Updating Service Times

Comments Comments Off on Updating Service Times by on January 1, 2015

Every delivery or service call takes some amount of time to complete. In Headlight, that’s known as the service time (or premise time). It’s the number of minutes required to complete the delivery or service call. Service times are important for determining the arrival time (ETA) for each delivery during the day and estimating how long the route will take to complete.

Service times can be imported into Headlight or calculated using a formula. For bottled water, salt and coffee delivery companies, Headlight uses a combination of product type and quantity to estimate the service time for each delivery. This works pretty well for the majority of deliveries, especially when many accounts receive similar deliveries each day.

However, there are several situations where the estimates might be significantly off and need to be updated. You want the typical amount of time for the delivery – not the unusual situation – so it’s also worthwhile to identify when the estimate actually needs to be changed at all. Estimates that are only off by a couple of minutes typically won’t make much difference for route planning even when thousands of deliveries are involved.

Note: Service times must be in minutes without a decimal. You can’t enter fractional minutes of service time into Headlight, so round up or down accordingly.


1. Large accounts are often over/under estimated. Let’s say large accounts represent the top 10% of deliveries based on volume and/or revenue. There aren’t enough of these accounts to make a good statistical sample and they often have unique delivery requirements.

For examples, an account getting forty 5 gallon bottles of water might have an estimated service time of 75 minutes. It would take much less time to deliver using a dock and forklift, but that isn’t always available. Conversely, it might take longer to deliver when the bottles are distributed across multiple stations in an industrial building or manufacturing facility.

2. Lengthy wait times. Delivery personnel are often required to use the service elevator, make deliveries to different parts of the building, walk up buildings without elevators or follow time consuming procedures to complete the delivery.

3. Security procedures. Military bases, government buildings and secure facilities often require significant time to check the vehicle and the contents prior to delivery.

4. Difficult parking. Downtown parking is often difficult and forces the driver to walk instead of driving and parking closer to the account. Although this is technically travel time, it makes sense to consider it part of the service time required to fulfill the delivery since the vehicle isn’t moving.

5. Universities, hospitals and similar campus settings. Often have all of the preceding issues.

It’s important to review and adjust service times for these accounts to match reality. The service manager or delivery driver will usually have a good idea since they’ve actually made deliveries to these accounts. However, there’s a *strong* tendency for people to overestimate the required time since they often focus on worst-case scenarios instead of the typical delivery. Or they will automatically round up to the nearest 10 or 15 minutes since few people would say “Oh, that account takes about 37 minutes to service.”


When only a handful of service times need adjusting, it’s easiest to use Headlight to make the changes. Find the account by using the search box or clicking on the map marker to display the Info Balloon. The current service time is displayed on the Delivery tab. Use the Edit menu, expand the Delivery Info section, enter a new service time in minutes and click ‘Save.’


When starting a new project, you might want to review service times for every account. Instead of looking up hundreds or thousands of accounts in Headlight, you can export the All Customers Report and use Excel to sort, filter and make changes to the service times.

After the spreadsheet is updated, these changes can be quickly imported into Headlight. This is particularly useful when people with knowledge of the service times don’t have access to the Headlight account.

1. Export the All Customers Report. Click the Reports tab, choose the All Customers Report and click Export. Depending on your browser settings, this will either open the exported CSV file in Excel or save a file to your downloads folder which can be opened in Excel.

Instead of changing the existing service time, we recommend using another column called ‘New Service Time’ to enter the new service time(s). The delivery driver or service representative can update the spreadsheet and avoid accidentally changing valid service times.

It also allows management to quickly identify accounts which have been changed and decide whether to accept the changes. When you export the All Customers Report, this column is automatically added for convenience.

2. Review large accounts. Headlight calculates a normalized product quantity (Units) which is the equivalent number of 5 gallon bottles of water. Excel can sort and filter the spreadsheet by the Units, Quantities or Amounts to quickly identify large accounts. You can review the top 5-10% of accounts by volume, revenue or above a certain threshold. If there’s a noticeable difference, enter the new service time in the ‘New Service Time’ column.

3. Review large service times. Use Excel to sort and filter using the ‘Service Time’ column. This lets you review accounts that have a significant impact on daily route hours and might require an adjustment due to special circumstances. If there’s a noticeable difference, enter the new service time in the ‘New Service Time’ column.

4. Import the new service times. Save the Excel spreadsheet as .xls (Headlight can’t read .xlsx files). You can leave all the existing columns in place. Within Headlight, click the orange ‘Routes’ tab and use the Import Service Times link to import the file. Only records with data in the ‘New Service Times’ column will be updated.

warningWarning: If the account numbers have leading zeroes (e.g. ‘000123’), be very careful when doing this step. Excel has a bad habit of truncating leading zeroes without telling you. Since ‘000123’ isn’t the same as ‘123’, Headlight won’t be able to find the account and none of the service times will get updated. The id must be displayed as ‘000123’ in Excel or it won’t work properly.

This is a well-known Excel flaw and there are several workarounds available. Perhaps the easiest is using the TEXT() formula to replace the leading zeroes that Excel chopped off when importing the file.



Another option for entering service times is having them included in the Smart Sync delivery file along with the other delivery information. This is handy when actual service times are being collected using time sheets, handhelds or GPS equipment. Depending on the situation, you might use the last service time or average out service times from several recent deliveries.

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