The explosion of online shopping over the past year has seen last-mile carriers come under increased pressure to meet the demands of consumers. A Cork-based technology company aims to help couriers, logistics businesses, and retailers themselves to not only meet these demands but to open up new sales channels and scale their business with efficient delivery routes.
SmartRoutes Delivery Route Planner combines a desktop application that allows for the complete management of routes, vehicles, and drivers, with a mobile app (available on iOS and Android) that helps to make drivers’ work much easier and quicker.
Route Planning & Optimisation
When it comes to route planning, multiple vehicles and drivers, and hundreds of deliveries it can be almost impossible to plan manually in anything close to an efficient manner. To understand how they make the last mile more efficient, it’s important to understand the difference between 2 of their key features: route planning and route optimisation
Planning routes has long been one of the most challenging aspects of any delivery operation. As anyone who has worked in the transport space will know, it can consume hours every day ensuring you have routes ready for drivers arriving at the depot in the morning, confident that every order is on a dispatch.
SmartRoutes have solved much of this with an easy-to-use, desktop-based interface that allows you to import orders over API or through a spreadsheet and have routes created by the system in a matter of seconds.
A lot of thought has gone into this, and they have some impressive features, such as an address validation workflow that ensures that drop-off and collection points are real, where they say they are, and easy for the drivers to find.
The ability to manage vehicle load capacities, driver hours, and load-balancing all make route planning more effective. Having all these factors accounted for by the technology, it can make the life of a transport planner or depot manager much easier.
If you consider route planning to be the way in which a human would devise the route for delivery drivers, you can think of route optimisation as the technology that ensures that the routes are as efficient as they possibly can be.
The results of route optimization can be drastic for any business that engages in multi-drop deliveries, saving upwards of 33% on distances traveled. With rising fuel prices in the immediate term and concerns around the battery range of EV’s in the medium-to-long term, this is something every delivery business should be investing in.
SmartRoutes uses a python-based algorithm that they have developed in-house to find the most efficient route possible. In layman’s terms, this means that you can simply input all of your orders or stops in one go, turn on your available drivers and vehicles, and their route optimisation algorithm will run every possible way the routes could be created in a matter of seconds. It then returns the most efficient routes for your available fleet to serve all those stops.
It’s an impressive use of technology to solve a very old problem. For a human to run the millions of variations of a few routes manually would take a very long time, but this route optimisation software brings a whole new level of efficiency to the very foundations of a delivery business.
Day-to-day Delivery Management
Beyond planning and optimisation, the software gives everyone involved in the delivery operation the full oversight from the office to the road that they need. A couple of the killer features are outlined below:
Live Vehicle Tracking Dashboard
Knowledge is power as they say, and knowing where your fleet of vehicles is at any given moment is critical to any last-mile logistics operation.
The SmartRoutes Mobile Driver App is GPS-enabled and can give a real-time overview of where drivers are on their route at any given moment. While it might seem a bit ‘Big-Brother’ for drivers, it can also be of benefit to them.
Not alone is it useful for depot managers to ensure that operations are running smoothly throughout the day, but it can be a game-changer for support staff as well. From one dashboard, they can see in real-time where drivers are on their route, accurate ETA’s for deliveries, and instant feedback on undelivered parcels from the live tracking dashboard.
With an ever-increasing focus on customer experience, it also offers staff the ability to proactively reach out to customers who have missed deliveries to re-arrange a suitable time to re-schedule.
This can save hours of back-and-forth with drivers and gives a much better customer experience for the end customer. Drivers are happier that they can get on with their tasks without having to take calls from the office. Support staff are also having a better experience with customers, and the customer is getting full transparency.
A real win-win situation for everyone involved.
A mobile driver app that keeps the driver front-of-mind
As readers of the blog will have guessed, I was keen to get stuck into their mobile app and put it to the test.
The layout of the app is very simple and a driver can view their route either in a list format or on a map with each drop marked in chronological order. Selecting a drop, the driver can see everything they could need; name, address, phone numbers, dispatch notes, and parcels/SKU’s that are to be delivered. There is also a built-in barcode scanner which eliminates the need for drivers to carry the bulky devices that we’ve become accustomed to seeing our local courier dragging around.
They can also capture photo proof-of-delivery and e-signatures from customers within the app, and this is fed back to the depot or office in real-time too. Again, this eliminates much of the back-and-forth communication that drivers despise.
Route Navigation within the app is done through the tried-and-trusted Google Maps. The familiarity is a big bonus for drivers.
The Delivery Experience
Customer Experience has seen renewed focus for many businesses in recent years, as they look to provide a little something that larger competitors like Amazon lack. Attention to detail and a seamless experience for everyone are key to everything SmartRoutes do. Speaking with CEO David Walsh, he explained:
“Everything we develop within our software has the user in mind. The ‘delivery experience’ is something that many businesses have had to improve over the past year. I think the key for us is that it isn’t just about the end customer. It’s about a happy dispatcher, a happy driver, a happy customer, and a happy support staff member when something doesn’t go to plan. Everyone involved in the last-mile logistical operation needs to be happy for the end customer to have the desired delivery experience. We see getting that right as the way for couriers and logistics companies to remain competitive in the market.”
- Route Planning
- Route Optimisation
- Route Navigation
- Electronic Proof-of-Delivery
- Barcode Scanner
- GPS Live Vehicle Tracking
- Territory Zoning
- Customisable Delivery Windows
- Automated Order Imports
- Address Verification & Validation
- Dispatch Notes
- Customer Notifications (SMS & Email)
- Real-time ETA’s
- Customer Database
- Driver Analytics
- Parcel Track & Trace Portal