First formulated in 1959, the Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP) has come to be the elephant in the room of Operations Research and Supply Chain Management. What is it and how can solving the VRP bring value to your supply chain?
A Quick Rundown
The Vehicle Routing Problem that trips route planners is as follows – you have 1000 deliveries to make tomorrow with a fleet of 20 vehicles. How do you decide which vehicles would serve what deliveries in what order?
Perhaps you decide to group your deliveries into geographical clusters, then assign a vehicle in to serve stops in that cluster. But how do you decide where to draw the lines between clusters? In what order do you serve the stops within the same cluster?
There are too many questions to consider when drawing up a route plan. Worse still, the complexity of the Vehicle Routing Problem grows super exponentially as the number of stops and vehicles increase. This complexity poses a great challenge to even the most powerful of computers – with the volume of deliveries that couriers and logistics companies face today, several trillion years would pass before the perfect solution can be found.
The Need For Speed
Why do we need to solve it fast? As technology in the logistics industry advances, the time windows between stages of the supply chain shrinks. With the rise of e-commerce and customer expectations of shorter fulfilment times, couriers are left with less and less time to plan their routes.
Couriers receive thousands of packages in a day that they need to ship out the next day with the delivery information usually given late.
This leaves route planners with the challenge of drawing up large scale route plans in the scale of hours, not days. The near omnipresent demand for route planning places a great burden on route planners – working at unearthly hours (receive packages in the day, plan the routes at night) or round the clock.
Overclock Your Routing Process
Need your route plans for tomorrow, but cannot wait till the heat death of the universe? While nobody can find the perfect solution to the Vehicle Routing Problem in a reasonable amount of time, we can apply metaheuristics to significantly reduce the time taken to find near perfect routes.
With the right route planning software that employs a great metaheuristic and problem-solving strategy, an unsolvable problem becomes solvable in a matter of minutes.
Stay Ahead Of Your Competitors
How would fast route planning give you an edge over your competitors? For one, your route planers need not work long and arduous hours to come up with route plans. In addition, your route planning is now agile – even if you receive your delivery manifests hours before your fleet departs for the day, your uberly fast route planners can come up with an updated, and optimal route for your fleet in time.
Of course, there comes significant and obvious time savings that inspired the original Vehicle Routing Problem – with less time spent on the road and less fuel costs, your fleet is able to serve more stops in the same amount of time and money. Your fleet’s throughput is now higher!
Not Just For Deliveries
There exists a common misconception that route planning only finds a use in scheduling deliveries – this is not entirely true. Route planning can be also used to optimize the scheduling of other services, such as housekeeping / office cleaning services and waste management.
Using a flexible routing engine, other services can easily reuse same engine with different configurations (such as increased service times per stop) to better model their domain problem. With faster planning times, these services benefit from a faster turnover time and can beat the competition with higher throughput and agility to respond to last minute changes to their plans.
The Right Routing Engine Is Key
From planning deliveries in massive supply chains to scheduling appointments in various field services, producing optimized routes at high speed provides a huge competitive edge to users.
In situations where time factor is crucial, benefits of a powerful routing engine that’s flexible (and reliable) cannot be overstated. Now, is your manual routing planning taking too long? Or is the current solution you are using taking too long to generate the route plans? Find out how the use of a hybrid heuristics based solution can plan your runs much faster. Download the white paper here.