For most people, plotting a route from point A to point B is a simple task, but multiple-stop routes are a different story. A route with multiple stops can quickly become complicated. What is the reason for this? As you add more stops to your route, the number of variables to consider grows exponentially, including mileage, fuel consumption, one-way streets, construction detours, and more.
Many people are faced with the task of planning multi-stop routes, including delivery drivers, field service workers, and road-trippers. This daunting task can be transformed into a natural, stress-free task that takes up very little of your valuable time by employing a few smart tips and tricks. For the time being, robots have not yet replaced humans, so we’ll do our best to assist you!
We’ll go over five Dos and Don’ts in this article that will make multi-stop planning a breeze. Are you prepared? Let’s get this party started!
Table of Contents
- #1 Don’t Make a Route Map with a Pen and Paper
- #2 Don’t Use Microsoft Excel or Other Spreadsheet Software
- #3 Do Examine Your Requirements
- #4 Do Use a Free Route Planner If You Have 7 or Less Stops a Day
- #5 Do Use a Paid Route Planner If You Have 8 or More Stops a Day
- Final Thoughts
#1 Don’t Make a Route Map with a Pen and Paper
When planning a path, the urge to go “old school” can be strong. After all, for decades, a paper map has been the ‘gold standard’ of route planning. There is always a need for the tried-and-true ‘pen and paper’ form of trip planning – but only when there is only one destination to remember.
The pen and paper process, on the other hand, easily becomes an issue when planning several steps or times. There are several things that can go wrong, and the odds of making a mistake (or several) that costs you time and money increase dramatically. This is due to the fact that the more stops you add to your path, the more options and variables you’ll have to consider. As the number of choices grows, the tried-and-true pen-and-paper map method of planning becomes impractical.
The only time planning multi-stop routes with pen and paper makes sense is if you’re on a relaxing road trip and enjoy taking detours, backtracking, and filling your gas tank more often than required.
#2 Don’t Use Microsoft Excel or Other Spreadsheet Software
Although Microsoft Excel is an excellent spreadsheet program, it is unlikely to solve your map routing problems. This is due to Excel’s continued reliance on your manual inputs to perform its magic.
Manually preparing your multiple stops using Excel can become a complicated process with a high risk of error, much like planning by pen and paper. In effect, you’re putting yourself in charge of developing a complex algorithm that must account for a large number of variables. Developing an algorithm is a time-consuming process to send instructions, not to mention the possibility that it may not be perfect.
There is one exception to this rule: using Excel. When you combine it with a free planning software solution, you get this. In these instances, the program was created to perform all of the computations. Simply fill in the positions of your stops in Excel and upload the file to the routing program, and you’ll have an optimized path!
#3 Do Examine Your Requirements
It is well known in psychology that you must have your needs met in order to be happy. In this field, the same is true. Make sure you examine your needs before beginning to plan your multi-stop route(s).
It’s important to determine your top priorities if you operate a distribution company or if field service work accounts for a significant portion of your revenue. Is the speed at which your distribution route is completed, for example, the most important factor, or is it more important to deliver to preferred customers first? Perhaps you want to gain a competitive edge by providing the most affordable rates. As a result, the cost of gasoline and vehicles must be prioritized.
Knowing your company’s needs is critical to properly planning your multi-stop path. When deciding your company’s top needs in this area, keep the following in mind:
- Is your company able to provide consumers with ‘urgent’ or ‘preferred’ distribution or field service options? If that’s the case, how can this variable be factored into route planning for multiple destinations?
- Do you work in a field where lowering costs is critical to gaining a competitive advantage? If this is the case, fuel consumption and vehicle wear and tear are important factors to consider while preparing.
- Is customer service critical to your industry’s success? If this is the case, the rate at which your delivery driver(s) completes their routes can have an effect on customer satisfaction.
- Are there any special considerations you need to make? If that’s the case, the tools you’re using demand that you build the route order, directions, navigation, and information quickly.
Another thing to keep in mind when examining your requirements is to think of both your present and expected future requirements. For example, if you run a small delivery or field service business, you might be able to get by with a free routing planner at first, but as your business grows, you’ll almost certainly need to upgrade to a paid planner. If you’re planning to expand, it’s critical to think about what you’ll need in the future. Changing route planning software in the midst of rapid expansion may be difficult and time-consuming.
#4 Do Use a Free Route Planner If You Have 7 or Less Stops a Day
Don’t bother with a pen and paper map. Don’t bother with the manual Excel entries. After all, it’s the year 2021. There are a plethora of free route planning applications and tech solutions available today that will provide your delivery driver with the best route in no time. What’s the catch? The limitations of free planning tools make them unsuitable for more complicated address planning and planning for multiple drivers/vehicles.
