The right way to evaluate routing software

Comments Comments Off by Chris Sciora on July 29, 2009

Many people send requests along the lines of “Hey, my company is evaluating different routing applications. I’d like to send you some data, have you route it and send it back. Based on that, we’ll make a decision about using the Headlight service.”

At first glance, that seems reasonable for both parties. The person gets real-world results and we get a potential customer. The problem? It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

Optimizing scheduled delivery routes for any particular industry is complex. There are many considerations with data validation, quantities, revenue, route geography, driver compensation, delivery restrictions and so forth. It’s not possible to take a data file separated from the real-world needs and create a useful scenario for comparing different routing applications. Handing your data to the vendor and asking them to push the Route-O-Matic 9000 button doesn’t tell you anything about the steps involved in getting those results.

Any decent routing application will generate approximately the same results given the same data. However, because of the reasons mentioned above, it’s impossible to actually implement those routes on the street. And the vendor won’t be building those routes for you after the purchase is made. Evaluations should include how much time, work and effort will it take to get similar results on your own.

Here’s some guidelines for evaluating a routing and logistics package:

  1. Ease of use. How long does it take to get results? That includes installation, setup, training, data import, routing and publishing. It varies greatly between application, but several weeks (and even several months) isn’t unusual.
  2. Ease of transferring data in both directions. Data must flow between the billing/CRM system and the routing system. Most packages only include manual import and export. That’s time consuming, error prone and cumbersome.
  3. Quality of mapping data. Few vendors use the latest data from TeleAtlas and NAVTEQ. Those two are widely recognized for providing the most up-to-date and accurate mapping data.
  4. Applicability to task. Does it work for your specific industry and routing needs? Most packages were developed primarily for dynamic routes in specific industries. Make sure it works for yours.
  5. Cost. Purchase price, upgrades, maintenance fees, training and consulting can easily range from $10,000 to well over $100,000.

Here’s how Headlight meet those guidelines.

  1. Ease of use. Create an account and watch the online video tutorials.
  2. Ease of transferring data in both directions. The import wizard matches fields, geocodes in real-time and summarizes the results. For scheduled delivery routes, Smart Sync completely automates the data transfer process.
  3. Quality of mapping data. TeleAtlas and NAVTEQ are both used.
  4. Applicability to task. Specifically designed for smaller companies to quickly plan routes, spot routing problems, evaluate changes and simplify daily tasks. It’s routing software that offers a smarter way to manage delivery vehicles and service routes starting at only $97 / month.

Let’s say you wanted to buy a new table saw. Asking the manufacturers to cut a pile of boards just proves THEY can cut boards with it. Unless you’re planning on outsourcing the project entirely, you need to roll up your sleeves, turn it on and try it yourself. It’s the difference between reading car reviews online and taking that shiny new car for a nice, long drive.

Try Headlight with our 100% no-risk guarantee

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