The right route mapping software is critical to success in the delivery, transportation, and service industry fields. Free or open-source truck routing software may seem like a cost-effective choice for your company. However, in practice, these so-called solutions are unlikely to work as expected and may provide little or no support for your routing optimization requirements. Understanding the potential drawbacks of relying on open-source, free, or in-house routing solutions will allow you to make the best decisions for your business’s long-term success.
Free and Open-Source vs. Professional Routing and Scheduling Software
Before getting into an in-depth look at the benefits and drawbacks of various route planning and delivery scheduling software, it is essential to define the terms used to describe these routing solutions:
- Free route planning software, as its name suggests, is available free of charge in a basic or no-frills configuration.
- Open-source route planning programs go an extra step and provide access to the source code to allow customization and additions by programmers and end-users.
- Professional routing optimization software, by contrast, is designed, administered, and customized by companies that specialize specifically in providing reliable and practical solutions for their customers. These solutions may be available through the cloud to give even greater flexibility.
Now that these terms have been defined, it is time to look at the applications for each of these systems in real-world situations.
Problems With Free Routing Optimization Software
The most important advantage of free routing optimization software is the fact that it is, in most cases, free. Unfortunately, this may be the sole redeeming feature of some of these programs. In many cases, the adage that “you get what you pay for” is entirely applicable to these software packages. These routing software options are typically stripped down and offer bare-bones functionality for your company. Some of the most commonly reported drawbacks of free route planner optimizer software include the following:
- Limited or no ability to handle multi-stop routes
- “One-size-fits-all” approach to routing requirements
- Lack of security for information stored in the software system
- No support for implementation or problems that may arise during use
- Clunky or counter-intuitive interfaces that take up more time and effort
- No ability to scale services
- Minimal support for cloud implementations
- Poor quality of map data
These disadvantages apply to many open-source solutions, making these routing options less productive and profitable for your transportation activities.
No Support for Multi-Stop Requirements
The algorithms and methods used in most free routing software packages are relatively limited in their ability to accommodate and optimize for multiple stops. This can reduce the efficiency of routing processes and cost your transportation and delivery company money and time that could otherwise be devoted to growing your business and providing more effective and efficient services.
By upgrading to paid routing and delivery scheduling software like that available through Opti-Time, companies can access the most advanced algorithms for determining the most efficient routes for multi-stop deliveries or transportation requirements. This can add up to increased productivity for service technicians or delivery drivers while providing added features for managing trips and scheduling for your company.
One Size Does Not Fit All Companies
The cookie-cutter approach to routing and optimization software is unlikely to suit the needs of modern businesses. Each company is different and will require a specific plan to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, most free routing software comes in just one flavor and configuration, making it difficult to achieve the results you need to succeed in the competitive marketplace.
Paid routing options like Opti-Time can be customized to suit the needs of individual companies perfectly. This ensures the most practical support for businesses, including plumbing and HVAC companies, last-mile delivery solutions, and trucking and transportation firms. Whether the job requires multiple deliveries across town or the region, Opti-Time and other professional route optimization software packages have the advanced multi-stop algorithms needed to do it right every time.
Minimal or Nonexistent Security
Keeping data and information secure is rarely a priority for companies that offer free routing optimization solutions. This can lead to data breaches that could harm your position in the competitive marketplace and damage your reputation if customer information is put at risk.
Opti-Time and other paid routing optimization software packages typically make the protection of data a priority. By keeping information stored securely in the cloud and offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) options for clients, Opti-Time can take some of the stress and worry out of your company’s process and can ensure the best possible protection for your data.
Inconvenient or Unavailable Tech Support
Free route planners generally do not offer any tech support beyond some online documentation of the program. If tech support is available, it may be limited to regular business hours and may not provide the assistance needed to get your system back online. This can leave your company stuck if problems arise that require professional help. The cost of employing a full-time employee to manage your free routing software and to serve as tech support for your system can quickly eliminate any cost savings achieved by going with free route mapping software.
Companies that charge for their services, by contrast, can provide you with the support necessary to keep things running smoothly for you and your company. The team at Opti-Time, for example, is available to resolve issues involving your implementation and daily use of this delivery truck routing software. By investing a small amount of time and effort in your routing solutions, you can build a relationship with your vendor to help your company achieve the best results for your deliveries, service calls, or shipments.
Difficult or Clunky Interfaces
If your company’s route planner optimizer is hard to use or does not include many of the features you need and want, you may not derive maximum benefits from these programs. One common complaint about freeware programs is that they lack the ease of use offered by commercially available routing solutions.
Opti-Time, for instance, features an intuitive and easy-to-use interface that allows you to see delivery routes and drivers at a glance. This will enable you to achieve higher productivity and increased efficiency in dealing with all your routing activities. Systems that are easier to understand can contribute to greater productivity, translating into more effective use of your staff time and increased profitability for your business.
