What is Route Scheduling? Understanding Routing vs Scheduling

keyKey Takeaways:
  • Route scheduling is the process of planning and optimizing delivery routes by tapping into the maximum potential of resources available.
  • Routing is the process of planning the most efficient paths for drivers to follow from their start points to destinations.
  • Routing focuses on mapping routes for delivery agents to cover assigned stops most efficiently. Contrarily, scheduling involves planning time intervals for deliveries that align with customers’ preferences and drivers’ legal working hours.

Did you know that the global delivery management market is projected to reach $3729.46 million by 2028? This stat is a testament to the growing demand for smooth delivery processes.

To achieve seamless delivery management, it is a must to understand the terms involved in the logistics industry.

If you are a fleet manager overseeing delivery operations, you must have heard ‘route scheduling’ and ‘routing’, two of the most common logistics terms. Not just that, you may already be applying them manually, via navigation apps, or through software equipped with route optimization functionality. 

But the question is: Do you know how these terms differ?

While “route scheduling” and “routing” are closely related, they are distinct facets of the delivery process. However, they together form the cornerstone of successful delivery management

Therefore, understanding their differences, distinct advantages, and how you can leverage their combination is vital to amplify your delivery capabilities. So, let’s have a look at the meaning and benefits of route scheduling. It also explains how scheduling is different from routing with a real-life example and discusses the tips to improve it. 

What is Route Scheduling?

Route scheduling refers to the process of planning and optimizing delivery routes by tapping into the maximum potential of available resources. These key resources comprise vehicles, drivers, driver mates, and depot and warehouse personnel who assist in the loading/unloading of goods. It goes beyond traditional route planning and incorporates scheduling elements to streamline delivery operations.

Key Aspects of Route Scheduling

  • Time Window Management: Allocating delivery time windows to customers based on preferences and operational constraints.
  • Driver availability: Ensuring planning routes in line with the drivers’ working hours to avoid overburdening drivers and maximizing their productivity.
  • Customer convenience: Accommodating customer preferences for delivery times while taking into account shipping limitations.
  • Order Grouping: Collating all the orders with similar delivery time windows or destination addresses to maximize efficiency.

What is Route Planning (Routing)?

Routing or route planning refers to determining the most efficient paths for your delivery drivers to travel from their start points to their respective destinations. It considers factors like driver availability, vehicle requirements, service window constraints, and route specifications to create optimal routes.

Key Aspects of Routing

  • Route Optimization: Determining optimal paths using a routing algorithm for drivers to visit all the designated stops efficiently.
  • Traffic & road conditions: Accounting for real-time traffic data, road closures, or accidents that might affect travel times.
  • Vehicle capacities: Make sure the selected routes are feasible for your delivery vehicles’ payload capacity and size.

What is the Difference Between Routing and Scheduling?

While routing and scheduling are closely linked and sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinct. 

Here is a real-life example to help you understand routing vs scheduling better. 

Scenario: 

Consider a medical courier who has to deliver medications to four different customers based on the preferred delivery time windows as below:

  • Customer A: 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
  • Customer B: 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
  • Customer C: 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM
  • Customer D: 2:30 PM to 4:30 pm

Deliveries through routing

9:00 AM – Order processing and grouping

The dispatch manager processes orders and groups medications based on delivery locations, urgent requests, and specified time windows. The routing algorithm optimizes delivery routes for drivers. 

10:00 AM – Route planning and dispatch 

Route planning software considers factors like traffic conditions and specific delivery time windows. The delivery manager then dispatches the medications with a clear schedule. 

11:00 AM: Delivery execution

As Customer B has the earliest time window (1:00 PM to 3:00 PM), the delivery executive prioritizes them. 

As Customer D’s time window (2:30 PM to 4:30 PM) allows for efficient routing, they are served second.

Customer A’s turn comes third, followed by Customer C in the end.

So, the delivery schedule is: 

  • 1:00 PM – Deliver to Customer B
  • 2:00 PM – Deliver to Customer D 
  • 3:00 PM – Deliver to Customer A
  • 4:30 PM – Deliver to Customer C

Executing deliveries through Scheduling

9:00 AM – Order processing and grouping 

Similar to the routing example, the dispatch manager processes orders and groups medications based on delivery locations, urgency, and preferred delivery windows.

10:00 AM – Route planning and dispatch

The delivery manager considers traffic conditions and specific delivery time windows similar to that in routing. The difference here is that scheduling strictly adheres to delivery time windows in this case. 

11:00 AM – Delivery execution

As Customer B has the earliest time window (1:00 PM to 3:00 PM), the delivery executive prioritizes them. 

Customer A is served the second based on their time window (2:00 PM to 4:00 PM).

Customer D follows next, with Customer C at last. 

