Route Optimisation or Route Planning – how to know the difference.

It’s easy to create a plan.  The real challenge is to create the optimal plan.

Route Planning

Route planning is the process of arranging a set of destinations into a specific order, so that they can be visited by travelling the shortest distance.  For example, I have to collect 10 packages from 10 locations and return to my starting point  – what is the shortest route?

Route Scheduling, often used interchangeably with route planning,  involves the planning of multiple routes taking into account the availability of resources such as vehicles and drivers.  Typically, scheduling is implemented as operations expand by layering new routes on top of existing routes.  While this approach may seem logical, it can result in high levels of inefficiency –  particularly in an enterprise setting with hundreds of vehicles and thousands of destinations.

Route Optimisation

Route optimisation provides more value by answering a more complex question.  It certainly involves planning and scheduling but it is not working to find a single solution or the ‘next best’ solution. True optimisation involves assessing ALL possible solutions and recommending the most cost effective one based on defined business objectives.

For context, in the example above, there are more than 300,000 possible roundtrips which can be taken to visit the 10 locations.  The number of possible answers increases exponentially as more locations are added so that for 15 locations, it can exceed 87 billion.  With 57 locations, for a single vehicle, there are Quattuorvgintillion (1 followed by 75 zeros) possible round trips! This is all before we add cost factors and complexities such as vehicle capacities, time windows and multiple destinations. For more on the science behind this, check out this blog post.

The role of software

Clearly it is not possible for a human to complete such calculations in any reasonable length of time and therefore route optimisation requires enterprise software with advanced mathematical algorithms and scalable compute power.  Until recently, only the largest organisations had the budget and resources to implement such technology. This has changed with the advent of cloud-native route optimisation applications.

In summary, route planning is an essential component of route optimisation but they are not the same thing.  Real business value comes from true business optimisation.

To learn how OptaHaul is providing enterprise route optimisation solutions, specialised for milk collection transport, please get in touch today.