Hauliers and other organisations with palletised goods to move can now make much more informed and cost-effective decisions about which individual pallets to deliver on their own vehicles and which to subcontract to a pallet network or similar third-party carrier.
The development comes by way of new pallet network functionality available with the latest version of TruckStops, the leading routing and scheduling optimisation system from MapMechanics.
"Delivering pallets singly or in small batches is an age-old problem for hauliers," says Mary Short, MapMechanics’ director and founder. "Frequently their resource base and depot network will have local or regional strengths, so it will be much more cost-effective for them to do their own deliveries in some geographical areas than others. But the challenge for them is how to differentiate between these two types of consignment cost-effectively."
She adds: "Operators have developed many strategies to deal with the problem, but these can be very imprecise. It can be hard for traffic planners to make the right assumption for every consignment – especially in very busy, intensive transport operations where load volumes are high, and many consignments may be ‘on the margin’ for viable in-house handling."
Pallet Network TruckStops takes the guesswork out of this process. Moreover, it handles the scheduling of in-house movements and pallet network consignments in a single process. Details of all consignments are fed into Pallet Network TruckStops, and the resultant output is made up of delivery rounds for the in-house fleet, plus consignments for the third-party networks. There is no need to run the planning process twice – though the user can update, revise or re-run the plan as the situation evolves.
The system takes advantage of TruckStops’ ability to store numerous operating parameters for reference during the optimisation process – your own fleet type, vehicle size and capacity, cost base, service-level requirements and so on.
To these features has now been added the ability to reference the chosen pallet network’s rate table, which can be accessed via an existing in-house transport management system. This means the latest available data can always be used in calculations.
When Pallet Network TruckStops performs its optimisation, it consults this cost data along with the other parameters, omitting pallets from its in-house schedules where it discovers that overall it would be more cost-effective to pass them to a carrier.
Because Pallet Network TruckStops is viewing the transport operation in the round, the way it handles goods for a given destination will not always be the same, but will be dictated by the pattern of each day’s deliveries. It will continue to be driven by the objective of ensuring that the journeys made by the operator’s own vehicles are as cost-effective as possible.
This makes it very much more precise (and hence cost-efficient) than traditional methods of planning for subcontracted goods, in which pallets might always be "farmed out" if their destination falls outside a pre-determined distance band around the operator’s depot.
As always with TruckStops, the operator retains the ability to intervene manually whenever required. For instance, working interactively on screen, the traffic planner can transfer a consignment from one route to another, or from an in-house route to the pallet network pool. The rest of the route will be adjusted automatically to suit, and the costs will be recalculated.
This would be invaluable, for example, if there was some reason not apparent in the system setup for handling a specific delivery in-house (a specific customer request, perhaps, or a need to collect a return load in the vicinity).
This new capability comes on top of a range of advances in the latest version 4.1 of TruckStops. They include the ability to schedule delivery or collection journeys taking into account journey time variation by vehicle type and time of day; to use a technology called Smart Routing to produce schedules more efficiently and improve performance, particularly with street-level mapping; and to display maps of calculated routes more quickly, streamlining the scheduling task for operators.