Australia, Companies, Features, Logistics

The future of route planning

The world of route planning is changing rapidly, with new technologies ready to be implemented.

Bestrane’s Adam Welch delves into the future of route planning and scheduling solutions, how Bestrane keeps on top of it all, and how to implement and integrate effective solutions.

In a world forever altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, our reliance on the internet for communication, transactions, and even commentary has grown exponentially. This shift has triggered historically low industrial vacancy rates, an accelerated embrace of e-commerce, and heightened customer service expectations. At the pinnacle of these expectations lies the delivery experience – a critical facet of modern commerce. Couple this with expanding urban populations and a shortage of essential labour skills, and the result is a challenging landscape where delivering more products with greater precision and fewer resources is the daily struggle. It’s no wonder that optimising the use of logistics assets has become a frequent topic in boardrooms. At the heart of solving this puzzle are Delivery Planning and Execution systems. But what are they, how are they evolving, and how do they drive value?

Bestrane, a prominent player in the supply chain solutions arena, offers a unique perspective on the evolving realm of customer deliveries. Their approach involves blending commercially available Off the Shelf (COTS) solutions with their specialised Bestrane applications, and when necessary, crafting bespoke solutions to cater to specific needs. Bestrane is a forward-thinking company that constantly explores the potential of emerging technologies to revolutionise the last-mile delivery sector. Here, we delve into the insights shared by Bestrane’s Adam Welch, shedding light on the transformative role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

Adam emphasises the significance of these technologies in the world of route planning and their revolutionary applications. “Two of the many emerging technologies impacting the route planning world are certainly AI and machine learning,” he states. “Machine Learning technology is now being applied to data from route planning tools today to generate better plans for tomorrow.” A notable example comes from Descartes Systems Group, a global leader in route planning and execution, which recently acquired Foxtrot—a company specialising in advanced machine learning algorithms that collect data during delivery operations. This data, in turn, provides instant feedback and valuable information to improve future planning.

In simpler terms, Foxtrot technology compiles data from real-time delivery experiences into an intelligent engine that analyses what truly transpired and suggests enhancements to the planning process. For instance, the designated “ship to” address for a delivery might differ significantly from the actual delivery point. Foxtrot recognises this difference and proposes routing trucks to parking locations rather than customer residences. Adam elaborates, “While the listed ‘ship to’ address might be 101 Bourke Street, which might take you to the reception desk, the actual delivery spot is located in Flinders Lane.”

While Machine Learning focuses on learning from data patterns, AI takes a closer look at behavioural aspects. Adam points out how AI captures data regarding driving behaviours through telematics. “On the AI front, we’re also collecting data from the vehicle itself,” he notes. This includes factors like harsh acceleration, braking, and cornering—behaviours that can lead to increased fuel consumption, higher maintenance costs, and potential accidents.

More importantly, this data is not just collected but acted upon. If the system identifies a driver with a habit of aggressive cornering, the AI and ML systems collaborate to alert and address the issue directly. “So, if a driver frequently corners harshly, the next time they log in for a route, the machine learning system recognises the driver’s history and, if necessary, informs the driver and provides corrective actions,” Adam explains. This personalised approach goes beyond generic training, improving driver behaviour, vehicle performance, and the organisation’s public image.

Another innovation making waves in the last-mile delivery sector is the location management system, What3words. Adam describes it as a system that wraps the entire world in a three-by-three-metre grid, with each grid identified by a unique set of three words. Its genius lies in its precision and simplicity, so much so that most emergency services in Australia now use it. When someone requires assistance but can’t pinpoint their exact location, this system can provide rescuers with their whereabouts using just three words.

These examples, according to Adam, represent exciting integrations that Bestrane is actively exploring. While numerous techniques and technologies exist independently, Bestrane’s goal is to connect them to provide enduring value to their customers.

But a critical question lingers: How can disparate technologies, each delivering specific value, be integrated into viable, long-term solutions? Bestrane has the answer—a dedicated “Labs division” designed to address two common scenarios when engineering “End-to-End” customer fulfilment solutions:

  • Firstly, addressing functionality gaps in commercially available Off the Shelf (COTS) solutions; and
  • Secondly, building integration capability to Communicate, Transform, and Enrich data, allowing COTS applications to function more effectively.

For instance, Bestrane has developed an innovative tool known as the Order Generation Solution (OGS). This tool predicts when shipments are needed, pre-empting the need for direct orders—a technological equivalent of understanding a customer’s needs before they articulate them.

But Bestrane’s expertise goes beyond predicting shipment requirements. Many ERP systems excel at managing financial data but fall short in handling the operational data needed to solve real-world problems. Modifying or replacing ERP systems can be a costly and time-consuming endeavour. Instead, Bestrane leverages existing data, transforms it, and enriches it to provide superior information to their planning tools. This approach underscores Bestrane’s commitment to delivering tailored solutions without the need for expensive overhauls—a boon for businesses in today’s economic climate.

Clients now seek Customer Delivery Planning and Execution solutions for value beyond cost reduction. Adam identifies two pivotal areas:

Firstly, a company’s ability to guarantee punctual and accurate deliveries, which Descartes addresses with its recent acquisition of Localz. Localz specialises in real-time route progress tracking, notifying end customers about their deliveries’ status, and minimising costs associated with futile deliveries. It even introduces gamification to enhance driver performance.

Secondly, environmental responsibility is gaining significance. Companies aim to strike a balance between prompt deliveries and sustainable operations. Adam highlights, “Customers are increasingly interested in understanding a company’s environmental practices.” Efficient route planning not only economises resource use but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with sustainability commitments.

Adam’s observations on sustainability are reinforced by international research conducted by Descartes. Their 2023 Home Delivery Sustainability Report reflects consumer opinions on retailers’ eco-friendly measures in delivery operations. This extensive study involved 8000 participants from various nations and revealed that 43 per cent believed retailers effectively implement sustainable delivery strategies. More than 60 per cent expressed interest in green delivery methods, and 59 per cent were willing to take action if retailers’ sustainability efforts fell short.

Bestrane’s close relationships with technology vendors empower them to recommend top-notch solutions to customers. For instance, managing complex routes for waste collection often requires specialised applications like Routesmart. Bestrane is also excited about the forthcoming launch of Descartes Route Planner Live, which promises to address most of the challenges discussed in this article with a new User Interface and advanced mapping technology.

However, companies like Descartes rely on key partners like Bestrane to ensure that off-the-shelf solutions integrate seamlessly, are refined, and align perfectly with individual business operations. This collaboration underscores the importance of Bestrane Labs—a testament to Bestrane’s commitment to delivering comprehensive solutions.

The landscape of Customer Delivery Planning and Execution systems remains a specialised field, with very few ERP systems effectively providing these capabilities. And Bestrane has the know-how to manage the vast array of value-adding technologies.

For more information on Bestrane, click here.

 

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