How Distributors Can Leverage Route Plan Versus Actual Analysis to Boost Profits in a Pandemic-changed World

Route Plan versus Actual

Route plan versus actual comparisons have always been important for distributors. But in today’s pandemic-changed business world, these analyses often reveal variances that are very telling and critical to understand the impact on your business.

It’s tougher now than ever to make and follow route plans. As soon as you set your routes, you may hear that one of the counties in which you deliver has just closed its restaurants and bars again—or changed them to “take-out only.” Every change in public health guidelines causes a ripple effect that impacts your delivery process.

Most of the impact comes in the form of delayed or canceled deliveries. But when cities and counties suddenly open back up, your customers expect you to be ready to support them on very short notice.

How can distribution companies like yours manage your fleet effectively during a situation that shows no signs of returning to normal anytime soon? Here are some thoughts on how to end the unpleasant surprises that so often come from plan versus actual comparisons.

How to Achieve Continuous Improvement in Your Route Plans

One reason for the huge variances is that many distributors rely on static route plans. On Monday morning, Jack delivers 10 cases to Customer A, 12 to Customer B, and 15 to Customer C. These route plans are updated periodically as customers change their orders, but they generally stay the same. COVID-19, of course, has thrown a wrench in static route plans

Distributors who want to see smaller variances in their plan versus actual comparisons often use dynamic route plans. Many of the route planning tools on the market allow you to load in all your orders and resources, set constraints, and generate plans that are designed to make the most efficient use of your drivers and trucks.

Unfortunately, most of the route planning tools on the market don’t provide reliable delivery performance data. Having accurate actual delivery data would enable you to compare your route plan (whether it’s dynamic or static) so that you can spot the inefficiencies in what you’re doing during the pandemic.

Some distributors will attempt to do ad hoc plan versus actual comparisons on individual routes, and then try to extrapolate this information to make changes to all their routes. So if a particular delivery was supposed to take 15 minutes but took 25 on the last two Fridays, they’ll adjust all similar deliveries accordingly. But that’s a risky approach—what if those Fridays were an anomaly?

To make ongoing enhancements to your route plans, you need a steady stream of actual delivery data from all your routes. Only then can you work from information that’s statistically relevant.

Determine your true costs

From there, you can start drilling down into metrics such as cases delivered per hour. You can see which customers are taking the longest to service relative to the amount of product they’re buying. You can identify your most and least profitable customers—or look across a different dimension to flag your most and least efficient drivers.

For example, you might see that in the Louisville area, it should have taken you 102,000 miles to deliver all your product last week, but it actually took 118,700. That’s a waste of 16,700 miles. At a cost of $2 per mile, that’s $33,400 in lost profit. Zero in on the efficiency of your Louisville routes and drivers, and you’ll soon see an improvement in your bottom line. Only when you can monitor how many cases your drivers are delivering per mile or per hour, you can finally determine your true cost per case.

Gridline Last Mile exposes your biggest obstacles to profitability

There’s only one route execution solution that delivers this kind of insight. Gridline Last Mile is designed to give you route performance information so that you can make better decisions. With Gridline Last Mile, you can see route performance down to the individual route, driver, or customer. Using Last Mile route analytics, your biggest obstacles to profitability are exposed on screen for driver supervisors to manage.

Of course, we can’t improve your margin on each case you sell, but we can give you the data to deliver those cases as cost-effectively as possible. Decreasing your miles driven by just one percent can save your business thousands of dollars annually. Gridline Last Mile can help you get there—and take the surprises out of your route plan versus actual comparisons.

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