What -- Exactly -- is Autonomous Dispatching and Routing?

By Chazz Sims, Wise Systems CEO

Whether you have passing familiarity or in-depth experience with the transportation side of a logistics operation, it’s no secret that today’s on-demand world is reshaping the entire industry at a blistering pace. Customers now expect goods and services to arrive at their doorstep within hours while, behind the scenes, the logistics industry is scrambling to build more dynamic operations that will meet those newly created expectations, and keep costs down.

And while many aspects of the logistics industry have been automated -- ordering, inventory management, warehouse management, and others -- routing and dispatching haven’t experienced the same levels of innovation. Teams continue to use traditional tools, simply accelerating the pace of their work to keep up with the increasing volume of orders. But these same routing and dispatching teams are being swamped by the conflicting demands of customer service and efficiency, while trying to manage the impact of everyday challenges (traffic, weather, and customer-site delays), and ensure that their drivers complete routes on-time and on-plan.

For today’s dispatchers, orders come in from various sources at various times, and every order needs to be managed and assigned based on a variety of parameters: What is the order? Where is the inventory? What type of vehicle is required? When does it have to arrive? The dispatcher then has to build a route that is as efficient as possible while not missing any time windows, factoring in considerations like: Which driver is closest? How long will it take on-site to complete this delivery? Does a driver have familiarity with this location? How many other orders are expected in that same timeframe? Where does the driver need to go next? In addition, dispatchers also need to know whether anything has changed about the customers and preferences, and whether drivers will have the customer site information be able to successfully complete all of their deliveries. Because the reality is that there’s a lot of rapidly changing information that teams need to make all of this elaborate choreography possible.  

The increasing complexity of the decision framework and order volume can overwhelm the most seasoned and accomplished dispatchers — and we’ve worked with many — even before factoring in the increasing volume and service demands of the modern economy. In the simplest terms, effectively, predictably, and efficiently managing these multiplying tasks is becoming mathematically impossible.

This is where next-generation routing technology -- autonomous dispatching and routing -- comes into the equation. Specifically designed to address the critical issues that logistics teams face every day, autonomous dispatching and routing is an automated system for seamlessly coordinating the movement of goods, people, and services. Assisted by large data sets and machine learning, autonomous dispatching and routing solutions make optimized decisions at all phases of the delivery process — from weeks or days before to day of and in real time. They optimally assign on-demand tasks within existing routes and re-sequencing stops around traffic delays to ensure that deliveries are made inside of customers’ time windows. The goal of these systems is to improve fleet efficiency and customer service, and they have been extremely successful in reducing miles driven, improving fleet utilization, and minimizing time spent on manually intensive route building -- all while reducing late deliveries.

What’s more, autonomous dispatching and routing does more than ensuring optimal execution of today’s tasks. It also optimizes future routes, using all information available, e.g., type of delivery location, amount of product to be delivered, service time for every delivery, and the tendencies of different drivers. With that information, the system can be precise, predictive, and finally prescriptive about the best sequences, use of drivers — even the best times to deliver to customers — as it plans for the future.

Traditional route optimization software has evolved in a linear progression for the last two decades, as has the logistics industry. But in an industry where service is the currency that earns customers’ business and loyalty, autonomous dispatching and routing is the quantum leap forward that positions every logistics team to compete successfully with industry giants, giving them the ability to implement a scalable, cost-effective omnichannel logistics strategy that delights customers while delivering bottom-line improvements.