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How Aptean Routing & Scheduling Enables Broadline Food Distributors to Optimize Operations

How Aptean Routing & Scheduling Enables Broadline Food Distributors to Optimize Operations

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How Aptean Routing & Scheduling Enables Broadline Food Distributors to Optimize Operations

Nov 16, 2021

Jim Endres
Trucks drive on highway interchanges.

Every day, thousands of broadline food distributors across the U.S. face the monumental task of getting the food and beverage products that consumers demand to their destinations. As an industry professional, you know that your organization relies on its drivers and fleet for the physical delivery of orders, but the coordination and planning your team performs behind the scenes are complex and delicate matters.

Food distribution businesses like yours frequently create static routes within the territories in which they operate, including in them their key customers that need consistent, regular deliveries. However, those orders can fluctuate, and you still must address the entirely separate consideration of off-day and exception orders, which make up 30 to 50% of volume on average.

There are still more variables at play, too, including varying truck capacities, warehouse staffing, customer-designated delivery windows, sales team special order requests and driver performance—it’s more than any individual staff member or internal team can tackle. Thankfully, the technology that can account for all of these factors and optimize your routing and scheduling exists.

Our solution for transportation operations, Aptean Routing & Scheduling, stands apart from the competition in a number of ways. Read on to see why.

User-Defined Feasibility Checks

As mentioned above, many broadline food distributors begin planning routes for a given day’s deliveries with their static, or “skeleton,” routes, which are largely determined by the region of operation and the business’s main customers therein. These are important as an initial foundation, but there’s much more to consider before a route can be finalized:

  • Sequencing of deliveries and expected travel time

  • Truck specifications (capacity, temperature zones and moveable bulk heads, seals, etc.)

  • Customer preferences (delivery time window, truck type, preferred driver, etc.)

  • Driver certifications and hours of service

  • Late/off day/emergency orders beyond expected deliveries

Aptean’s advanced route optimization software takes the burden of accounting for these many disparate variables off your team with user-defined feasibility checks, or the “rules wizard.” With this powerful tool, your staff can create very specific rules, or business constraints, that the Aptean routing engine will account for when automatically generating routes.

These user-defined rules, along with your fleet and driver availability, your customer delivery requirements and the days’ additional off-day orders are used to create routes that are completely optimized and executable according to your constraints in only a few minutes.

This “hybrid” routing model of workflow automation can cut as much as 70% off the time it would take to adjust routes manually, increasing your efficiency significantly and reducing distribution costs by an additional 5-15%. This functionality also eliminates the chance of human error or a failure of memory, helping to ensure customer satisfaction and consistent, on-time service.

Dispatch Smoothing

While timing the departure of your trucks might seem simple—sending them out as soon as they’re loaded means deliveries reach their destination sooner—it’s a much more complicated matter than it seems on the surface. Your distribution centers only have so many loading bays, and there are only so many warehouse staff on shift at a given time, and those factors play a big role in determining what is actually realistic for getting your vehicles on the road.

This is where the dispatch smoothing function of Aptean Routing & Scheduling shines, as it can account for the limitations of your warehouse staff and plans truck departures appropriately. Where less sophisticated systems might take a simple “as soon as possible” approach to this process, our solution is built with the analytical intelligence to create a plan that is feasible for your company and personnel.

Connected Route Planning

Let’s face it—not everything will go perfectly on every route, every time. That being said, there is valuable information to be gathered from the mistakes, confusions and complications that occur during deliveries, as it can lead to continuous improvement.

We’ve built our route planning system with a feature that facilitates this worthwhile pursuit—connected route planning. By linking with GPS and telematics systems, it collects data on driver behaviors, like harsh acceleration and braking, as well as how the actual route ran compared to the route planned by the routing and dispatch teams.

This results in a “grade” for your drivers that may indicate a debriefing is needed, at which time issues can be addressed and areas for improvement can be identified. A complete playback of the route can even be displayed for a “virtual ride-along” so that a manager and driver can discuss how to execute plans more effectively in the future and what additional considerations might warrant attention.

For example, if a customer’s time window is from 9 AM to 11 AM but your driver historically arrives between 7:30 AM and 7:45 AM, it could be that the driver has built a relationship with the customer and worked out this alternative time for delivery. Learned information like this needs to flow back to the routing team so they can update the planning parameters, feeding a continuous improvement loop and helping your operation work smarter day in day out.

What’s more, the trip status table shows how ahead or behind your drivers are in real time, allowing your employees to proactively manage customer expectations and maintain clear communication on timing.

Fully Customizable Interface and Automated Workflow

Food distributors like yours work with a wide variety of customers, from chain restaurant locations and grocery stores to small “mom-and-pop” operations, and each will have their own methods and preferences for accepting deliveries. Likewise, your employees who interact most with your systems need to have some level of control over the interface they use in order to get their tasks done most efficiently.

At Aptean, we recognize this need for flexibility in the food distribution industry, so we’ve built our route optimization solution to be fully configurable both in terms of allowing for customer-specific requests—including delivery time windows, truck types, driver certifications, preferred communication methods and more—as well as back-end user views and custom tables and fields.

Aptean Routing & Scheduling is designed to allow for complete freedom of operation, forgoing a more rigid structure for a fluid user interface that matches the dynamic nature of your organization, thus bringing the critical information to the forefront so decisions can be made.

Additional Aptean Advantages

Besides these critical differentiators that make Aptean Routing & Scheduling the clear choice for food distribution businesses that want the best back-end system for transportation management, we also have a team of experts with real industry experience, so we know the challenges you face in day-to-day operations. Meanwhile, our dedicated professional services and customer success teams always have your back should you need guidance or troubleshooting.

We’re also proud to act as a partner to our clients throughout the implementation of the system, offering advice based on knowledge of best practices and helping to establish a realistic timeline for the deployment of our platforms. And it doesn’t stop here, with our customer success team always standing at the ready after go-live. We know that the road to digital transformation is long, but we’re there to ride alongside.

Want to learn more about what Aptean Routing & Scheduling can do for your food distribution business? Reach out to us today for further information.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.