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The Importance of a Live Logistics Software Demo

The Importance of a Live Logistics Software Demo

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The Importance of a Live Logistics Software Demo

17 Feb 2021

Aptean Staff Writer
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As more and more businesses embrace logistics software to power their digital transformation journey, the number of options has boomed. Whether you’re looking for a transport management system, omnichannel fulfillment software, an ePOD system or route optimization software - it can be an overwhelming experience. Every vendor is proclaiming to offer the most innovative features. Declaring that they have the broadest range of functionality. Boasting that they’re number one in their industry. And promising you the most spectacular benefits.

So, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff? How do you know who’s bluffing and who really has the full house?

When it seems like every vendor has a different checklist, it can be difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison and find the right technology for your business.

Your best move is to ask the vendors to show you, rather than tell you – with a demo of the software.

Clearly, no one has the time (or honestly, the will) to watch 20 logistics software demos. So, whether you’re considering a first foray into the marketplace, or looking to upgrade your current system, asking a short-list of providers for a live demo can really help you smooth out the selection process. This way, you can realistically assess whether the functionality and optional extras are actually a good fit for your business requirements. 

Let’s take route optimization software as an example and do a deeper dive into how a live demo can help you make the right software selection.

Show Me

Most route planning software companies (and software vendors in general) will offer a demo of what their package does—and some are more detailed than others. Any demo, however, typically involves you doing some work up front to define the requirements, and it’s really worth doing so. The vendor will likely start with a discovery call, during which they’ll help you figure out what basic data they need in order to put together an initial demo. Most will use this basic data to generate a demonstration of what the software could do for you in fairly broad terms—what’s likely in terms of efficiencies and savings in your particular case.

Then, if it seems like it’s going to be a good fit, the vendor will put together a far more comprehensive demo that can last two to three hours. In the case of route optimization software, this drills into some of the details of your day-to-day operations and delivery challenges, such as delivery time windows and driver and road restrictions. In that case, it will take a day or two to put together the data required. Again, it’s thoroughly worth it. Think of it as getting a free session of consulting.

Of course, a logistics software demo can’t cover everything. Keep in mind that it takes a minimum of two weeks, and more often four to six weeks, for a software vendor to model all of those complex business requirements and work closely with your operations team to make final calibrations to a solution before it's ready for rollout. A software vendor should approach that initial demo as an opportunity to present the “art of the possible.” You should clearly communicate your operation's most critical needs and requirements, and ask the vendor to demonstrate features that can address those specific issues with the software's core functionality.

In any case, to make the most of your demo, it’s not enough to just gather data. It’s also a good idea to ask these critical questions:

Can it meet my specific business requirements?

In our experience, a lot of potential customers ask us to show how our software will optimize their routes. But our question in turn is: What do you do every day that makes your business unique? We can then start to determine how to build the best routes for that specific business.

Some routing software tools simply won’t have the flexibility you need for your operational demands. For example, most route optimization software allows for constraints such as time windows, driver hours, truck capacity and so on. But you might need it to allow you the flexibility of determining that two deliveries should be made back-to-back because they’re in the same mall.

Or, take another example of a food wholesaler that cannot put sacks of flour in the same truck or truck compartment as a load of onions because the flour will become contaminated with the onion odor. The routing software vendor should be able to show you how you can easily do that.

How will it affect other internal processes in my business? 

Advanced route optimization software does a great deal more than save you money on transportation costs; it also offers significant opportunities to improve other business functions. For example, if you can achieve a route plan quicker than before, that may mean you can carry out your planning process later in the day. In turn, you can then offer your customers a later order cut-off time – giving you a competitive advantage. Or, more reliable delivery schedules can mean fewer where’s-my-order queries, leaving customer service staff freed up to deal with more strategic problems or challenges. A demonstration of the software will show you exactly how these gains can be achieved.

How much will it save?

Of course, you’ll be interested in the savings you’ll make from implementing the route optimization software—in time, in miles, in your fleet size and dollars. The vendor’s feedback here might allow you to calculate a rough ROI. It’s important to remember that you can only arrive at these figures after you’ve ascertained exactly how the software tools will flex to fit your specific business needs.

Rethinking the Rules

It’s possible you won’t need routing software that allows for rethinking the pre-set rules. But what makes a route optimization software program truly advanced is the ability to create and change rules as needed, offering a “rule wizard” that makes it easy to do so. There’s no better way to determine whether this is possible, and whether you actually need it, than during a demo. For example, it might make sense to group together all drops that are on one side of a major highway, then the other, avoiding time-consuming or stressful criss-crossings. The best route planning software for you will allow you to configure your routes in this way if you need to, without finding yourself pitted against the standard configuration of the system and requiring costly software changes.

Always bear in mind that it’s a mistake to go into the vendor selection process thinking the work is all on the vendor’s side. You’ll get the most accurate information from vendors, and the best results from a logistics software demo, if you dig into the vendor’s offering and can ask specific questions pertaining to things like functionality, systems integration and training.

The Final Step… Customer Referrals

After you’ve done your due diligence with any logistics software vendor, and run a demo with them, you should ask for current customer references. Checking in with a company from your industry or a comparable sector that is willing to give you good information about the advantages they gained (and problems they encountered) will give you the real-world reassurance that the software can do what the vendor says it can. Installing transportation software, whether it’s for fleet planning or proof of delivery, is often part of a much wider digital transformation process designed to improve operational efficiency, or boost growth or competitiveness. Getting insight into how implementation changed another company’s transportation operation can be highly useful during your research phase.

Implementing transportation software is a momentous business decision, and it’s worth spending the time to get it right. Make sure any potential vendor is able to show you exactly what they can do for you with a live logistics software demo.

Are you ready for a live demo that can show you the transformational possibilities of route optimization software from Aptean Routing & Scheduling? If so, contact one of our routing experts today.

Alternatively, you can check out our range of software solutions designed specifically for distribution and retail businesses like yours.

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