Three solutions dairy processors use to plan and optimise milk collection routes
Excel and Google Maps
Excel is widely available and easy to use with no significant training required (yes we all admit to using Google to help with some of the tricky stuff). Excel is very good at managing rows of data that can be searched, grouped and filtered so it's easy to see why it is the first port of call for transport managers looking to plan routes. Combine this with manual searching of navigation maps and you have the tools to start planning routes.
The next steps are to divide the supplier pool into groups, assign them with reference numbers, assign those reference numbers to hauliers and drivers, to estimate milk amounts, truck capacities...and so on. This is a labour intensive task but it is certainly possible with Excel. For some processors this task is only done once a year when reviewing haulier costs so, without any need to plan for changes, it is worth the effort.
Generic Logistics Software
For those processors who need something more sophisticated to map out routes quickly and more often, there is an alternative solution to Excel.
A logical next step for dairy processors, engaged as they are in complex logistics activities, is to look at logistics software products available to buy off the shelf. Logistics software is a mature market and there are many options to choose from. Investing in software to plan and optimise routes is an excellent way to introduce automation and ensure that data is more accessible. Using a software solution processors are able to plan routes by mapping the coordinates of their assets rather than using Excel. An interactive map is provided to view the results of route planning. If there is a need to introduce additional assets and routes, it is easy to do so and recalculate a new route plan.
Industry Specific Milk Collection Software
In order to become more accurate in planning and optimising milk collection routes, other processors want to factor in more specific parameters to their plans. After all, optimising milk transport is different to optimising transport of other goods.
This advanced level of milk collection planning requires consideration of many factors unique to milk collection. Some examples are entry restrictions to farms, waiting times at factories to wash down tankers, pump speed when filling tankers, different pump speeds on trucks, transport costs, CO2 emissions, seasonality, factory downtime.
Software solutions that take these factors into account allow processors to provide more accurate optimisation results and be more realistic in planning for upcoming changes. Due to the industry focus, such solutions also vastly decrease the amount of administration time associated with route planning.