What is Route Optimization?

Everyone has heard the old adage, "Work smart, not hard." Route optimization is a textbook case in point. Route optimization can not only help you eliminate 100's of hours of drive time and thousands of gallons of gas, it can even allow you to service 1-2 extra stops a day for each technician. In this post, we will explain exactly what route optimization is as well as its interesting history. In 'part b' of this post, we will show how much money you can save by utilizing PestRoutes' Intelligent Routing tool (**spoiler alert** it's a lot of money!).




What Exactly is Route Optimization?

There are a couple of concepts which are important to get familiar with:

  • Single Route Optimization -- This is the process of taking an existing route with 10-20 stops, and figuring out the best order to visit them in. To do this well, the service should take into account driving directions, road conditions, time-windows, etc... PestRoutes does this extremely well.
  • Multi-Route Optimization -- The process of taking potentially 1,000's of stops and figuring out the best days, times, and orders to see them in based on customer preferences and due dates. Again, to do this well, the service must factor in the effects of driving directions, road conditions, time-windows, etc... PestRoutes also does this extremely well and it is called Intelligent Routing.
  • Terrible Route Optimization -- What most of our competitors offer. In other words, one or both of the above tools either as a rebranded google implementation, or an in-house "solution" which doesn't account for any of the parameters which would make the service competitive with PestRoutes. If they say it is free, you can safely assume they either don't understand how route optimization works, or they just advertise it to sound cool -- either way is terrible and you should flee from them.

The benefits of single-route optimization are that, if you already have a bunch of stops confirmed on a route, then you can optimize those stops and reduce your drive time. The limitation of this is that you may have 100 other stops in your job pool which would have been better candidates for this route AND that you had to manually schedule those stops on each route in the first place. Often this means you miss out on the majority of the benefits gained from optimization.

The benefits of multi-route optimization is that it can reduce your routing from being a 1-2 day process to only 20-30 minutes. We have found that office managers often spend the first couple of days of each month scheduling as well as 1-2 hours a day managing those schedules (depending on the size of the office). Multi-route optimization can not only eliminate 30-40 hours a month from one of your highest paid employees (which may be yourself!), it can also reduce your route distances, drive times, and gas costs by 40% or more!




History of Route Optimization

Almost 200 years ago, there was a salesman in Europe who wanted to visit every surrounding city to pitch his products. Like any great salesman, he wanted to spend as much time as he could selling and the least amount of time traveling. To accomplish this, he enlisted the help of one of his Mathematician friends to come up with the shortest path between ~2,000 cities. When his friend began calculating how many different possible travel itineraries there were, he discovered very quickly that finding the perfect solution would be difficult and unlikely. My computer's calculator can't even do the math to tell how many options there are. The answer would be 20 factorial OR  a 3 with 5,735 zeros behind it! 

He reached out to some of the smartest minds of his time and the problem became very popular among the intellectual elite. There were even prizes and bounties offered to anyone who could solve the problem. Everyone came to the same conclusion: a solution was impossible to find. The math behind this problem shows us that even optimizing ~45 stops contains more permutations than there are atoms in the planet (1.19 x 10^56 permutations vs 1.33 x 10^50 atoms in the planet). 

To make matters even more complicated, it's not enough to just look at all of the stops on a 2-dimensional map of coordinates. To be effective, you must take into account things like road speeds, driving directions, time-windows and customer requirements. Just because 2 houses are next to each other on google, doesn't mean that they are close to each other if there is a mountain or lake between them or if the road is closed.

This problem has come to be known as the "Traveling Salesman Problem". This is a famous problem in computer science because it is still considered unsolvable today -- even with the immense amount of computing resources at our fingertips which are capable of calculating billions of operations a second. Scientists today use a variety of methods to get close, including implementing algorithms which mimic patterns found in evolution and genetics. If you are interested in learning more about this, check out these articles: Wikipedia: Traveling Salesman Problem.

The firms we work with have spent decades coming up with powerful solutions to the traveling salesman problem -- often within a predicted 2-5% of the best answer. While there is always room for improvement, 2-5% of perfection is good enough for me and sometimes allows us to shave off 40% or more of your drive time.



How does PestRoutes Handle Route Optimization?

PestRoutes uses a proprietary combination of several of the leading 3rd party routing technologies and blends their strengths to provide a best in class solution. The partners we work with have been building route optimization tools for decades as their core business and are billion dollar corporations who do work with the biggest names in transportation and logistics. With the exception of our largest competitor, no other pest control software on the market offers a tool within the same category. PestRoutes can handle robust routing situations including:

  • Thousands of stops in a single batch
  • Driving directions, road speeds, road conditions
  • Time windows
  • Preferred days and time
  • Preferred technicians
  • Technician start locations, breaks, and final destinations
  • Existing set appointments
  • Due Dates

This allows you to route an entire month's worth of stops in 20 minutes or less. This can save you thousands of dollars a month in office manager time, technician time, gas, and lost opportunities. Read our post on projected route optimization savings for more info.



Summary

Route optimization is a complicated and complex problem. Leave the nerdy stuff to PestRoutes and get the MASSIVE benefits of this technology by requesting a demo today!