So, the delivery schedule is  

  • 1:00 PM – Deliver to Customer B
  • 2:00 PM – Deliver to Customer A
  • 3:00 PM – Deliver to Customer D
  • 4:30 PM – Deliver to Customer C

Note: In the first case, the delivery executive reaches Customer D at 2:00 PM (out of their preferred time slot). So, chances are there that they may not be available to receive the order, leading to a missed delivery. It may result in additional redelivery costs, customer dissatisfaction, unwanted fuel consumption, and vehicle wear/tear.

So, take a look at this table to find major differences between routing and scheduling that you can infer from this example:

Aspects Routing Route Scheduling
Definition Determining the most efficient paths or sequences for delivery vehicles or service personnel. Deciding when specific tasks or deliveries should be performed within a given timeframe.
Purpose Optimal paths for vehicles, considering factors like distance, traffic, and road conditions. Timing and sequence of tasks or deliveries, considering factors like delivery time slots and urgency.
Decision scope Physical paths that vehicles should take. Timing and sequence of deliveries within a given timeframe.
Key Considerations Geographic factors, road conditions, and efficiency in travel paths. Specific delivery time windows, urgency, and resource availability.
Core Objectives The primary objective of routing is to optimize routes for your delivery drivers or on-field service executives to follow. It aims to find the shortest, fastest, and most cost-efficient path. Scheduling is about allocating deliveries based on time. It aims to create realistic time slots for each delivery/appointment and considers factors like service level agreements (SLAs) or field personnel’s availability. Scheduling helps balance your staff’s workloads and ensures no one is overloaded or underutilized.
Processes Routing involves creating an optimal plan on paper or in a computer system. It typically doesn’t consider real-time factors such as traffic conditions, vehicle breakdowns, or delivery delays. Route scheduling, on the other hand, occurs in real time. It considers dynamic factors like vehicle availability, drivers’ working hours, up-to-date traffic information, and unexpected events.
Inputs Route planning considers details, including customers’ locations, vehicle capacities, and road networks, while creating routes. Route scheduling weighs in real-time information such as the vehicle’s location or changes in priorities to create routes.
Optimization criteria Route planning aims to optimize routes according to distance, travel time, and fuel consumption. Contrarily, route scheduling focuses on optimizing and readjusting already planned routes based on real-time data.

6 Benefits of Route Scheduling

Route scheduling goes a long way toward achieving efficient service or delivery-related operations for your business.

1. Cost savings

Fuel efficiency: Traversing fully optimized routes helps minimize the distances to reach designated addresses, reducing fuel consumption and costs. 

Reduced vehicle wear/tear: Optimizing routes helps reduce the time your vehicles spend on the road. It slows down their wear/tear, decreases associated upkeep costs, and increases your fleet’s lifespan. 

Reduced overtime costs: Efficient routes help complete deliveries faster, preventing the need for additional labor hours and overtime payments. 

2. Elevated customer satisfaction

Did you know 88% of customers abandon their online shopping carts due to poor shipping terms, while 85% won’t shop again from a retailer after a poor customer experience?

Route scheduling helps avoid this situation. Here’s how. 

Timely Deliveries: Route scheduling facilitates on-time deliveries, making customers happy and contented.

Accurate time windows: Providing customers with accurate delivery time windows through adaptive notifications via text or email helps them plan and stay available to receive their orders. 

Reduced failed deliveries: Aligning delivery times with your customer’s availability helps decrease missed deliveries, keeping complaints at bay. 

3. Time savings

Faster deliveries: Finding the most efficient routes helps carrier vehicles cover a set of stops faster, cutting the overall delivery time.

Real-time adjustments: Route scheduling software helps consider real-time traffic conditions and make route adjustments proactively to save time. 

4. Increased delivery capacity

Optimal vehicle loading: Route scheduling ensures loading goods to maximum vehicle capacity, resulting in fewer trips and better productivity.

Effective route sequencing: Sequencing delivery stops through scheduling helps minimize backtracking and optimizes capacity utilization. 

5. Data-driven decision-making

Analytical insights: Route scheduling systems like Upper provide valuable data and reports related to delivery operations. It helps you identify patterns, bottlenecks, and scope for improvements. Accordingly, you can make data-driven decisions to boost operational efficiency. 

Performance analytics: Route scheduling systems enable evaluating delivery drivers’ performance by assessing metrics such as on-time deliveries, delivered/missed stops, and time spent at each stop. Analyzing these real-time reports and analytics combined with historical data helps finetune routing strategies to boost overall delivery efficiency. 

6. Higher operational efficiency

Standardized workflows: Route scheduling facilitates streamlining of operational processes to plan deliveries, minimizing bottlenecks and errors. 

