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Route Optimisation for Retail Merchandisers

In the last few blogs I have been writing about route optimisation for retail delivery vehicles, using a furniture shop as an example of how to to achieve significant return on investment. Of course the principles apply to commercial travellers.

Take the example of a retail merchandiser. There are hundreds of people travelling around the country daily visiting supermarkets, dairies, pharmacies, liquor stores and pretty much every type of retail store. A large percentage of these people have a mix of urban and rural stores in their sales territory that they visit on cycles. Some of them are regular cycles that they repeat periodically, others may be more ad hoc.

Typically retail merchandisers change jobs or territories fairly often, which means that they will not be familiar with where their clients are, or what the best order is to visit them in. They are often under a lot of pressure to make as many visits in a day or on a trip as possible.

Route2GO is the perfect tool for these people and their Managers. Just like the retail delivery people in the last blogs, there are many factors that determine Return On Investment.

The first and most obvious one is travel distance and time. The obvious one is to look at a day’s calls, calculating the best order to do the visits in, putting in the start location which could be the office, warehouse or even the person’s home and then the end location. If it is local and just a day trip, it is going to be pretty easy to calculate the order. This will provide travel time and distance. It could also include driving directions.

If it is a longer trip which includes overnight stays, you could look at the entire trip as if it was on one day to optimise the entire trip and then cut it into chunks for each day. One of the things that is often difficult for a traveller is estimating the travel times. Barring traffic accidents, congestion etc, we can provide a very good estimate of travel time. The traffic information itself we also provide by way of the Roadwatch and AA Maps websites. For $1.95 you can also subscribe to real time traffic alerts which you can receive by SMS or email for a 4-day trip at AA Traffic. This would give you some advance warning if there are any real issues. For example over the last couple of months, many highways including State Highway 1 have had road closures due to slips and floods. Being forewarned means that you can plan ahead.

Now that you know the travel time from one retailer to the next, you can start to do some planning. In merchandising their are obviously a variety of types of call. Some are easy to plan because it is simply shelf management and the merchandiser will know which products are ranged and have an idea of how much time a call will take. In some cases they don’t even need to see the manager. By doing a spreadsheet similar to the one in this blog, you can get a pretty good idea of what you can achieve.

Obviously where there is actual selling going on, or even getting orders signed, there can be extra delays, waiting to see the buyer and time on site will vary. This comes down to experience.

As per previous examples, the immediate tangible ROI is that Route2GO can tell you the best order to make the visits in and advise you of time and distance. This can save you tie and money and we invite you to contact us and send us a couple of trips in the order they were done in and we can optimise them and return them to you so you can see the order we would recommend and what the savings would be. There is no cost or obligation to you for this evaluation.

The next obvious benefit is establishing whether, with the time saved, you can either make more calls in a day or maximise the time spent on the calls to find ways to generate more revenue. Perhaps managing shelf facings, recommending new products or doing product knowledge training. We all know that if you don’t manage your shelf facings, they can shrink as your competitors products squeeze them out. Another issue is out of stocks. In today’s economy many retailers manage their inventory on a Just In Time basis. That means that if you do not meet your call cycle, you could have a situation where you are not only missing out of sales, but the out of stock situation could be introducing the retailers’ customers to your competitors alternatives.

Optimising and planning your trips, especially out of the city means that you can also do some advance planning, making appointments with buyers, with a reasonable degree of certainty as to when they can expect you. This is of course a professional way of doing business that will help your customer relationships and give you a competitive advantage. Lets face it, everyone is extra busy these days and the easier you are to do business with, the more likely you are to get an unfair share of the shelf space.

Probably the best part of Route2GO is that it is really easy to use. You don’t need a specialist, just the ability to create a list, with addresses of the customers you intend to visit. There is no up front cost, you pay as you go, which means that it pays for itself from day one. Why not give it a try for your next trip?

October 5, 2010 Posted by | AA Maps, AA Traffic, Delivery, driving, driving directions, Freight, Furniture Delivery, geosmart, location based services, map tools, maps, Marketing, new zealand, new zealand maps, petrol, Retail Profit, Return On Delivery, ROI, route optimisation, Route2GO, Sales, software, Uncategorized, Web Map, web maps | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Travelling Salesman Problem

GeoSmart now has a solution available for people wanting to know which order to visit their clients in, so that they can keep time and travel costs to a minimum. This is a form of Route Optimisation known as the Travelling Salesman Problem. GeoSmart also offers complex Route Optimisation under the banner of Route2GO, but that is another story.

With the price of petrol now permanently above NZ$2 a litre and time at a premium, this tool can easily assist people in making the most of their travel.  It could be a delivery truck working out the order of their deliveries and in reverse order how to load the truck. It could be a sales person working out the best way to make their sales calls.

In the illustration you can see that we set the first and last addresses as fixed. In other words we are defining where we start and finish for the day, they don’t have to be the same, the last one could be a motel yo are staying at for the night and the first one might be your home or office. You could just fix the start point and be flexible on the end point and then go to the AA Maps website to decide where to stay for the night and even make the booking before you leave.

In the illustration, the sales person guessed an order in which to do the calls, but the optimised route cut 34km from the route and at the (adjustable) per km rate resulted in savings of $10 on the trip.

This tool doesn’t just have to be used for a set of destinations. It could also be used as a trip/price calculator. For example one of our new clients is putting this tool (slightly modified so that you can’t edit the price per km which only he can do on his site) so that people can get their own quote on a delivery job without having to ring the company.

Many companies pay staff or contractors on the basis of an agreed distance, it could be for commuting, or for visiting clients, patients etc. This tool can calculate the ‘fastest’ route between clients and will deliver a consistent result that can reduce arguments and deliver an equitable result.

There are other standard features to this tool, for example click on any of the letters denoting locations and the map will instantly zoom to that location so you can see it better. The maps are dynamic and do of course have full pan and zoom functionality.

This optimisation is possible because GeoSmart has a full turn restriction database for New Zealand so when it calculates these directions it knows all about one-way streets, dual carriageways, no right turn, no left turn etc. This is in fact the same database used by te leading car navigation brands including TomTom, Navman, Siemens VDO, BMW, Ford, Honda,Horizon and Nav N Go.

If you have a route optimisation problem, please send us an email to info@geosmart .co.nz or follow the directions on our Contact Page.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | car navigation, cartography, Delivery, driving, Freight, gps, maps, new zealand, petrol, Sales | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment