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Route Planner

Consider a situation where nurses must visit a number of home-care patients, each of whom requires a very particular kind of care during the visit.  Perhaps the problem is one where milk must be collected form a number of farms, and you have a number of different types of tanker truck, each with different capacities.  This general type of problem is known as “the travelling salesman”, and real-world constraints make these problems very difficult to solve.  With rising fuel and staff costs, it makes sense to create the best possible routes.


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PRODUCT STUDY

PROBLEM

Overall, this tool considers problems where a server must visit a number of places and perform some sort of activity.  It might be dropping something off, picking something up, performing an activity on site, or maybe some combination of all of those things.

Now consider adding in some complexity:

  • Each route must be no longer than a maximum distance, or must complete in a certain length of time.
  • The vehicle has a fixed capacity – some resource is expended at each customer.
  • Each customer requires a specific set of skills that are not possessed by all servers.
  • Some servers may be on fixed-hour contracts, while others are paid for what they do. How do you manage workloads and not underutilising pre-paid resources.

All of these issues can add up to a very difficult problem to solve.

SOLUTION

The key to saving money in this area is to have a tool that will optimise the routes as much as possible.  These problems are really too difficult for a person to solve manually.  Orbit Systems has created a tool that solves the route planning problem very quickly.

Problems that could be solved by the tool include:

  • Nurse home visits, where each patient requires a type of care that not all nurses will be able to provide.
  • Milk pickup at farms, where each stop will use up some given volume of the tanker’s capacity.
  • Petrol deliveries, where each customer will require different volumes of multiple types of petrol.

Of course, there are many more potential applications for a tool like this.

RESULTS

The route planner provides multiple benefits:

  • Each route planned is extremely efficient.
  • The tool is extremely fast, so servers can be underway without delay.

When problems arise (and they always do), the route planner can re-balance workload and come up with a new plan.  We often see examples of a good base plan that is undermined when changes are dealt with by calling in high-cost emergency servers.  This is easy for the planner, but causes costs to mount quickly.