Peter Drucker is one of the most important and influential people in modern business management. As reported by GrowThink, his most famous quote is, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Many businesses lose 20-30% of revenues because of inefficiencies. Many companies will use free services like Google Maps, but does that cut it? This article will look at route planning in general, and how you can become an efficient route planner.
This article will cover the five critical questions on how we can think about efficiency in plotting routes with multiple stops. It will help you think about what is good vs. bad vs. downright ugly. Finally, you will be able to get some actionable tips on how you can improve your route planning process, and make better driving directions to increase your productivity.
Table of Contents
1 – What is Efficiency? (in General)
Let’s start with a definition.
Efficiency signifies a peak level of performance that uses the least amount of inputs to achieve the highest amount of output. Efficiency requires reducing the number of unnecessary resources used to produce a given output including personal time and energy. It is a measurable concept that can be determined using the ratio of useful output to total input. It minimizes the waste of resources such as physical materials, energy, and time while accomplishing the desired output.
Let’s break down some of those key terms, and explain what they mean:
- Inputs: This is a technical term to signify everything you put into the business process. This term includes things like time, money, and other resources.
- Outputs: This is what you “get out of it.” For instance, the output of field salespeople, delivery teams, or companies is the total # of stops delivered. It can also be the quality of service. We will go into this in more detail later.
- Measurable unit: Much like you measure distance in meters and weight in KGs or Lbs, efficiency allows businesses, like yours, to measure themselves. Later on, in this article, we will look at how you can measure effectiveness for yourself.
In our context, we are talking about answering questions such as “How can I best plan my route?”, “How can I map out routes with many stops?” “How can I most quickly map out these routes?” “How can I most quickly complete all stops on these routes?” “What can I learn about Route Optimization?” “Should I be using a free service like Google Maps? Or should I be paying for a service?” There are many ways to look at this. And the choice of the right option, feature, and criteria to choose is tricky for anyone to discover. These are the many questions (and more), we will seek to address in this article.
2 – Why Efficiency Matters? (Hint: Your Business Survival Depends on It)
Why it Matters?
There are many important reasons to focus on efficiency:
- To keep costs down: lower fuel costs, lower time for each job, makes delivery teams efficient, reduce labor costs;
- Increase clients’ satisfaction: Faster delivery or shipping, more consistency;
- Improve repeat customers: When satisfaction is up, so is repeat business;
- Word of mouth from positive reviews: When customers are satisfied, they spread the word. In the era of the internet, word of mouth is far from dead; it’s still the #1 source of trust;
- Do more: When you become faster, you can free up labor time to make even more improvements;
- Improve profits: The bottom line is an expression to mean “profits.” This expression is no coincidence, of course. It’s the most crucial part of the equation.
All this is important, but to summarize in one point: Your Business survival depends on being efficient. We’re not saying this to scare you, but rather to bring to light the reality of the world we are all in. The truth is that there are companies like Amazon and other multinationals that are always looking to improve their efficiency, and they can do it on a massive scale. Competition is more fierce than ever with the internet, online shopping, and savvy customers.
There is no need to linger in this doom and gloom. We are here to help and provide support on how you can take control of your delivery business and your destiny!
Types of Businesses and Organizations that are Impacted
Solving the problem of efficiency as it relates to the multi-stop route planning is essential to a long list of businesses and organizations. They include:
- Delivery drivers;
- Food delivery;
- Small catering;
- Flower shops;
- Pharmacies and homecare;
- And more.
For Whom Does it Matter?
Solving this problem is very important for three types of people when you are trying to optimize routes. Those three are the following:
- The Manager/Dispatcher: The person who is the multi-stop route planner. They gather multiple addresses; they process the information; somehow, they create the best routes and then communicate it to the driver. They also might give special instructions for specific stops.
- The Driver: The driver is the one who receives the map with multiple locations. They are in charge of actually finding the fastest and least time-consuming way to achieve all the stops. They do this with a combination of a map with the route plan, and a navigation aide.
- The Customer: They are the “end-user” and the beneficiary of whatever product or service you are providing. They are ultimately the most crucial part of the equation, as they are the ones you serve.
For the first two, the goal is to achieve greater efficiencies. In other words, they can do their job faster, at lower cost, and time. The result is that it will help the third user, the customer and that ultimately is what will drive the success of the delivery business.
NOTE: The Manager/Dispatcher and the driver might be the same person. This fact is generally the case in smaller businesses.
3 – What are all the Steps in Route Planning?
One thing the route planner ofter forgets is that when there are many steps in creation, driving directions with multiple stops, routes, and route optimization. Below, we’ve explicitly outlined a significant number of steps. One thing to consider is that there are the roles of the Manager (or dispatcher), e.g., the “route planner” and also the delivery driver.
We’re going to look at it from the perspective of the delivery business owner and the people who are planning and executing the routes (sometimes the same person). This person is in charge of route planning. Let’s start and look at the typical process of users who are not currently using a multi-stop route planner software. Let’s give the example of a caterer who is preparing a delivery to 5 clients.
