Route planning is a complex problem depending on company-specific constraints. The unlocking potentials of DP supported route planning, demands powerful algorithms as well as a smooth integration of the planning into the scheduling. With a given distribution structure and the delivery strategies put in place, route planning and the fleet planning are critical to optimise overall distribution.
Its use in operational planning
Hundreds of correct decisions have to be made to achieve properly functioning transport processes: orders have to be allocated to the vehicles, useful routes have to be generated from the bundle of orders and the fleet structure has to be adapted to meet the requirements, this means purchasing decisions have to be carefully thought out.
Meanwhile many highly developed applications are available on the market which are well suited for standard problems. But route planning and disposition often demand special requirements which can not be covered by standard solutions. Fraunhofer IML provides support for such problems.
Our support of projects in this field ranges from the analysis of disposition processes, route organisations and fleet structures through the development of disposition strategies, the creation of master route planning and the optimisation of fleet structures to the development of tailor-made planning software which is adjusted to existing system environments.
The development of the planning software is based on a programme system to optimise one-day routes, which has been developed within a research project. The most important classical algorithms of route planning and new strategies of optimisation have been implemented in this programme system and they have been analysed with regard to their efficiency and operational spectrum.
The consideration of restrictions is in practice an essential feature of a good route planning system. Amongst others the following established restrictions have been implemented in the developed programme system:
- Time frames of clients,
- limited duration of route,
- consideration of a heterogeneous fleet,
- restricted size of vehicles when delivering certain customers
The consideration of further restrictions is easily achieved. The system is hardware-independent due to the use of programming standards and is adaptable to specific requirements. There is a structure to create customized route planning systems, which offers the best guarantee for a system covering the diversity of variants of route planning problems in practice.
Use in strategic planning
Route planning is now increasingly used in projects to optimise the locations of depots, too. Several scenarios of allocation of location and area are being evaluated from real order data of the past within a representative time period (one month or more). Delivery and pick-up routes are being calculated for each day of the period by using concrete data, which would have resulted from each decision of allocation of location and customer. So it is possible to evaluate planning scenarios from realistic values for the cost intensive field of routing in the area of the depot. The routing costs and the number of vehicles needed per depot emerge from this. The use of route planning for strategic purpose improves planning considerably, compared to traditional methods, estimating the costs by route samples or other figures.
Used for billing purposes
The route planning software of Fraunhofer IML can also be used to calculate the routes given to external clients, as an independent tool. Through current order data, the software detects the necessary operational periods and routes, taking account of peripheral conditions like individual time frames of delivery, waiting times (loading/unloading) and rates. It supports determining a decent wage for these routes, no matter how the route has actually been made.