1-800-SWEEPER Blog

The Advantages of Route Optimization Software for Sweeping Service Contractors

Feb 20, 2013

The Advantages of Route Optimization Software for Sweeping Service Contractors

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Since labor and fuel are significant operating expenses for most sweeping service companies, it makes sense to take a closer look at how we route our drivers.  Before we get started, ask yourself some of these key questions:

  • Do you rely on one person to plan your routes and what happens if they are on vacation/sick?
  • What logic/process goes into determining each truck’s stops on a given night?
  • Are your drivers using the most efficient route?
  • How much additional planning time is required when a Property Manager calls to add 3-5 extra stops for the night?
  • How long does it take to re-work your routes if you are awarded 2 or more 7 night/week sweeps and they start tomorrow night?

Most sweeping contractors have learned from experience that they should send their newest trucks to the farthest points, work back to the shop from the farthest point, and sweep in a U or V pattern, but not all of us truly optimize our routes.  If you look at the organizations that do route optimization best (companies such as UPS, FedEx, trucking companies, and waste management companies), you’ll see some patterns:

  • Routes favor right turns only and avoid crowded roads/routes if possible
  • Drivers are given detailed directions which they must follow
  • Use of route optimization software

Sweeping companies can obviously learn much from the likes of UPS, but when it comes to route optimization software, there can be skepticism, some of it well-founded.  Sweeping contractors lack the financial and technical resources of large companies like UPS and Waste Management, and many companies don’t appreciate the impact route optimization software can have on the bottom line.  How would your business change if you could….

  • Reduce the number of trucks dispatched each night?
  • Reduce the total mileage?
  • Route trucks to the most efficient path?
  • Automatically generate directions and then feed to a GPS device?
  • Add a 7 night/week shopping center in 10-15 minutes and re-work all routes to the most efficient division of work?
  •  Reduce administrative costs and streamline operations using the least number of routes needed to service your customers and sequence stops to minimize travel time and distance?

The wish list posed above wasn’t pulled out of thin air, but rather, it represents actual needs posed by Sylvia Richards of Asphalt Enterprises.  Sylvia recently gave a presentation at NPE on this topic and she was kind enough to share some of the screen captures from her presentation.  Although every sweeping company will have different needs and budget considerations, it is helpful to see how she decided on a software package to improve her business.  When considering the merits of each potential vendor, Sylvia had a very specific list of specifications that she used to weigh the pros and cons of each optimization platform.  In order to be a good match, the route optimization needed to meet the following criteria:

  • Inexpensive and easy to use
  • Capable of creating route sheets and directions appear (after data  input about the stops)
  •  Internet based with free software updates included in 1 low monthly fee
  • Communicate with a Garmin/other GPS device to upload detailed instructions of how to route the drivers
  • Adaptable to changes and variables

Since we don’t want to make an official endorsement of a specific system without testing it ourselves, we won’t name the finalists here, but the chart below illustrates  how some of the leading products compared:

Click to Enlarge Image

 

Implementation took some time but the initial results are encouraging.  Sylvia was kind enough to share some of her key “lessons learned”.  For starters, although her company turned out to be pretty good at self-routing, the software did a better job, performing as advertised.  Some of the detailed reporting that comes with her software package saved hours or even days of administrative work.  In addition, although the initial goal was to save on administrative costs, her company will also see significant savings on truck mileage, fuel, and driver wages.  Most importantly, the freed up administrative time allowed her to focus more time on the needs of her business and GROWING the business.

At 1-800-SWEEPER, we would like to thank Sylvia and the entire crew at Asphalt Enterprises for taking the time to share their story.  And while it is safe to say that not all sweeping companies need route optimization software, many of us could benefit from taking a closer look at the benefits of a software- based approach to route management.  Keep a look out for more articles that discuss ways to improve your business and better serve the needs of your customers!