other hand too, I can tell my employees too, "Hey, your route should probably take you until 6:30. I know you're usually used to getting done by five, so let me give a stop to somebody else or let me change something around the route to help you with your personal life too."
“I can kind of adjust everything and just make sure that my employees are happy. And then because I can optimize routes based on time constraints, I can keep my customers happy too because they won't get any late deliveries.”