Despite radical advances in technology, many companies still plan routes for their delivery trucks the same way they did a decade ago. Managers create itineraries the day before, and then hand printouts to drivers to follow or add them to the hand-held devices that their drivers carry at their hip.
But when drivers get stuck in traffic jams while on their rounds, they’re simply out of luck and behind schedule. The same thing happens if there’s a surprise snowstorm that makes roads impassable.
In short, the routes are inflexible.
But Wise Systems, a Boston startup, is tackling this age-old problem by pairing machine learning with data it collects from drivers’ mobile phones. It crunches information like the driver’s speed and GPS location with other details including traffic, weather, where the order is being delivered, and when customers are available to receive their orders.
What emerges is a delivery route that can be tweaked on the fly depending on any complications that come up. If the technology determines that a driver will miss a scheduled stop because of road closures, for example, it will adjust the schedule for the entire day. If that’s not possible, the driver will receive alerts on his or her mobile phone as a not-so subtle hint to pick up the pace. (Red is not a good sign.)
The goal is to create routes that allow drivers to work more efficiently. By doing so, companies can save money by increasing the number of deliveries that drivers can make during shifts while also making customers happier by improving the likelihood that orders will arrive on time, or by the driver they prefer.