Adaptability and flexibility: Real-time route adjustments based on changing conditions and unforeseen situations help your delivery company minimize disruptions, smoothening delivery operations.

5 Effective Route Scheduling Tips

Route scheduling is an art that takes time, patience, and continuous learning to master. Following are a few tips you can consider implementing to streamline it and maximize delivery efficiency

1. Make on-the-fly adjustments

Scheduling is all about flexibility and adaptability to accommodate ever-changing circumstances. So, you can infuse agility in your schedules with the tips below.

  • Provide your delivery executives or field personnel with real-time traffic updates and the best navigation apps to let them make dynamic adjustments, avoiding delays.
  • Prepare a contingency plan to handle unforeseen emergencies. Be it a vehicle’s breakdown or a missed service window, staying ready to adjust routes and address them promptly is important.

2. Consider customers’ preferences

As your customers have their daily schedules, too, respecting their preferences is integral to a seamless customer experience. 

So, you can follow the tips below to achieve that.

  • Collate information about your customers’ preferred time slots and deliver goods accordingly. 
  • Make sure to complete critical or high-priority deliveries on time, followed by medium and low-priority ones. 

3. Ensure route density optimization

Route density is the concentration of service or delivery stops in a given geographic area. Maximizing it is essential to reduce the time a delivery vehicle spends idling between two stops. 

Following are the tips to optimize your route density.

  • Consider grouping the stops that are geographically closer to reduce the time to cover them.
  • Use route optimization software like Upper to prioritize efficient and cost-effective routes based on traffic and distance. It helps create efficient routes, considering factors like distance or time as per your preference. Not only this, it allows changing time or distance preference on the go if required. Moreover, swap routes between drivers, reassigning them, and changing the sequence of stops.

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4. Regularly review and optimize routes

Effective route scheduling isn’t about creating optimal plans once and sitting back relaxed. It’s an ongoing process to review and analyze the performance of routes and implement requisite changes. 

Below are the tips you can follow.

  • Gather feedback from your delivery staff and customers regularly to fine-tune your scheduling strategies accordingly. 
  • Leverage historical data and changes in demand patterns to ensure routes stay efficient and align with evolving business needs.

5. Invest in training

Merely adopting technologies and the best route scheduling software doesn’t suffice. Learning how to use them effectively matters too. 

So, you can follow the tips given below.

  • Invest in training programs to familiarize your staff with route scheduling and optimization principles, technologies, and strategies. Make sure they are equipped with the skills to operate scheduling software to optimize delivery operations. 
  • Encourage your team to stay abreast of the developments in the field of route scheduling and stay competitive. You should also ensure fostering communication between the field staff and the scheduling team for better collaboration.

FAQs

Routing is the process of mapping routes for delivery executives to help them cover the assigned stops most efficiently.

Scheduling involves planning time intervals for delivery agents to make deliveries based on their availability and customers’ preferred time windows.

5 significant benefits of route scheduling are increased revenue, cost efficiency, customer satisfaction, positive environmental impact, and higher adaptability to changes.

The 5 consequences of poor route scheduling are additional operating costs, warehouse charges, redelivery costs, customer dissatisfaction, and inefficiency.

These are the types of route scheduling: (1) Sequential scheduling, (2) Priority-based scheduling, (3) Time-window based scheduling, (4) Dynamic scheduling, (5) Cluster scheduling, (6) Time-of-Day Scheduling, (7) Round-Robin scheduling, (8) Ant Colony Optimization (ACO), (9) Simulated Annealing Scheduling, (10) Genetic Algorithm scheduling, and (11) Hybrid scheduling

6 major types of routing are (1) Dynamic Route planning, (2) Multi-Stop Route Planning, (3) Open Path Routing, (4) Closed Path Routing, (5) Reverse Open Path Routing, (6) Depot to Depot Routing.

The complexity of routes, dynamic changes, and resource limitations are the primary route scheduling challenges. Using route optimization software and apps like Upper or Dynoroute available in the market, utilize real-time data & adaptive analytics, and optimize resource allocation.

Route planning software, vehicle tracking systems, routing algorithms, simulation methods, optimization methods, and performance analytics can help optimize delivery routing and scheduling.

Routing + Scheduling = Route Scheduling (A Magical Duo) for Efficient Routes

Route scheduling keeps evolving continually and needs you to combine practice, feedback, and a commitment to enhancement. Route scheduling is key to achieving operational excellence and elevated customer experience in the fast-paced competitive landscape. 

It helps you establish yourself as a virtuoso of delivery management, attract more customers, and stay ahead of the competition. Routing or route planning is not the same as scheduling but is complementary to it. 

Therefore, it is paramount to understand their purpose, benefits, practices, and how you can combine these processes to achieve holistic delivery management.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.