Gas, trucks, delivery drivers. As a wholesale distributor, one of the many cost centers you have to manage is your delivery operation.
And it’s not cheap. According to an American Transport Research Institute study, driver wages and fuel costs account for almost 60% of your delivery operation’s total cost per mile.
Another analysis found that last-mile delivery, or delivery from a distribution warehouse to a customer, accounts for 53% of transportation cost. That often makes it the most expensive and laborious part of the shipping supply chain.
Now imagine the impact to your bottom line if you could reduce your delivery cost per mile. That’s the magic of route optimization software. And the best B2B ecommerce platforms provide it.
By optimizing your drivers’ delivery routes, you can reduce windshield time and miles driven. And provide more on-time deliveries and better customer service, and ultimately make each drop more profitable for your business.
Ready to learn more about the glories of a perfectly-optimized route? Read on.
What Is Route Optimization?
Routing is the process of finding a path between two or more locations. If you’ve used a consumer-focused service such as Google Maps, you’re familiar with it on a basic level.
Route optimization is the process by which you determine the best route between two or more locations. But what does best mean? Fastest? Shortest? Most cost-effective?
Let us explain. If you’re an individual trying optimizing the route for your work commute, it’s a relatively easy proposition. You select your mode of transportation, then check off a couple of options based on your preferences.
You may want to avoid highways and tolls, for instance. You may also want to account for factors like time of day, number of traffic lights, intersections, and turns. All of those can contribute to a commute that may be short in terms of distance, but take a long time.
Or let’s say you’re taking the bus. You may want the fewest numbers or transfers or the shortest walking distance between transfers.
That’s route optimization at a fundamental level. It’s how we streamline our movement. And it’s hugely beneficial. American drivers wasted 6.9 billion hours and over 3 billion gallons of gas stuck in traffic in 2014. That’s the type of morass route optimization chips away at.
But there’s more complexity to route optimization on a commercial level. And much more if you’re handling routing for an entire fleet of delivery trucks.
B2B Wholesale Route Optimization
In a wholesale distribution environment, it gets complicated. You’ve got multiple vehicles making multiple stops. You’ve got to account for driver availability and schedules, delivery time windows, and service time between drops. Like unloading and confirming receipt of the order before getting back on the road.
There are also vehicle capabilities to think about. Whether or not a truck is refrigerated or not, and, if so, what that means in terms of time-on-road. And the nature of the shipment itself, like if the products are perishable or shelf-stable.
All of these factors multiply the complexity of route optimization by an order of magnitude. Delivery route optimization is a tall task, then. That’s why it’s probably best left to our new route optimization software overlords. Hail!
In all seriousness, though, optimizing your delivery routes is good for your business, your employees, and your customers. Using a route planner app or route optimization software is a no-brainer. It’s one of the clearest examples of technology making our lives easier with no downside. It’s just a straight-up better option than manually wrestling with so many different variables.
So, which route optimization software should you choose? What are some of the characteristics of good route optimization software? Glad you asked.
Best Route Optimization Software for Wholesale Distributors
You may be tempted to apply your personal experience to your B2B definition and business strategy and think, “well, my phone has Google Maps, I’m good.” But think again. If you’re hopping in your Subaru and going to get a burger, a consumer-focused trip planning app does the trick.
But when you add the complexity of a dozen or more trucks and hundreds, if not thousands of deliveries, the variables are too many. The stakes are too high for that amount of uncertainty and risk. Consumer-focused software will not cut it.
The best route optimization software should fulfill the needs of every stake holder in your delivery operation. From your sales people, to your fulfillment center. From your fleet managers to your truck drivers.
Use the following checklist to make sure the route optimization software you’re looking at fits the bill.
- Web and mobile. The best route optimization software should have a version available on the web. We always recommend web-based (AKA cloud-based) systems. They’re accessible anytime, from anywhere, as long as you have access to a web browser. And they don't care much which operating system your computer uses. That means your fleet managers, sitting at a computer in your distribution center, can easily optimize the utilization of your entire fleet. What’s more, a mobile app is instrumental for your delivery truck drivers. Not only to ensure efficient deliveries, but so they can communicate with the head office. And adapt on the fly if any delivery or route changes are needed.
- Multi-everything. You’re managing the delivery operation of a wholesale manufacturer or distributor. You cannot manage it all. You need a delivery route optimization software that also manages. Multiple vehicles making multiple trips, each trip with multiple drops. And multiple routes for each driver—from drop to drop—that takes it all into consideration. If your route optimization software can’t flexibly handle the ballooning variables of modern B2B shipping, by accounting for a shifting multitude of factors, move on.
- Mapping data and visualization. There are two key components that need to be executed perfectly for route optimization software to be the best. The first part is how it does the work. This where the mapping data comes into play, as the algorithms determine the best routes. The second is the providing of actionable next steps. This is where you get to visualize, on a map, the suggestions the delivery route optimization software is making on which trucks should go where and in what order.
- Offline capabilities. For the people at the distribution center, this isn’t a huge concern. After all, they’re sitting in front of a computer with a hardwired internet connection. For your delivery truck drivers, it’s a completely different story. They’re on the road, covering great distances, going in and out of tunnels. Who knows when they’ll drop in and out of cellular coverage. Offline capabilities make darn sure that your drivers can download and access the day’s routes on their phones—regardless of cellular reception.
- End-to-end solution. Hands down, the best route planning software for wholesale distributors is one that is integrated into your B2B ecommerce platform. This lets you receive, plan, and fulfill orders all from one handy interface. That interface handles your digital storefront, transaction and payment functionality, digital catalog, and more. You’ll be using a B2B ecommerce platform anyway because the benefits of B2B ecommerce platforms are legion. So why not pick one that optimizes your routes, too?
BlueCart is an industry-leading, all-in-one B2B ecommerce platform for wholesale suppliers. When it’s not helping thousands of businesses streamline their digital presences, payment and transaction functionality, and digital wholesale catalogs, it’s optimizing routes in real-time for wholesale delivery fleets across the country. When B2B businesses use BlueCart for routing optimization—among other things—they save money and they grow their client base. It really is that simple. Book a demo and we’ll show you exactly how. And feel free to check out our B2B route optimization guide.