Your Vehicle Routing Problems (And Their Real-Life Solutions)

Your Vehicle Routing Problems (And Their Real-Life Solutions)
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For field service businesses, more business is good news. However, along with the increased revenue, it also brings greater complexity and an increased need for vehicle route planning. And, at the core of vehicle route planning lies the age-old vehicle routing problems (VRPs). But, what are VRPs and how can you add value to your supply chain by solving these problems?

On the surface, VRPs may sound like typical business problems with reasonably simple solutions. However, they are complicated by multiple parameters and resource constraints.

Let’s say you have almost 1000 deliveries to make every day using 20 vehicles. How will you decide what vehicles should serve what deliveries and in what order? You must do all this while factoring in fuel consumption, traffic peak times, under-construction or bad roads, and specific time windows for each customer.

In real life, route planning has many uncertainties, such as changing customer demands, traffic jams, and unexpected weather conditions. These uncertainties can lead to increased transportation costs if not handled properly. Worse still, these complexities grow exponentially as the number of vehicles and customers increases.

What Are the Common VRPs?

Below are some of the real-life problems that field service businesses face which are resolved efficiently by route optimization software.

Vehicle Routing Problem with Time Windows (VRPTWs)

Customers often demand that their deliveries be made during a specific period. Not adhering to the customer request may significantly drop customer satisfaction levels, leading to revenue and reputation loss in the long run. So, such requests place pressure on route managers as separate vehicles need to be sent to such customers within the specified time windows.

But, how will you ensure timely deliveries to all your other customers and arrive within the specific time window constraints at the other customer destinations, while taking the most cost- and fuel-efficient routes? What if the requested period is also a peak time for traffic? Wouldn’t the cost of traffic congestion, driver wages, and added fuel costs impact your bottom line?

A route optimizer will help you here by suggesting a set of routes that reduce the travel time and enhance customer satisfaction by complying with the preferred time windows.

Pickup and Delivery Vehicle Routing Problem (PDVRP)

On-demand delivery businesses, such as courier delivery and food delivery companies, need to plan delivery routes each day; sometimes even multiple times a day, depending on the nature and scale of the business. Several resource constraints, parameters, and schedules need to be considered while chalking out these routes. Usually, with PDVRP, the challenge is combining delivery and pickup points to help reduce travel time and cut fuel costs. 

An ideal route should pair delivery and pickup points while keeping the route the shortest or fastest one possible.

Capacity Constraint Vehicle Routing Problem (CVRP)

Each vehicle has a maximum load capacity (both weight and volume) which must be considered. So, it is often challenging to save costs by loading more items and serving more customers in one trip without exceeding the vehicle’s capacity. There might also be additional complications, such as the varying sizes of parcels for delivery and pickup, the different capacities of all the vehicles, and multiple depots.

Route optimization software plan routes, while considering these factors.

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Whether you want to slash the time it takes you to plan routes for your drivers, increase the number of stops they can make, or keep your customers satisfied knowing that your drivers show up on time… Route4Me helps you achieve that!

Why is Solving the VRP Difficult?

Although we have described the above VRPs in isolation, they are often combined in real life, thus exploding the overall size of the problem. For instance, the placement of delivery and pickup addresses in a route affects whether you will have enough space in your vehicle for another pickup. Also, if you do have space, adding or leaving out another pickup or delivery will impact your time window for other customers. So, solving the VRP problem is difficult even for the most experienced dispatchers and seasoned drivers precisely because it is a combinatorial optimization problem where the contributing factors are sometimes uncertain, unaccounted for, and cannot be predicted.

Of course, based on previous experience, the ideal drivers should be able to pull off a route plan manually. But, that will be a time-consuming and nerve-racking task to do. Additionally, there’s a high probability that the drivers will make mistakes during the manual process.

Another option is to use basic tools like Google Maps. However, such tools should only serve as references to get an estimate for distance and travel time. They are not intended for everyday use, especially when you are managing a large fleet of vehicles with 100 or more deliveries. So, the basic tools can only address some of the routing problems. 

The best choice is to use an advanced route optimization software. With a route planner, the unsolvable VRPs and all the constraints can be addressed in less than 30 seconds. It will even give you optimal routes that are faster, save fuel, cut costs, and adhere to the time windows of each customer.

What is the Most Effective Solution to VRP?

With VRPs being so common in the transportation industry, many companies are offering solutions to tackle the problems. However, logistics businesses must choose a solution that:

  • Is up-to-date and has customizable algorithms
  • Is cost-effective and scalable
  • Allows multi-vehicle and multi-stop routing
  • Ensures the safety of deliveries.

Also, while assessing the different route optimization software, pay attention to the ones that offer the following core functionalities:

Visualization of Route Plans

Route planning is a visual process. This means that being able to see where each customer location is, which driver will serve it, and how inserting or deleting an address will impact the overall route will make route planning much more seamless. So, find a route planner app that can help you modify routes on the fly.

Advanced Algorithm

A route planner with an advanced algorithm will create optimal routes by considering all the constraints, including traffic jams, specific time windows, vehicle load capacities, and pickup and delivery schedules, while, at the same time, saving on fuel and drive time.

Proof Of Delivery

Creating an efficient route is essential, but having the ability to make last-minute changes to the route and communicating these to your drivers is equally important. This can only be safely done through a delivery route planner app. Such an app will help you stay in touch with drivers without engaging them in distracting phone calls and allow your drivers to collect proof-of-delivery. In addition, the apps will save you the hassle of printing route plans and handing your drivers’ stacks of paper.

Real-time Tracking

When it comes to your field service business, knowing the location of your vehicles and drivers is crucial. For instance, if a field employee is delayed, you can track the vehicles in real-time to understand how the delay will affect the ETAs of the remaining deliveries. You can then either re-adjust the routes instantly or inform the customers about the updated ETAs. This will enhance your customer service and increase the accountability of your drivers.

Conclusion

No matter how experienced your managers and drivers are, you can’t always anticipate what will happen on the road and adjust your route instantly to meet your customers’ unanticipated requests. So, you need an advanced digital tool to help you plan your routes as well as track your drivers and vehicles. Essentially, using an advanced route optimizer is the most efficient way to resolve your VRPs and make planning and modifying routes seem like a walk in the park!

Want To See For Yourself How Route4Me Can Boost Your Profits?

Whether you want to slash the time it takes you to plan routes for your drivers, increase the number of stops they can make, or keep your customers satisfied knowing that your drivers show up on time… Route4Me helps you achieve that!