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Route optimization - generalities
What types of route optimization can be found on the market?
In practice, route optimization is most often carried out by a planner, either manually or using a dedicated software. This solution allows it to find the best routes among a colossal number of possibilities, sometimes taking into account several hundred of variables and constraints. Depending on the quality of your data, your organizational processes already in place, or the degree of dynamism of your business, some optimizations are more relevant than others.
At Kardinal, we distinguish 4 types of route optimization:
- Manual optimization: the planner constructs the schedules on his own, based on his experience with planning models that have proved to be effective over time.
- Static optimization: the optimization software designs a "fixed" schedule which, once created, can only be modified manually.
- Optimization with real-time tracking: the software creates "fixed"routes but provides users with additional features to help them adapt the schedule to certain events before and sometimes during operations.
- Continuous optimization: this optimization is the most relevant if you are looking for realistic and efficient routes at any time. To maintain the promised quality of service (respect of time slots), it is necessary to continuously optimize the tour in order to offer new improvements to the driver in real time, according to his daily challenges. To address this issue, Kardinal's algorithms work continuously: before, during and after the operations.
Route optimization by industry
What optimization for parcel delivery companies?
Generally, the parcel delivery industry faces with particularly large volumes of packages. These arrive continuously until the last moment, before the drivers leave. This colossal parcel sorting is carried out in front of the various loading bay doors according to a defined sectorization of the territory. For the majority of parcel delivery companies, it is not possible, today, to consider a fully dynamic route optimization (i.e. one recalculated each day) because that would require a different sorting logic each morning in the warehouse.
To meet this expectation, we have designed an optimized sectorization solution dedicated to the postal and parcel delivery companies. This sectorization solution seeks the performance gains of a route optimization without breaking the current organization of the warehouse from a sorting point of view. This sectorization can stick to the parcel delivery companies' seasonality to differentiate certain activities: week/weekend, Christmas/rest of the year, etc.
It can be redefined on daily, weekly, monthly, annual grids... depending on the carrier's flexibility to adapt to labels changes during parcel sorting. Its reporting functions also provide better visibility on past activity and facilitate discussions with service providers (external drivers).
A mobile application for drivers can be associated with it in order to optimize each tour in real time according to the hazards encountered once the drivers are on the road.
What optimization for courier companies?
For express delivery companies, the notion of reactivity and dynamism is very important. As new deliveries arrive, they need to be integrated into the couriers' routes in an optimal way, according to their current missions, their geographical position and the route they are currently taking.
For express delivery companies, Kardinal's real-time route optimization approach is truly relevant. Being able to find better solutions in real time according to the reality of the field (and the real time traffic) allows to manage use cases specific to this business where communication is very important.
The solution offers rescheduling, insertion into routes, or even exchanges between routes, but most of the time, the final decision-maker is the operational staff and not the machine. As a decision support tool, it allows them to focus on higher value-added tasks. Even if a full-automatic mode is possible, designing the solution by leaving an important place to the business experts is fundamental to not lose the knowledge of the field. Indeed, they often have in mind information that is not registered in the databases: this driver arrives late or has a specific problem, this customer is in conflict with this deliveryman... This type of player operates mainly in cities and is regularly constrained by urban regulations. These regulations reinforce the importance of taking into account the autonomy of electric vehicles or the management of "groups of points" (when certain addresses are very concentrated geographically and it is more relevant to make them on foot). The optimization tool must therefore adapt to these new practices by integrating the resulting constraints.
How to optimize the delivery of fresh products?
The transport of fresh products implies a particular logistics because it must take into account certain constraints. The products must be transported under controlled temperature (generally between -30°C / -22°F and +25°C / 77°F), in isothermal or even refrigerated vehicles to avoid altering their quality. Depending on the products, it is crucial to know how to manage the two levels of cold (positive for fresh products and negative for frozen products) but also to limit the loss of cold during load breaks (when loading the van or when reaching the store's storage area or the customer's home). It is thus necessary to anticipate the location of the vehicle parking in order to limit this loss of cold but also to foresee the means of unloading to move the sometimes fragile goods.
Often carried out very early in the morning, the delivery operations are generally done before the opening time of the shops. Some impose frequencies and schedules for the delivery of goods, the volume of which can vary from day to day. The duration of a delivery is not always constant and depends on the quantity to be delivered (between 5 and 20 minutes).
In a dense urban context, optimizing fresh produce deliveries is particularly relevant, especially during rush hour when heavy traffic slows down and causes stress to drivers. Drivers are sometimes forced to park on the road, obstructing traffic. The Kardinal solution will be able to propose relevant routes according to these constraints, taking into account the capacity (weight and volume) of the vehicles, the availability of the drivers but also the traffic conditions.
What optimization for bulk transport?
Bulk transport is not an area for which route optimization is obvious because most of the routes are from loading point A to unloading point B. In reality, planning in this context is very complex because their constraints are.