Here are some of the most important shortcomings of free route planners to remember:
- Limited number of stops: Many optimizations have a maximum number of stops. The free Mapquest route planner, for example, will only optimize up to 26 stops, while SpeedyRoute will only optimize up to 20. If you need more, you’ll need an app that has more emails.
Some free route planners have a cap to how many routes you can optimize in a 24-hour period. If your company relies on planning several routes per day, you’ll need a route planner that allows for an infinite number of route optimizations. This means that if you need more routes, you’ll need an app or delivery service that can handle them.
- Can only optimize one vehicle: Many free planners can only optimize routes for one vehicle, rendering them unsuitable for any company planning to expand its delivery or field service fleet. SpeedyRoute is an exception to the free choices. This website helps you to optimize routes for up to four vehicles.
- No delivery time windows: Customers nowadays have high standards for home delivery and field service jobs. They want the most up-to-date details about when their delivery driver or technician will arrive – no one wants to wait all day for the cable man! Unfortunately, you won’t be able to inform your customers when their delivery driver or technician is scheduled to arrive if you use free planning services.
- No customer support: While it might not be obvious when you sign up for free software, there is a cost associated with it. Customer service, or the lack thereof, is something we enjoy only when things go wrong. You should receive little or no customer service while using free software. Paid routing software, on the other hand, almost always comes with a Service Level Agreement that guarantees a certain level of service.
Although the consumer limitations of free software must be considered, they can easily meet the needs of many independent technicians and start-up businesses.
Free software is likely to fulfill your needs to schedule, process improvement, and accomplish your goals if your route planning requires fewer than seven places and just one car. Here are some of the best free planner apps available:
Using Shopify? EasyRoutes offers a free plan for businesses that need to plan routes for up to 10 orders at once. You can route up to 50 orders a month. EasyRoutes is integrated with your Shopify orders so you don’t have to worry about importing orders and dealing with frustrating spreadsheets. It also offers a mobile-friendly driver mode, customer email notifications, drive times/ETAs, and route history.
Almost everyone has used Google Maps on their phone, tablet, computer, or other device to plan a route, whether it’s a long-distance trip to see the in-laws or a quick trip across town to try out a new restaurant. Google Maps is a mobile app for Android and iOS that can be accessed via the website or the app. There’s a reason Google Maps is so popular: it’s great at figuring out the most efficient route from point A to point B. Unfortunately, the quality of Google Maps degrades when you add more stops. For routes with seven or fewer stops, you can rely on it, but even in these situations, you’ll need to manually check the route options to decide which is the most effective.
For route optimization of 10 or less addresses, this simple planning app is free. In addition, the free version only allows you to schedule three routes in a 24-hour span. Speedy Route provides paid subscriptions on a regular, weekly, or monthly basis if the route planning needs outgrow the free apps. The new monthly subscription fee is $50.
This app has grown in popularity among commuters and other drivers in recent years. This app is unique in that it crowdsources real-time information (traffic details, roadblock locations, and so on) from its large membership of drivers. The Waze app could be your best bet if you’re planning routes in urban areas where traffic jams and delays are common.
#5 Do Use a Paid Route Planner If You Have 8 or More Stops a Day
You might be hesitant to pay for a route optimization and planning software solution at first. After all, as previously mentioned, there are freeware options, and Google Maps is always willing to help. However, if you consider tip #3, you can find that your company’s needs outweigh the capabilities of a free route planner.
For companies that hire delivery drivers, field service technicians, and other professionals, paid resources provide a wealth of useful features. Here are a few of the main features that many paid planners offer:
- Support for lots of stops: Paid plans can include the option to add as many stops to your routes as you need, depending on the schedule level.
- Support for lots of routes: Many tools also allow you to schedule several routes every day, which is essential if you have a large number of delivery drivers to manage.
- Support for lots of vehicles: You can normally schedule routes for an entire fleet of drivers/technicians with paid planning apps or software.
- Excellent customer support: You want to know that if anything goes wrong, you’ll have access to customer service and a Service Level Agreement to fall back on. While not all paid planners provide exemplary customer service, the reputable ones are known for providing reliable customer service and assistance.
- Advanced Features: Paid route planners also come with extra features that can be beneficial to your business. Many have built-in features like electronic signature capture (to ensure your delivery drivers complete all stops on their route) and delivery time estimates, for example.
As a general rule, if you’re planning routes or driving directions with more than eight stops or for more than one driver, a paid app or service is your best bet. Similarly, if you’re just starting a company that relies on deliveries or fieldwork (e.g., lawn maintenance, painting, etc.) and expects your planning needs to expand, it may be worth foregoing the free route planner in favour of a paid app that will see you through your expansion. We hope you found this article helpful in planning your multi-stop routes. Please let us know if there’s something we’ve missed; we’re always looking for ways to better represent you, our fans! Until then, good luck with your plans!