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When is route optimisation not route optimisation?

Wednesday 2 January 2019 Field Force Planning


David Jones's picture
By David Jones

Route optimisation: When the same 2 words have (at least) 3 different meanings

Given that CACI is about to unveil a brand-new version of our route optimisation solution, CallSmart, I have spent some time looking around at other solutions that purport to offer route optimisation. The one thing that is clear is that route optimisation means very different things to different suppliers.

Having been fortunate enough to have had some nice holidays recently, I am reminded of another 2-word phrase which often ends up delivering a very different experience – airport transfer.


When route optimisation is really route navigation

The entry level for airport transfers was something I experienced on a recent all-inclusive holiday to the Costa Brava. My wife and I arrived on the Birmingham flight, and found we had to wait for flights from Southampton and Manchester to arrive before our coach would leave. When we finally arrived at our resort, we were all dropped out in the middle of the street, and expected to drag our suitcases along the strip until we eventually located and arrived at our respective accommodations.

In route optimisation terms, this is akin to relying on a planner (central or rep) to select the calls to be made on a particular day, and in which order, and then the ‘route optimiser’ will then identify the quickest way to get between the visits. It really is just route navigation under another name; a solution that is all well and good for a rep who has to book appointments with all their calls but, for anybody who has flexibility about when they can call, this is extremely sub-optimal. 

If you are asking your rep to plan 10 visits a day, then there are over 3.6 million different possible permutations

So leaving it up to someone subjectively picking an order, this is, at best, incredibly optimistic. Realistically, this will have a catastrophic impact on the number of visits achieved each day, and the mileage clocked up – sell less, cost more – a poor outcome.


When route optimisation is really next day sequencing

So, maybe you are looking for a solution that is a bit smarter – in the airport transfer world, this then moves on to package holidays. You often all arrive on the same flight, but then get dropped off at your hotel in dribs and drabs, so a short transfer can actually take an age, and often gets your holiday off to a bad start.

For route optimisation, this is somewhat in line with solutions that will take a bunch of calls that require a call on the next day and create an optimal sequence around them. This is an improvement in optimisation terms on ‘route navigation’, but the trouble here is that scheduling for the next day often ignores the interval between calls to the same location. It also often ignores day and time slots when you can’t see customers. And if you're adding new urgent calls to an existing diary, there is often little intelligence used in how the existing or additional workload is handled. The extra calls are just added on top of work already in the diary, which means a very long day for the rep. The result? Work-life balance is affected, and there is potential to alienate the most lucrative stores due to poor service.


When route optimisation means route optimisation

What is often required is a third, more intelligent and dedicated solution that handles the complexities of the real world – the equivalent of the airport transfer that is not affected by delays, not reliant on other flights, and where we are met straight after passport control, and then transported individually right to the front door of our accommodation.

This is what I think of when I see the words “route optimisation”. It's a solution that can deal with short-term interventions, but also respects medium-term spacing and phasing of regular, planned calls. A solution that takes into account time-windows when creating a route. A solution that considers and deals with the domino-effect of adding extra urgent calls into an existing schedule. But it's also a solution which identifies the correct sequence of calls to visit from the millions of options. If this is what you are thinking of when you envisage a route optimisation solution, then we are on the same page – we are kindred spirits – let’s talk! 

Please get in touch, or better yet, why not see what CallSmart can do for you - sign up for a demo.


Fig.1 - A CallSmart visualisation of an optimised route



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