Some carriers, especially those transporting bulk, construction materials or waste, have strong constraints on loading/unloading operations. For these actors, it is necessary to take into account the traffic limitations according to the characteristics of the vehicles (height under bridge, adapted speed, authorized roads, etc.) but not only. The modeling of all their constraints is crucial, which most optimization solutions are not able to offer today. The constraints can be very variable, for example:
- The integration of cleaning of skips or tanks within routes according to the products transported successively to manage incompatibilities
- Taking into account the capacity of loading sites so as not to send more than a certain number of vehicles simultaneously and thus avoid long waiting times
Other areas of work in this field will concern the solution's ability to optimize the loading rate and the reduction of kilometers. The difficulty often comes from the weight and volume data or the floor space, which are not very or not at all available in the carrier's information system. The integration of Machine Learning can help detect optimal configurations based on what has been done in the past and what was effective.
What optimization for the Field Services companies?
The expectations of the Field Services companies regarding route optimization solutions are quite specific. In this activity, the notion of planning and intelligent appointment scheduling (optimized insertion of appointments within a schedule under construction) are important elements.
The Field Services players may have very specific constraints depending on their business: some activities require the use of PUDOs (Pick Up Drop Off) for example. There may also be strong constraints on the person carrying out the intervention (in terms of skills or even compatibility with the customer).
- For our client Cerba Healthcare (medical biology laboratories specialized in home sampling), it is necessary for example to plan returns to the laboratory 3 hours maximum after the first blood sample to ensure its integrity.
- For our customer Glasseo (specialist in the replacement of car glazing at home), the constraint is to manage the drivers' breaks in compliance with the regulations, in particular by anticipating where they will have lunch. These elements have a strong impact on productivity. For these players, who are not transport specialists, the stakes are less about costs than about the time and organizational savings that digitalization and optimization of this part of their business can bring.
Finally, the notion of real time optimization makes sense for Field Services companies because the time spent on an intervention is often difficult to predict, which leads to a need for replanning during the tour.
How do I connect the software to my company’s business?
Kardinal's solution is designed to collaborate and communicate in a very fluid and dynamic way with our customers' information systems, whether it is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or a TMS (Transport Management System). All the functionalities of our offer are fully available by API connection. Thus, all data entries made in the client's business application will be sent, processed and calculated in the Kardinal solution, and the same will be true for the result of an optimization, sent back to the TMS and then to the drivers' mobile applications via this method.
Integrations with partner TMS/ERP are made according to the deployments to be carried out at our customers. We are also very open to the development of technological partnerships.
What data is needed for efficient route optimization?
Data is at the heart of every logistics company. Fundamental to providing customers with the highest quality of service, data is a crucial element on which route optimization solutions are based. A wide range of data is used by these solutions, including:
- Data providing details on task orders: the addresses and contact details of the sender and recipient, the weight and dimensions of the package, the type of service to be performed, the time slots for delivery, etc.
- Data related to the available resources: the number of available drivers, their working hours and breaks, the place of departure and end of tour, the type of vehicle with its size, capacity and constraints in terms of loading and unloading...
- Data describing the specific constraints of the activity: variables related to the delivery sites (opening hours for example), specific skills required of certain technicians, regulations to comply with, etc.
- Data provided by the software publisher: geocoding of addresses, calculation of distances between each point, traffic fluctuations, etc.
Where does the traffic data used in route optimization solutions come from?
In order to provide its customers with more realistic and efficient planning, Kardinal provides a route optimization solution based on data from its technology partner HERE Technologies.
HERE Technologies is a leading provider of location-based data and services, powered by data from millions of vehicles using the "Floating Car Data" (FCD) method. This method is based on collecting location, speed and direction data from vehicles that can compile this data (or that have a device capable of doing so: GPS tracking, mobile apps, geolocation devices).
Hundreds of HERE cars equipped with LIDAR (a method of calculating the distance between the sensor and the target object) capture 1 TB of data each week to keep the maps up to date.
What use of traffic data in Kardinal solutions and for what benefits?
Kardinal's route optimization solution is unique in that it exploits traffic data at every moment:
- Before vehicles go on the road, during planning: incorporating the predictive traffic data available through HERE Technologies models, our algorithms are able to estimate the duration of the tour and avoid recurring traffic jams as much as possible, at any time and for each route.
- In real time, once the vehicles are on the road: thanks to the real-time traffic data sent by HERE, Kardinal’s solution adjusts the route on the fly to react to possible traffic jams. ETAs are updated and new, more efficient routes can be suggested based on changing traffic conditions.
- After operations, for continuous improvement: our Machine Learning models integrated into the solution allow generic traffic models to be combined with field data in order to refine the route durations and make them more and more accurate over time.
What is special about Kardinal’s optimization?
Last mile logistics is a particularly complex and changing issue, continuously impacted by the various hazards encountered. This forces logisticians to adapt to these changes and anticipate them in order to obtain efficient and realistic routes in the field.
Based on this observation, Kardinal's teams have designed solutions with a radically different approach than the one usually adopted in this field, at all levels of its use:
- During planning: thanks to our own predictive traffic models used upstream of the algorithms' route calculations, the planned routes better reflect the reality on the field. Kardinal has developed its own route optimization solver in order to guarantee its customers the best performance and to ensure that the constraints inherent to their activity are perfectly taken into account in route calculations.
- Once the drivers are on the road: our continuous optimization remains "on the alert" throughout operations and offers alternatives in case of changing field conditions in order to react more quickly to hazards.
- Once the routes are over: the Machine Learning algorithms integrated into our solutions analyze the field data to refine their future forecasts and suggest better route optimizations.
These three levels of use constitute the pillars of Kardinal’s next-generation route optimization.