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MapMechanics new version StreetServicer 4 streamlines street level scheduling

New version adds multi-route optimising, ‘preferred routing’ and user-configurability

Scheduling the movements of people who make multiple calls on the same roads or streets, whether driving or on foot, can be handled more efficiently than ever before with a substantially enhanced solution from MapMechanics.

The company’s StreetServicer, already a byword for this very specific type of scheduling, has been revised from the ground up for version 4, and includes a range of enhancements to improve its performance, add new capabilities and make it more versatile. StreetServicer is equally suitable for scheduling people on foot and people in vehicles.

StreetServicer can be used for activities such as door-drop media distribution and sales management, meter-reading, milk deliveries and refuse collection – operations that are affected significantly by the planning of calls within given sections of street (the number of times the user crosses the road, for instance). This is very different from conventional scheduling systems, which tend to consider each call as an individual point on a road link. Often StreetServicer is used in high-density urban settings, though it is equally effective on much longer stretches of road.

The route-planning engine behind the system has been completely rewritten for version 4, and is now based on an advanced algorithm that provides even better routing optimisation. StreetServicer can now optimise routes over road networks with up to 1,000 links – more than are likely to be encountered in the vast majority of applications where it is used.

In a significant new development, MapMechanics’ StreetServicer 4 can now automatically create multiple routes if the task involves more visits than one person or vehicle could achieve. It helps determine the optimum number of resources to cover the ground, and decides which roads they should cover. In effect, it automatically creates "mini-territories" within the area of interest.

In doing this, StreetServicer 4 takes account of the minimum and maximum work load that each person or vehicle can take on (the weight they can carry, vehicle capacity, distance travelled and time available). Its objective at all times is to produce the least-cost solution.

To give operators even more control of the way it allocates work, StreetServicer 4 makes it possible to produce routes where the priority is either the time taken or the distance covered – or that strike a balance between the two. It also introduces the concept of a fixed cost per route, allowing user-determined cost components to be taken into account.

For users who are amending or updating existing routes, and might want to avoid disturbing an established pattern of operations, StreetServicer 4 introduces a powerful new concept called a "preferential penalty". This allows the user to stipulate that specific existing routes must be retained when the system runs through its re-optimisation process, even if objectively the result might at first sight seem less than optimum.

This is invaluable for operations where some staff might need to be kept on routes that they already know – perhaps because they have already established relationships with customers, or have special knowledge, skills or special equipment relating to particular business activities or call points.

StreetServicer 4 is smarter at taking account of the direction of travel and the rule of the road (driving on the left or right), which means its optimisation algorithm is even better equipped to save staff from having to cross busy roads unnecessarily. This feature, always a key component of StreetServicer, is useful not just on purely practical grounds, but also because it helps employers to respect health and safety demands.

A new feature that helps operators fine-tune StreetServicer to suit their specific activities is its ability to take as its input either a list of addresses or a list of street segments (road links). Addresses will be more useful for activities such as deliveries and collections, whereas road links are more useful where the street itself is the focus (for instance, for winter gritting, street cleaning or tree lopping).

Finally, StreetServicer 4 is better suited to route-modelling tasks. MapMechanics has enhanced its ability to take account of business rules, allowing users to create "looped" routes, or to stipulate the start and end point of each route. Alternatively, StreetServicer itself can determine the most appropriate start and end points for its routes.

StreetServicer 4 can output schedules in a variety of formats to suit the operator’s needs – whether on screen or in print, on desktop computer or on handheld devices. It can also print out maps of each route to help direct delivery or collection staff between calls.

MapMechanics’ managing director, Chris Greenwood, comments: "Historically, scheduling visits in a confined pattern of streets has presented a challenge for both operators and programmers, but StreetServicer has proved definitively that this work can benefit enormously from scheduling optimisation. Version 4 takes its abilities to a new level."

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