October 28, 2019
Everyone has heard someone say, "Work smart, not hard." Route optimization is a textbook case in point. Route optimization can not only help you eliminate hundreds of hours of drive time and thousands of gallons of gas, it can even allow you to service 1-2 extra stops a day for each technician. In this post, we will explain exactly what route optimization is, as well as, its interesting history.
What Exactly is Route Optimization?
There are three concepts which are important to get familiar with:
Single Route Optimization – This is the process of taking an existing route with 10-20 stops, and figuring out the best order to visit them in. To do this effectively, driving directions, road conditions, and appointment times should be considered.
Multi-Route Optimization – The is the process of taking potentially thousands of stops and figuring out the best days, times, and in what order to see them based on customer preferences and due dates. Again, to do this effectively, the service must factor in the effects of driving directions, road conditions, and appointment times. This is known as intelligent routing.
Terrible Route Optimization – This is when one or both above tools are used as a rebranded Google implementation, or an in-house solution which doesn't account for any of the parameters which would make the service effective. If they are advertising that route optimization is free, you can safely assume they either don't understand how route optimization works, or they just advertise it to sound cool.
The benefit of single-route optimization is that, if you already have a bunch of stops confirmed on a route, then you can optimize those stops and reduce your drive time. The limitation of this is that you may have a hundred other stops in your job pool which would have been better candidates for this route AND that you had to manually schedule those stops on each route in the first place. Often this means you miss out on most of the benefits gained from optimization.
The benefits of multi-route optimization are that it can reduce your routing from being a 1-2 day process to only 20-30 minutes. Office managers tend to spend the first couple of days of each month scheduling, as well as, 1-2 hours a day managing those schedules (depending on the size of the office). Multi-route optimization can not only eliminate 30-40 hours a month spent on scheduling, but it can also reduce your route distances, drive times, and gas costs by 40% or more!
History of Route Optimization
Almost 200 years ago, there was a salesman in Europe who wanted to visit every surrounding city to pitch his products. Like any great salesman, he wanted to maximize his time selling and minimize his travel time. To accomplish this, he enlisted the help of one of his mathematician friends to come up with the shortest path between ~2,000 cities. When his friend began calculating how many different possible travel itineraries there were, he discovered very quickly that finding the perfect solution would be difficult and unlikely. A computer's calculator can't even do the math to tell how many options there are. The answer would be 20 factorial OR a 3 with 5,735 zeros behind it!
The mathematician reached out to some of the smartest minds of his time and the problem became very popular among the intellectual elite. There were even prizes and bounties offered to anyone who could solve the problem. Everyone came to the same conclusion: a solution was impossible to find. The math behind this problem shows us that even optimizing ~45 stops contains more permutations than there are atoms in the planet (1.19 x 10^56 permutations vs 1.33 x 10^50 atoms in the planet).
To make matters even more complicated, it's not enough to just look at all the stops on a 2-dimensional map of coordinates. To be effective, you must consider things like road speeds, driving directions, appointment windows and customer requirements. Just because two houses are next to each other on Google, doesn't mean that they are close to each other if there is a mountain or lake between them or if the road is closed.
This problem has come to be known as the "Traveling Salesman Problem". This is a famous problem in computer science because it is still considered unsolvable today – even with the immense amount of computing resources at our fingertips which can calculate billions of operations a second. Scientists today use a variety of methods to get close, including implementing algorithms which mimic patterns found in evolution and genetics. If you are interested in learning more about this, check out these articles: Wikipedia: Traveling Salesman Problem.
Route optimization companies have spent decades coming up with powerful solutions to the traveling salesman problem -- often within a predicted 2-5% of the best answer. While there is always room for improvement, 2-5% can shave off 40% or more of your drive time.
How Does PestRoutes Handle Route Optimization?
PestRoutes uses a proprietary combination of several of the leading 3rd party routing technologies and blends their strengths to provide a best in class solution. The partners we work with have been building route optimization tools for decades as their core business. They are billion-dollar corporations who work with the biggest names in transportation and logistics. PestRoutes can handle robust routing situations including:
- Thousands of stops in a single batch
- Driving directions and road speeds
- Time windows
- Preferred days and time
- Preferred technicians
- Technician start locations, breaks, and final destinations
- Existing set appointments
- Due dates
This allows you to route an entire month's worth of stops in 20 minutes or less while saving you thousands of dollars a month in office manager time, technician time, gas, and lost opportunities. Route optimization is complicated and complex. Leave the nerdy stuff to PestRoutes and reap the massive benefits of this technology by requesting a demo today!