What is a Route Optimization?

Route optimization is a process that results in an “optimized” route. Route optimization is about building routes optimally in terms of resources used and for the needs of a job. Find out what is at stake and some definitions about the optimization of transport routes and the optimization of intervention routes.

  • Definition of “route”;

  • The challenges of route optimization;

  • Definition of “logistics management” and “route construction”;

  • Definition of “route planning”;

  • What is a route optimization algorithm.

What is a delivery route?

A route is the journey of a person or a vehicle from a starting point to the same point. This route can include a succession of visits or deliveries, collection or maintenance actions, tests, samplings, changes, etc.

Performing each of these actions may require a specific skill of the agent or a characteristic of the vehicle. Depending on the sector of activity, it may be necessary to order some actions before others. For example, pickups and then deliveries. It may also happen that each action has to meet a time and duration limitation.

 

The challenges of route optimization

The objective of route optimization is to ensure the adequacy and optimization between human and material resources, to carry out tasks in different places (meeting, intervention, delivery). Agents leave one location and return to the same location once the job has been completed. Route optimization can be simple when there is only one agent. It becomes more complex with multiple agents and when multiple constraints are added to the tasks to be performed and the resources available. Then it requires the use of software for route optimization.

These computer programs have different capabilities depending on the use cases they deal with and the desired field of optimization.

The use cases discussed define the optimization goals and the levels of constraints sought. Most of the use cases in the industrial sector focus on two main objectives: minimizing the number of kilometers traveled and maximizing the number of visits made. Common limitations are the type and capacity of the vehicles, the availability, and the skill or authorization of the personnel or drivers.

The optimization field also affects the implemented algorithms. The solutions allow:

 

  • Schedule visits;

  • Build the routes;

  • Plan appointments and develop routes.

These latest solutions ensure complete route optimization throughout the entire process.

Definition of “logistics management”

Sorting is the fact of putting tasks in a certain order. Scheduling algorithms are used when only one agent is considered. This order can be determined in order to minimize the kilometers. However, this can quickly become more complex when passing times are imposed or when it is not a question of minimizing the kilometers, costs or the use of a resource necessary for the task (installation / removal of equipment during a tour).

What is “road construction” all about?

The construction of routes is the fact of creating roads from a cloud of points to visit, considering the limitations of the visits to be made, the equipment and the human resources. The solution obtained through route construction is often not unique. Given the number of parameters and the acceptable time required to obtain a solution, the optimum achieved is usually partial. However, it is often sufficient for professional use. The algorithms used in the construction of routes are more complex than the programming algorithms.

What is “route planning”?

Route planning adds a dimension to the construction of these. As part of route construction, optimization is done on a given point cloud. Route planning, on the other hand, appears as taking into account a horizon and therefore considering several point clouds and choosing one. The question is the fact of knowing if it is preferable to carry out a certain route in a precise day or in the following one. Complexity is knowing the impact of adding a visit on a given day without building the routes. This road construction operation would be time consuming and would not allow for a quick decision. Therefore, specific algorithms for route planning are developed and used in order to allow a quick response.

What is a route plan?

A route plan is the result of route optimization for a given day. It is made up of the itineraries of the different visits / deliveries to be made.

 

 

What is a path optimization algorithm?

The term “algorithm” can be scary. However, it reflects something quite simple. An algorithm is a sequence of instructions given to a machine (the computer) to perform a series of calculations. In optimization, the software program will perform the same instructions several times and with each iteration, the result will be closer to the optimum sought. An algorithm often responds to a certain problem. However, some of them can be easily modified. Finally, it should be noted that the development of an algorithm quickly becomes very technical. First, it is necessary to mathematically define the optimum sought. Then, acceleration strategies must be put into practice to quickly reach the optimum.

In route optimization, the objectives and optimization methods used may vary. They vary according to:

  • The limitations imposed by the activity sector;

  • Commitments to clients;

  • Management requirements.

The term “optimized” does not have the same meaning depending on the audience and the business. In fact, it is necessary to define the optimum sought.

Therefore, the search for a route optimization tool requires, first of all, defining the optimum sought and defining the limitations that we must respect.

There is a specific common ground for various types of professions and organizations in terms of objectives. In addition, the optimization of the routes will take into account each time the limitations associated with human resources (availability, skills, authorization) and vehicles (speeds, capacities, etc.). However, a preliminary examination may be useful to verify the adequacy of the optimization algorithms present in the “optimization engine” of the computer program with the optimum sought.

For example, some commonly searched optima:

  • Minimization of the kilometers traveled by the fleet of vehicles;

  • Minimization of the number of resources used to maximize the number of visits made;

  • Prioritization of certain types of intervention.

Are not all route optimization algorithms known today?

The simplest algorithms are now available in the literature. In particular, the logistical management logics have already been established.

On the other hand, as indicated above, the process of finding the optimum may be different for each problem. Furthermore, the industrial optimum that is sought today are richer in constraints, and research methods are therefore more complex.

However, regardless of the convergence of the algorithm towards a given optimum, there is a need to quickly obtain an “adequate” solution.

Ultimately, there is still a lot to discover about operational research, particularly in the area of ​​route optimization.