Being able to innovate is a neverending task in today’s fast-paced world. This is especially true when it comes to deliveries. People always need to send important packages and documents from A to B regularly. The demand for speedy delivery makes delivery services an essential tool for all ranges of businesses. However, getting packages delivered on time is not as simple as hopping in a truck and driving: there are several ways people plan deliveries, including navigation software.
Here, we’ll take a look at how big players like FedEx, UPS, and Google Maps plan trips and optimize routes. In this article, we are curious to explore which of these companies can be called the “optimal route planner“. We’ll also provide a comparison of their route planning software so you can choose the best one for your company.
Table of Contents
What is Route Optimization?
This is the process of finding the best driving directions for a set of stops. By best, we mean fastest and most cost-efficient, but it’s not as simple as getting from A to B in record time.
Rather, route optimization aims to minimize the mileage or driving time for routes with several stops. It factors in several important elements, such as:
- The number of addresses
- The number of vehicles in the fleet
- Available delivery windows
- Route order, steps, and destinations
- Features, constraints, and other options
Why do businesses need to use the most efficient routing technology? Because it can drastically reduce the amount of time it takes for a whole set of deliveries to be made.
Little improvements to speed and efficiency can positively affect all manner of things:
- Reduced mileage
- Reduced duel uses
- Fewer carbon emissions
- Better customer service
- Quicker orders
- Higher volume of sales and accounts
- Increased productivity
- Lower pricing for the user
- Greater market share
Route mapping is essential for all businesses, not just delivery services. That’s because inefficient software leads to much higher labor and transportation costs, which can quickly surpass a company’s revenue. However, route planner apps get you where you need to go in the shortest amount of time.
For this reason, it’s important for any delivery business or company that relies on the delivery of products to use an excellent planning tool.
Why is Route Optimization So Important?
Planning a trip is easy – but finding the one that will be most efficient when visiting multiple addresses can bring up all sorts of problems. In this section, we’ll take a look at two of the biggest route planner problems that you need to overcome for effective and efficient delivery.
The Traveling Salesman Problem
The Traveling Salesman Problem poses the following question: Given a list of locations and the distances between each pair of locations, what is the shortest route available that visits each location exactly once and then returns to the first location?
Route planners address this dilemma. Drivers receive the best directions to cover all locations with the shortest path possible.
The Vehicle Routing Problem
Dantzig and Ramser formulated the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP) in 1959. It is a method of finding a solution to basic route planning questions. It asks how the total cost of delivery can be minimized through planning a route in the following scenario:
- One single depot where each vehicle must start and end.
- A set of customers at different stops that are expecting deliveries.
- A fleet of vehicles servicing a particular location.
The VRP aims to find the solution that uses the lowest possible number of vehicles, and that minimizes the length of the total distance traveled.
What Does Optimized Route Planning Look Like?
Here we take a look at some of the route planning industry’s biggest players and how they map out their route optimization. We’ll focus on software for delivery service with multiple stops.
According to UPS, it ships over 19.1 million packages in more than 220 countries every single day.
To overcome logistical problems and route planning issues on such a huge scale, UPS uses advanced route planning software and a fleet management system called Orion. This system is based on an advanced algorithm that creates the best multi-stop route map for a driver. It gets its data from routes previously driven by their drivers. The data aims to find out:
- Where drivers are losing most of their time on any particular multi-stop route
- Why they lose time there
- Whether any alternatives have proven to save time
This data is captured through drivers’ mobile devices, GPS tracking, and vehicle sensors. It provides them with valuable insights as to where improvements can be made. UPS can then optimize its operations, as well as offer better service to their customers.
The latest updates to their software give drivers real-time updates and adapt directions accordingly. This means that a driver will have an initial route plan at the beginning of the day, but it may change as the software takes into account congestion and road closures in real-time.
ORION software has reduced the miles traveled by UPS drivers by around 100 million miles. According to UPS, this is a cut or around 100,00 metric tones of C02 emissions and 10 million gallons of fuel.
FedEx Ground and Home Delivery services are branches of the FedEx corporation that deal with the last-mile ground shipping deliveries in the U.S.
FedEx sorts deliveries by region and independent operators for FedEx Ground manage a fleet of drivers for each region. The company recently launched new map tools and route optimization improvements to better make each multi-stop route more efficient. This is called dynamic route optimization (DRO).
DRO is designed to:
- Provide delivery drivers with real-time data on best routes to use when delivering their packages.
- Balance out trips so that one delivery business van is never half loaded while another is crowded.
One of the most well-known route planner apps. This easy-to-use map is simple: enter your starting point and destination, and it will show you all of the routes available, ranked in order of speed. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:
- The app locates the latitude and longitude coordinates of the two addresses or stops you’ve entered and then pinpoints them on the map.
- All available routes between the two points are singled out.
- Google takes into account the distance of the route and real-time traffic conditions to find you the fastest route.
- Lastly, it will display the best route to you, and will also show you some alternatives that vary in the time they will take or the overall mileage.
That’s why Google Maps is a simple route planner and one of the most popular route planner apps available to everyone. It can easily find you the shortest journey between two or more stops.
However, it will not show you an optimized route between multiple stops. Sure, it will demonstrate the fastest route from A to B to C, but it can’t show the shortest route from A to Z. Google’s route planner is not designed to put stops in the optimum order for efficiency. Users must plot their own path, and then determine the most efficient order themselves.
For more information, please check out:
How to Use Google Maps for Route Planning
Can Google Maps optimize my route?
Google will map out the fastest directions for you, with live data to update your navigation, but it doesn’t offer optimization software. This means that it’s not the best route planner for improving efficiency when there’s more than one stop involved.
Do FedEx or UPS offer route planner apps?
FedEx and UPS are international delivery services and use their own software brands to optimize the routes taken by their delivery drivers. You can use FedEx and UPS to send out your packages and goods, but they don’t offer route planning apps.
What is the best free planner app?
Google Maps is the best free planner app for those looking to plan a simple journey, or who are happy to optimize the order of stops themselves.
What is the best way to plan a trip with multiple stops?
The best way is to use a smart tool (such as those discussed here) to plan your path for you. Your route planner should use live traffic data to plan your trip. The delivery industry relies on this kind of software.
Can a route planning tool improve my business?
If your business depends on delivery services, you can make big savings and improve customer experience by optimizing your delivery routes.
Conclusion: Which Route Planner is Best?
So, which route planner is best?
Google Maps is great for individuals to use every day to plan routes from A to B. However, it cannot be considered a fully-fledged route optimizer, because it doesn’t put stops in the most efficient order for you.
Meanwhile, FedEx and UPS use their own advanced route planning software to optimize routes. They constantly update their software, and can’t really be separated from one another when it comes to efficiency and technology offered.
In conclusion, the best route planner depends on your business’s needs. If you need cutting-edge technology that’s constantly updated, you may be interested in learning more about Orion and DRO.