06 December 2020

Why companies forget to pre-plan their sales & delivery routes

Submitted by Vanessa Rogers
Why companies forget to pre-plan their sales & delivery routes

There are two main reasons why your company may not yet have invested in master-route planning, says Dan Palay, director at Opsi Systems, which is the product owner of MasterRouter.

Firstly, you may not be aware that it is possible to pre-plan your routes for best effect; or, secondly, it may feel too daunting to combine and optimise complex networks of sales and delivery routes. The good news is that it has often been shown that the long-term cost savings certainly justify the upfront effort in data collection and process changes.

Master route software is designed to maximise productivity and streamline operations for your company holistically. While cost savings can be achieved by planning today for tomorrow, the really significant savings can occur when strategically planning a month or even six ahead and making sure that you use the right number of resources to achieve your visit strategy.

This strategic pre-planning exercise allows you to look at a variety of scenarios so that you can find the best balance between keeping your costs as low as possible, while maintaining high levels of customer service. Because salaries are probably the biggest expense in any sales organisation, streamlining the number of sales reps, delivery truck drivers or field workers – so that you’re working with a perfectly sized team – can provide consistent savings; not just the incremental ones you may achieve by having them follow better routes on a daily basis. While salaries are usually the biggest cost component, a reduction in vehicles and mileage can also provide huge savings.

A balancing act
Another item of efficiency to consider is whether you can balance the effort that is made across your sales team. At Opsi Systems, we have often seen the case of severe imbalance between the workloads of salespeople, e.g. one salesperson being allocated an average of 10 hours per day, while another averages just six hours.

What happens when it comes to key performance indicators is that the guy doing the six hours of work appears to be performing really well (i.e. visiting everyone on his list and getting all his orders in), while the one who is working the 10 hours appears to be dropping calls and is judged a poor performer, even though he’s having to work almost twice as hard. A good system will help you to balance the workload as fairly as possible across your team members.

Rising above the competition
A significant benefit of master-route software is that it has been designed to help you look at what the impact would be on total cost of a range of different strategies – such as if you visit a customer twice versus four times per month, or if you should spend longer at each particular customer. Having the software in place will allow your company to be more deliberate about how their sales/delivery strategies knit together. Additionally, companies can come up with a sales/delivery strategy that they think will work but which they don’t actually have to put into practice to see the eventual cost considerations. They can model the particular strategy right inside the software and see what the effect will be.

With a tool like this in place, you can run a range of possible iterations and see ahead of time what your ideal number of people would be, the number of kilometres you could save and what that overall strategy would cost you. It’s possible to model different strategies and see what works best for your needs. One iteration may be slightly more expensive but take a shorter time to complete, with the benefits being that staff members are curtailed from working overtime, and you score efficiencies that put you ahead of any competitors.

Yes, it’s definitely a balancing act in route optimisation for sales teams – often called “beat optimisation” – and in delivery route planning. For example, while you may achieve better revenue streams if you make more sales calls, those extra sales calls won’t come free. Your target market may also need to be segmented, whereby the higher-level or more sophisticated sales people only visit the higher revenue stores. They may also  need to do what’s called “visiting down”, if a silver store happens to be located right next to a gold store. Otherwise, you would have to send a mid-level salesperson into that area just to visit one random venue.

It’s all about building your visit plans in such a way that you respect the constraints applicable to each category – such as level of store – while still refraining from wasting unnecessary resources, i.e. sending multiple people into the same area without due cause.

Future-perfect offering
While other software in the Opsi Systems group is able to accommodate the full cycle of daily and multi-day planning, our master route software is geared towards taking your universe of stores or outlets and dividing them up so that the ideal future-planning scenarios can be created. Of course, some of the companies we service, particularly in the FMCG space, have the whole software suite in place – to cover both the day-to-day planning and the future-perfect offering that is our master-route software’s speciality.

Balancing what’s best for your business, can allow enterprise companies to make large savings. One of our enterprise clients, a large beer brand, reports a reduction of 300 000km per month, and a decrease in their sales force of approximately 300 people.

We find there is a perception out there that this sort of system is really difficult to implement and run. There is some truth in this, so we often start by running scenarios on an outsourced basis, meaning that no highly trained in-house IT team is needed.

Our ideal client is a big company with a significant delivery/sales footprint, which is already reasonably mature in its technology adoption. But, even then, such firms may not have the capability to run this system without assistance. So, our outsourced service performs particularly well in the initial stages of engagement, with many customers opting for a fully automated offering at a later stage.

Engagement level for the choosing
Our approach with master-route software is to offer businesses a range of engagement levels, from proof of concept to fully automated planning. Read on for what these levels each encompass and do not hesitate to get in touch for more information on any of the below, or simply to progress from one level to another.

  • At level one, we do the planning on your behalf.
  • At level two, we provide you with a software license and train your users on how to plan in house, without back-end integration.
  • At level three, we build the pull-and-push integration into your own back-end system.
  • At level four, all your pre-planning is accomplished automatically for you via the comprehensive master-route software API.

For more on the MasterRouter software platform, a division of Opsi Systems, visit: https://www.masterrouter.com

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Working alongside a select group of skilled associates and freelancers, owner Vanessa Rogers has clocked up over two decades in the print and digital media industries. She believes editorial providers should be adaptable, accurate and show keen time-keeping when it comes to deadlines.