he role of a dispatcher is undergoing considerable change. Markets are becoming ever more global and increasingly dominated by advances in fast-moving goods. An increase in cross-European paperwork, pandemic delays, (and even the lessons learned from the Suez disruption) highlighted an enormous shortage of skilled workers in this field. To retain these skills it's becoming increasingly important to offer your central dispatch team more interesting and attractive tasks.
To achieve any competitive edge, it is indispensable that routine activities are increasingly automated and, in return, strategic task areas are handed over to your dispatchers. For example, order processing and planning of technicians can run automatically, while the dispatchers take care of inventory management. The dispatcher of the future therefore acts more as a manager who monitors processes and controls planning systems. Working through multiple Excel workbooks must be a thing of the past.
In this context, route planning plays a decisive role. This is because the dispatcher can fall back on various possibilities when it comes to scheduling. The variants range from whiteboards to Excel to unique tour planning software, all of which offer their own advantages and disadvantages. Microsoft Office in particular is still very common when it comes to planning service technicians. But modern software for resource optimisation is a real alternative to Excel tour planning and becomes indispensable when your need for flexibility and efficiency outpace your existing set up.
CLASSIC TIMESHEETS AND THE WHITEBOARDS - MANUAL ROUTE PLANNING
The old-fashioned route planning with a whiteboard or timesheet is still used by many companies today. Small companies in particular still rely on manual route planning. The advantage of this being that few digital tools are needed. The planner decides themselves which customer is to be supplied first and how the route is to be taken. But this advantage is easily offset. This is because usually only a few influencing factors, such as the road map and weather conditions are taken into account in the route plan. Manual route planning is time-consuming and there is little flexibility. When changes occur, they can only be recorded with difficulty and no automatic information is sent to (all) relevant parties. Disruptions in scheduling are not taken into account, resulting in low efficiency for the long run.
SOFTWARE-SUPPORTED ROUTE PLANNING USING EXCEL
Route planning with Excel is popular. This variant is the first step towards digital route planning. However, as easy as it is to set up the planning in Excel, this variant is also sensitive to application errors. This is because mistakes can quickly lead to errors in the formatting or in the references, resulting in unfavourable and unclear route planning. In addition, (especially with long job lists) clarity is quickly lost, which ultimately results in poor use of a field workforce.
Furthermore, route planning in Excel is not very flexible and does not automatically optimise the tour of the technicians when changes or disruptions occur. This leads to limited appointment selection and planning in the daily work routine, many extra miles, additional working hours and frustration for staff and customers. As your operations grow and you have no choice but to add more employees, the greater the risk for formatting and referencing errors wasting resources.
In any case, the future of dispatching lies in software-supported route planning and is the only real alternative to route planning with Excel. The advantages of this can be obvious:
• considerable time savings in tour planning
• low personnel costs for scheduling
• optimisation of tours in real-time
• automatic notification to all relevant parties in case of change
• maximum efficiency in scheduling
With tour planning software, maximum transparency is achieved; even across long tours with many stops. Disruptions within the tour can be reacted to in real time. Regardless of whether there are detours due to road works, traffic obstructions, cancelled or added appointments, the route planning is adjusted entirely automatically by the tour planning software. This achieves maximum flexibility and efficiency in planning and scheduling.
Through the automation of many processes, only a small team of dispatchers are required, and your staff can devote themselves to other interesting and strategic tasks - such as emergency management and holistic customer service. A modern tour planning solution is therefore indispensable for agile businesses to remain competitive. At the same time these organisations can recruit and retain sufficient skilled staff with exciting, innovative tasks. Applications grow to match the workload, so are just as suitable for small businesses as for global corporations.