Advanced route optimization is recommended to any business that collects and delivers orders on daily basis. Managing a fleet of commercial vehicles that is aimed at optimal routing is linked to the problem of sequencing the points visited by each commercial vehicle.

 

The goal is to minimize transportation costs. In reality, planning routes is often much more complex. Its scope exceeds the traditional approach to the VRP. In real conditions, there is a number of additional limitations and goals, that process of planning should consider. A high number of limitations renders scheduling the optimal route by hand is almost impossible.

 

How can VRPTW help service technicians?

The Vehicle Routing Problem with time windows (VRPTW) is a frequent problem in companies performing repair services of various electronics and home appliances. A vital element, which is considered while planning repair services at a client’s, is the specified timeframe (time window) when customers wish to be visited.

In the reality of repair services, it is common that a service technician shows up at the place indicated by a client before the scheduled time. In many cases, technicians cannot perform the task before the scheduled time window opens. The technician has to wait until it is possible to perform the service. This often results in wasting time. The employee would use it to generate a profit for themselves, or for his the company.

Arrival after the time window has opened is also undesired. Limited time can prevent the service technician from completing the task and force them to make multiple trips the client’s. When planning routes, one should remember that the opening hours of destinations or depots that clienst specify, can vary. For simple reason – they may depend on the day of the week. Hence, delivering order will be possible only within a single or several indicated time windows. The time necessary for a driver to check in after his or her arrival should also matter. Otherwise, we are risking the closing of a time window.

 

How to optimize work?

There are several problems (and simultaneously, goals), which should be addressed by the companies offering repair services. One of the goals is to design a set of routes. Those will minimize costs for each vehicle so that each service point (or client) is visited once in the preferred time window.

Other goals include minimizing the number of vehicles, reducing travel distance or maximizing the number of services performed by technicians.

The area of repair services distinguishes between two types of clients: returning and new. The route schedule for returning clients contains planned route sequences. New clients mean new orders, so already existing routes inlcudes them. Typically, within a very short time of 5–10 seconds, the system has to assign the new client to the existing, in previously planned route.

 

Benefits from using VRP algorithms

The solutions using the VRP algorithms offer numerous benefits and enhancements as well as solutions to some problems commonly encountered in the work of service technicians.

The VRP algorithms provide:

  • the visualization of points on the map with supported devices
  • shorter planning time
  • automatic optimization of the schedule
  • a visit schedule for each client
  • the option to forward details about a problem with carrying out a service
  • possibility to track the travel route, monitor the current position of vehicles using GPS and forward lists of routes to drivers’ mobile devices
  • the option to forward information about a technician’s location to clients’ mobile devices
  • automatic generation of technicians’ „to do” lists

 

The constant monitoring of the tasks performed by service technicians allows the dispatcher to modify their work schedule on an ongoing basis. Moreover, the persons responsible for route management have permanent access to the driver’s location. For example, in the case of unforeseen circumstances, such as a breakdown of another technician’s vehicle. If this happens, the dispatcher can quickly determine the location of the technician in relation to a given location. He or she may direct them to the place of service. This action saves time and fuel.

 

Optimal assignment of tasks to specific vehicles

Using digital maps to support solutions in transportation offers the option to add areas and locations important for a given company. This can also record routes taken by vehicles. The implementation of digital maps facilitates the process of managing a high number of orders.  A company receives dedicated solution. It also enables planning optimal routes, which results in savings on transportation. The option to track the route’s progress and monitor it by using GPS, affords the company to be in control of the process of performed orders and their completion.

Advanced route optimization enables the dispatcher or the planner to use the data collected about specific vehicles.

Into the system, we may put the following data:

  • transported goods
  • performed order
  • maximal and current working time of a technician or a driver
  • cost of driving a vehicle to the client’s

Optimizing software use those data to ensure that none of the limitations has been breached, e.g. a driver’s working time.

Digital maps

One may subdivide digital maps into areas. Grouping areas into regions with common features streamlines logistics management. The process of subdivision is user-friendly and accommodates the dispatcher’s preferences. The map is subdivides using colors or select shapes. Group regions with common features may use those divisions. One may also use them to perform calculations that optimize routes. Additionally, it streamlines automatic task assignment to individual regions.

Specifying vehicle parameters and using incredibly accurate digital maps translates to optimal routing which considers each vehicle in the fleet. The applied optimization algorithms ensure optimized routing. It takes into account the sequence of performed orders along with time windows and the periods of performing a repair service. What is more, the dispatcher can use one of many available route options, such as: the fastest, the cheapest or the shortest route.

 

Routes for service technicians

Software that employs the VRP algorithms will include the route parameters entered into the system. I will also calculate the estimated route time as well as the time necessary to perform the tasks assigned to the driver. If a dispatcher accepts additional orders, the previously set optimal routes can be edited during the workday.

The systems used in the work of service technicians enable planning one-time routes or repetitive route sequences that driver may cover for the purpose of performing an order. All the route parameters, such as the time and day, are visible to the dispatcher along with the list of all the drivers and vehicles. Based on this information, we can calculate the most optimal route, its duration and distance.

Fleet management based on optimization algorithms allows companies to reduce transportation costs. Additionally, it will gain a competitive advantage and implement the company’s strategic goals. The application of algorithms also helps subdivide responsibilities based on the availability of vehicles and service technicians (drivers). It also shortens route length, which results in savings on transportation and a highly effective management of time and the fleet.

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