In the current challenging economic environment, priorities for mail and express carriers include winning and retaining the most profitable business, planning and managing deliveries at both macro and micro level in the most cost-effective way, and meeting or exceeding customers’ service level requirements.
As carriers merge, buy out rivals and jostle for market position, managing sales and operating territories becomes increasingly vital, MapMechanics has put special emphasis on its territory management portfolio, which has been used to good effect by operators such as City Link and TNT. Tools now available from the company help carriers to balance delivery locations between territories, and allocate work load to the most suitable depots. This is especially useful where merged depot networks have to be superimposed and rationalised, and traffic needs to be divided cost-effectively among them.
Drivetime analysis tools allow carriers to automate the task of working out the optimum depots for serving newly won or acquired customers, and to model the catchment area of existing or proposed depots. The latest drivetime calculation systems from MapMechanics include refinements such as the ability to specify the direction of travel (invaluable for dealing with peak-time traffic flows) and to take account of banned turns and other driving restrictions.
For operators such as parcels carriers and postal businesses making multiple delivery drops or collections in relatively small areas, MapMechanics’ StreetServicer could be the ideal solution. This helps optimise deliveries at street segment level, and helps users avoid unnecessary repeat visits to points of delivery that lie on the same sections of road.
It does this by turning conventional scheduling wisdom on its head. Instead of geocoding each delivery point separately, then scheduling visits to them, StreetServicer groups together calls that are physically close together, and allocates them to street segments first before scheduling them. The result: savings in distance travelled and cost.
Address details for collections and deliveries have to be correct in the first place, and MapMechanics offers a comprehensive range of address matching and verification tools capable of finding addresses from postcodes and pinpointing their exact location, including products from Capscan and QAS.
Whatever routing and scheduling system is used, carriers are likely to need to convey delivery instructions quickly and accurately to drivers, even when they are already out in the field. The MapMechanics Mobile suite has been developed to meet this requirement; it enables operators to transmit schedules to drivers wirelessly in real time, and to amend the call sequence later if necessary.
Route instructions can also be transmitted to the driver’s PDA or mobile device in correct sequence, and navigation instructions to each successive call point can be presented to the driver automatically.
Efficient vehicle routing and scheduling lies at the heart of most carrier operations, and TruckStops, MapMechanics’ core product for this market, is equally suited to network modelling, periodic fixed-route optimisation and dynamic day-to-day route planning. The latest version of TruckStops reflects recent updates that take account of the increasingly stringent and complex UK and EU limits on driving and working time.
Many express carriers are also active members of national pallet delivery networks, so a new TruckStops function aimed at pallet deliveries is expected to attract particular interest at the MEDS event. TruckStops can now be configured to identify local or regional traffic that can be delivered cost-effectively by the company’s own vehicles, ensuring that these are despatched full-loaded whenever possible, and to allocate traffic for more distant destinations to the pallet network.
Supporting MapMechanics’ many enhanced solution sets for the carrier market is the wide range of mapping, geodemographic and business data available from the company. These include mapping from suppliers such as AA and NAVTEQ, complete with features such as speed limits and typical real-world road speeds, making them ideal both for vehicle tracking applications and in network modelling and route-planning.