- Receive information (emails, addresses, contact info)
- Process information (e.g., put into an excel or a list ready for export to a route planning software)
Processing Data into Route optimization
- Input the data into a route planning software (Google maps)
- Optimization of the list (if applicable)
- Checking the addresses/stops
- Checking time windows for delivery, traffic incidents, time constraints, etc
- Copy the list
- Send to the driver
- Communication between planner and driver
- Ok / Agree on the process
- Change in plans etc.
The delivery driver also has a multitude of tasks to perform. Duties will vary, depending on the device used (computer with a spreadsheet, or smartphone (iPhone, Android), or a tool like mapquest and their capabilities. There is also variability if the driver changes products, territories, tools, or destinations.
Execution of Route
- Open app
- Review the list of stops
- Input first address
- Start Navigation
- Successful or not execution.
- Traffic data
- Service calls (if applicable)
- Site assessment
- Road access
- Delivery tracking
- Proof of delivery
- Communications with the client
- Ongoing conversations with the Manager
- Taking signature or photo proof-of-delivery.
Let’s not forget the customer. Although they are not part of the operational aspects of the business, they are the lifeblood of your business. Below are some of the actions they need to take:
- Initial contact and discovery
- Answering questions about delivery
- Scheduling delivery
- Reception of delivery package
- Account setting, factors, and notes
In short, every business wants to deliver as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Plan quickly, deliver faster, delight customers and get home early.
Everyone deserves to have simple and easy route planning.
4 – What does an Efficient Process Look? – Visual Maps that Will Shock You
The Inefficient Process? – A 54 Step Awful Struggle
Instead of just telling you about it, we decide to show you. An image is worth 1000 words, as they say. One of the reasons why we can’t fix something is that we don’t understand it. A picture or diagram can help us understand the issue much better. Below is a graph showing you a typical process.
In this diagram, you’ll notice lots of back and forth and manual manipulation. This reality is not out of the ordinary: it’s the dominant way of doing business. Much like we use to all drive around in horse in buggy back in the 1800s. This fact points to a simple truth: “it’s not because “everyone is doing it” that it means it’s the best way of doing it.” In our situation that we’re talking about here, inefficient processes are the norms. The companies that understand this will ultimately be more successful in serving their customers and winning business.
The Efficient Process Map – 18 Steps of Bliss
We are here with a message: it can be different. Many businesses have improved processes over time, and they are the companies that stand out. Below is an example of a company that has systematically developed its methods.
You’ll notice that many steps are “automated.” If you notice Elon Musk and Tesla manufacturing, you’ll see with each new car they improve efficiency, even removing or combining steps if they have to. In inefficiency, the best step is the step removed.
5 – What Can You Do to Improve Your Route Planning Efficiency?
Improving efficiency is an ongoing journey. The good news is after reading this article, we hope you have a much better idea of how to achieve this critical goal. Below is a list of actions that you can take to improve the way you create multi-stop routes with many addresses:
- Map out your current process: The first step is to do a diagnostic of your current process. We have given an example of a typical small business’ process above.
- Get specific about time use: For each step, be very specific about how much time it takes to execute each step or task. For instance, how long does it take to get an order from a customer? How long does it take to write down their address? How long does it take to input this address into excel? Etc.
- Do a diagnostic: The next step is to do a diagnostic, and find out where the issues are. Chances are there are many places you can improve.
- Choose the “low hanging fruit”: Low hanging fruit means “easy to do.” In this context, you also want to choose the actions that will have the highest impact as well. So, in short, look for low-input, high-output activities. Do those first.
- Automate what you can: As you saw in the example above, automate any of the actions or steps that you can. This automation generally would be with an online tool.
- Create a standard operating procedure: If you can, create a manual or at least a set of standard working practices. This process will reduce variability and also increase efficiency.
- Use a Route Planner: If you are still using pen and paper, or even Google Maps, try looking into getting a route planner.
For more information, see:
Best Route Planner in 2021
It is difficult to say which is the best free route planner or routing software, as this is a subjective question. The better questions are the following: What are my inefficiencies? How much are these inefficiencies costing me? What solution would offer the best opportunity for growth regardless of price and subscription? Can I try a few subscriptions on trial to see the benefit of a potential purchase?
The best way is often called “the fastest way home” or “the fastest route home” problem: when you are a multi-stop route planner, you need driving directions to get you to plan my route, to map out stops, complete the routes, and get home as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is to map out your current operational practices, assess where you can most benefit from an improvement, and to implement changes to improve outputs.
In conclusion, we hope that this guide offers you a place to better understand your business, your role as the “route planner,” and how to assess your delivery service. For instance, we hope you know when and why you should be using a service like Google Maps. You now know to make that call yourself. We have not touched on the specifics of other logistics problems in deliveries, like route order, pick-ups, distances, GPS tracking, location features, sequence, driver tracking, etc. We have other articles in our blog about these topics, however. So please, check these different articles, and we hope that you will find excellent options for you to better track, manage, and achieve progress in your business and delivery services. Please let us know if we’ve missed anything, and let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help. You can contact us at any time for any of your needs. Until then, hop into your vehicle, hit the roads, get to those appointments, and achieve your goals by increasing your sales revenue!