Lack of Scalability
Freeware routing programs must typically be entirely replaced if greater functionality or more simultaneous routes are required. By contrast, paid routing optimization services can usually be customized to provide the precise range and scope of services your business needs. This flexibility can allow you to stick with one system for all your routing requirements, which can save you a considerable amount of time that would otherwise be required for training staff on new systems and implementing new routing optimization software for your business needs.
No Support for Cloud Implementation
Depending on the freeware package, your company may be able to access these programs online. However, free routing software is generally not available through the cloud, which can limit your ability to access information and make changes on the fly. Cloud implementations for your routing and scheduling systems can offer some significant benefits:
- Easy access to information through secure login technologies
- Schedule and route vehicles and drivers anytime and from anywhere
- Automatic upgrades and updates for your route optimization software systems
- Managed security for your data stored in the cloud
Opti-Time offers cloud implementations of its SaaS solutions. This can help your company enjoy the most convenient access to your routing dashboard and the most practical solutions for all your scheduling and route management needs. By working with an established commercial routing optimization company like Opti-Time, you can ensure your transportation and delivery activities’ best possible outcomes.
Incomplete or Incorrect Map Data
One of the most significant issues with free routing software is the quality of the map data used for these programs. Weak quality data can result in unexpected detours and unwanted delays for your transportation activities. Many free routing programs use data available from OpenStreetMap because it is free of charge. This, however, can result in less accurate and up-to-date information about road closures, traffic patterns, and other events and conditions that could impact drivers’ ability to arrive on time.
By contrast, professional and commercial routing software programs and packages are designed to draw on the most accurate data when providing their services to customers. For example, Opti-Time uses HERE Maps, a trusted and reliable source of information on driving conditions, current road maps, and the most accurate data for trip planning, scheduling, and driver routing across town or the country. Routes based on better data are more likely to be correct and represent the best possible use of available drivers and vehicles.
A Note About Open-Source Routing Software
Open-source software is a particular case that requires some added discussion. Because the code for these programs is available freely for download and examination, open-source routing software programs can be customized to suit individual companies’ needs. Unfortunately, this requires a knowledgeable and experienced coder or programmer to implement the customization options needed and produce the desired results. This can put open-source software options entirely off the table for companies that are unwilling to hire a full-time programmer and manager to deal with upgrading, updating, and tweaking these software implementations to ensure that they perform as expected.
Another potential drawback of open-source routing programs is that their code is available for anyone to peruse. If any weaknesses are present, the code’s transparency will make it easy for hackers to exploit these weaknesses and come after your valuable data. This could add to real trouble that will cost you time, money, and effort to resolve. Working with an established vendor is the best method for protecting your routing software’s source code and ensuring the best possible performance for your company’s scheduling and routing needs.
Finally, open-source and free programs come with no guarantees that they will provide value for your business. This can present real difficulties for companies that invest considerable time and effort in learning and implementing these free routing solutions to find that they do not work as advertised or, in some cases, at all. By working with a commercial routing company, your business can ensure the best possible return on your time, effort, and money while promoting the best support for your new routing software implementation.
Boosting Your Return on Investment
While the upfront cost of free routing and scheduling software may be nothing, these systems’ real cost can add up to a considerable investment on the part of your company:
- Training time and installation for in-house systems
- Salary and benefits for a systems administrator and software management team
- Lost productivity caused by less-than-optimal routing
- Increased fuel costs
By contrast, working with a company specializing in creating customized solutions for routing, scheduling, and other aspects of your transportation and delivery activities can provide you with a significant return on your financial investment and increased productivity and profitability now and in the future. At Opti-Time, we are committed to the highest standards of excellence in the routing and scheduling software industry. We have more than 30 years of experience in the routing and scheduling field and can put our expertise to work for you and your company.
The Benefits of Professional Routing and Scheduling Software
Opti-Time delivers an intuitive interface that is easy for your staff to learn, and that offers robust support for single and multi-stop routes. We work with you at every step of the process to provide you with the most practical and positive business options.
Because Opti-Time routing and scheduling software is based in the cloud, it requires little or no maintenance. We take care of all the heavy lifting for upgrades, updates, and migrations of your data. You can also be sure that your data is kept secure and handled according to your precise specifications.
Our customer service team is always here to help you manage issues with your routing requirements and implementations. We offer practical, scalable solutions designed to accommodate your workflows and promote the best possible results for your needs.
Finally, Opti-Time uses the most accurate map data from HERE Maps to keep your drivers productive and safe. This combination of benefits allows you to enjoy greater confidence when dispatching fleet vehicles, delivery trucks, and service technicians from your business facilities.
In our next blog post, we will look at why a route planner optimizer is an essential tool for field service management. This will provide added insights for companies that rely on service technicians and drivers to generate revenues and ensure profitability in the competitive marketplace.