‘Route optimisation’ is the use of software to determine which way is the most cost-effective and efficient to get from one visit to the next. While it might seem easiest to simply drive from job to job in the order you received them; there’s almost always a better way.
With route optimisation, you can cut down on mileage, raise your level of efficiency, and make room for more work (and more profit) each day. Whether you have one vehicle or multiple crews, route optimisation can make a big difference for your business.
While you can do route planning by hand, and some companies do so through a map and other physical tools, it’s inefficient. This is especially true if you’ve got more than one vehicle or if you’ve got new customers in an area with which you’re less familiar.
In fact, with each additional vehicle, things don’t just get a little bit more complicated. They get exponentially more complicated. That’s why, instead of spending hours on a logic puzzle, you’re better off using a software solution that can do the route optimisation calculations for you.
With the right software solution, you can get a more cost-efficient route in a matter of moments. It’s also worth remembering that you can usually get route optimisation as part of a suite of offerings.
For example, if you’re a plumber, you should be able to find plumbing software that can help you manage other aspects of your business along with doing route optimisation calculations for you.
What makes route optimisation challenging?
As mentioned above, the math involved in this task is complicated, and it gets more complicated with each additional vehicle. In fact, the so-called ‘travelling salesman problem’ (TSP), with which it shares a lot of features, might be unsolvable. That hasn’t stopped computer scientists from trying. (1)
The TSP asks how to find the most efficient route through a series of cities for a travelling salesman. It has implications for everything from DNA sequencing to how ridesharing works and, of course, route optimisation. People have spent literal decades working on the problem, and it’s something that computer scientists turn to test how well new approaches work. (1)
If all this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. What route optimisation software promises are nothing less than bringing this cutting-edge tech to small businesses—organisations that certainly can’t afford to keep computer scientists toiling away in a basement somewhere.
What are the benefits?
The benefits are clear: you get more out of each trip, which saves your business money and allows you to make more in turn. A good piece of route optimisation software will do more than just plan routes, however.
For example, what if something changes during the day after the route has been planned? Maybe a stop needs to be added, or one needs to be taken off. Maybe a driver needs to call in sick for the afternoon, or maybe traffic develops, and the previous route ends up being terribly inefficient. If you’re managing sales or the fleet operations of your business, the right software will let you make adjustments as needed on the fly.
To use the plumbing example from earlier—in 2019, there were more than 37,000 plumbing firms in the UK. That speaks to a lot of emergency calls and a lot of emergencies means plenty of changes need to be made to routes as a plumber’s day progresses. (2)
Another benefit is happier customers, even if they don’t know they have route optimisation to thank. If the drive to get from client to client is more efficient, you won’t be keeping clients waiting as long as you would be otherwise. It’s good business to fit more calls into a day, but it also keeps your customers happier since they’ll spend less time waiting for a much-needed service (especially if it’s an emergency repair of some kind).
Route optimisation is a very complicated thing to calculate but an easy call for most businesses: if being more efficient would help you, it’s likely you could get some positive results from trying route optimisation. Plus, it can help smaller companies compete with bigger firms that have had access to this sort of technology for longer.
You don’t need a department of researchers toiling away for forty years or even an IT department running your servers. Find yourself the right software solution, and give it a try. Whether you’re repairing HVAC systems, plumbing, or you’re an actual traveling salesperson; your business can become more efficient with route optimisation.
‘Computer Scientists Break Traveling Salesperson Record’, Source: https://www.quantamagazine.org/computer-scientists-break-traveling-salesperson-record-20201008/
‘Number of companies active in plumbing and heat and air conditioning installation (HVAC) in England, Scotland and Wales from 1998 to 2019’, Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1228145/plumbing-and-hvac-company-number-in-great-britain/