3 Best Qualities in a Great Routing App
Keith LaBotz - December 16, 2021
What to Look for in a Transportation Routing Solution Part 2
Transportation routing is the cornerstone of supply chain optimization, so selecting the best solution possible is a big deal. With so many routing apps to choose from, this should be easy. Easy to make the wrong choice. Easy to burn time examining endless apps. Easy to end up with analysis paralysis.
There are three software qualities to look for that make finding the best routing app easier, and they may even guide you to the best vendor. Read on to learn how.
Three Most Important Qualities
Here are the qualities to look for in a transportation routing solution:
Smart - AI-enabled refinement of routing parameters.
Holistic - driven by supply chain stakeholder requirements.
Extensible - designed for deeper integration with S&OP, transportation planning solutions, and partner processes outside the business enterprise.
These qualities suggest the potential scope and functionality the software designers may have planned. Their presence indicates a potential to ingest a wide range of routing parameters and extend functionality to utilize this data. Smart data analytics can harness large volumes of supply chain data to improve decision-making. Perhaps a multi-enterprise, collaborative shipment routing process?
What’s important is a design with the potential and, of course, whether functionality meets your current requirements. Asking the vendor about the development plan or vision will verify whether your hunch is correct and if a vendor won’t share it, move on.
Where to Find Routing Apps
Routing apps are found in mature software categories like Transportation Management Systems (TMS), Vehicle Routing and Scheduling, and Fleet Management. The number of choices is overwhelming. For example, Gartner lists 114 solutions for just two of the categories mentioned above, and there are hundreds of other potential routing apps not mentioned.
Many transportation routing apps and vendors have enjoyed a lengthy tenure addressing shipping needs within the business enterprise. Supply Chain 4.0 requires a fundamentally different approach to transportation these legacy apps were not designed for. That won’t stop legacy vendors from generating buzz that claims otherwise.
As supply chain integration progresses, traditional software categories will continue blurring. Transportation software developers will venture into supply chain optimization, and supply chain management developers will delve deeper into transportation. Each brings valuable domain expertise, but supply chain expertise will become increasingly important. More on that below.
Picking the Best Routing App
Relatively few routing solutions have the three qualities we want. To avoid wasting time attempting to discern differences between solutions that lack the qualities we want, focus on (a) vendor supply chain expertise and (b) newer solutions.
Newer routing solutions are more likely to take a holistic view of transportation routing instead of an enterprise-level.
Software vendors focusing on supply chain management (e.g., S&OP and APS solutions, transportation planning, supply chain monitoring) will treat transportation holistically; as a supply chain function instead of a warehouse or order management process.
Picking the Best Developer
Software design reflects a vendor’s understanding of the business process and data model. For a routing app, a supply chain management (SCM) developer will address transportation as a supply chain function and is more likely to use a data model suitable for Supply Chain 4.0. The goal for a good SCM developer is always supply chain optimization, and routing will be designed towards that end.
Pick Symbiotic Apps
Narrowing the search further, look for a routing app designed with a symbiotic relationship to complementary apps the vendor has developed for related processes. This can significantly boost the effectiveness of routing and result in numerous other benefits beyond the routing process.
For example, flexis ProfiTOUR is a dynamic routing solution, and flexis also has S&OP Planning and SCM Transportation Planning modules. ProfiTOUR can optimize transportation routing without these modules or seamlessly integrate with them. The modules are designed to work in concert, optimizing resources across the board in all three areas. Loading vehicles, scheduling shipping, consolidating orders, changing driver delivery plans in real-time, etc.. are coordinated for maximum optimization. Routing can optimize other areas in the enterprise instead of just the shipping operation. This sort of capability is off the charts when compared to a transportation-only solution.
The downside of a routing solution developed by a vendor with less transportation expertise? Limited transportation functionality, like weaker multi-modal and common carrier support. An examination of product capabilities will judge the degree of this deficit. Any missing transportation functionality can usually integrate with a newer routing solution and piggyback on the supply chain optimization.
Looking for the three most important design qualities in a routing app can do more than make choosing a solution easier. It might lead you to a valuable technology partner and open the door to improvements far beyond routing.
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