In the realm of domestic or international shipping, the planning of delivery routes is of utmost importance in order to ensure efficiency, sustainability, and profitability. This is particularly crucial for businesses that operate within global markets. To achieve success, such businesses must possess a comprehensive understanding and have access to data-driven information on available shipping methods and routes in real time. The selection of the appropriate option can prove to be pivotal.

    Why Does Route Planning Matter?

    Time Efficiency - In the world of business, time is money, and efficient route planning ensures that parcels reach their destinations in a timely manner without any unnecessary and unavoidable delays. As an example, if we consider a vital component that has been delayed, it has the potential to halt an entire assembly process (for example, in a vehicle plant), leading to missed sales opportunities or contractual penalties.

    Cost Optimization - When devising a transportation plan, prioritizing speed over direct transportation cost (or the other way around) can be a costly mistake. Instead, it is imperative to take into account other expenses, such as transit time, labor, environmental, and warehousing, in order to identify the most economical option. Through the optimization of the transportation plan, substantial savings can be realized, particularly when the operation is scaled.

    Safety and Compliance - When it comes to global shipments, various regulations are followed by various countries, and an efficient route plan should take these regulations into consideration in order to ensure compliance and avoid potential legal issues, which may lead to parcels being confiscated. In addition, there is always the potential that there may be safety constraints relating to geopolitical issues or environmental hazards.

    Sustainability Aspects - With the current push globally around sustainability, businesses are working harder to minimize their carbon footprints and achieve their sustainability goals. This is another area where efficient route planning can support green logistics initiatives and their ability to identify areas and routes that will result in reduced fuel consumption.

    Tech-Driven Solutions in Route Planning

    To counter multiple complex challenges involved in global shipments and route planning, technology has ascended as the beacon of hope, providing options to businesses for advanced, data-driven analytics through technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are transforming how route planning is approached and executed.

    Predictive Analysis - Through AI integration, route planning platforms can now identify and predict routes that are potentially disruptive, whether due to weather conditions or man-made situations, allowing for proactive rerouting.

    Data-driven Decision Making - While predictive analysis and real-time monitoring provide future and current information, historical data can also offer invaluable insights into route efficiency, helping businesses identify patterns in terms of delayed deliveries on specific shipments or routes in order to plan future shipments accordingly.

    Delving Deeper; Beyond the Basics of Route Planning

    In some instances, the observance of cultural or religious holidays in either the country of origin or the country of destination may result in the temporary closure of delivery warehouses or limited shipping operations. This circumstance can impede the timely delivery of parcels. Therefore, being mindful of such occurrences can aid in effective route planning, saving time and money.

    Moreover, as global shipping involves the use of multiple modes of transport, achieving a seamless transition between the various modes is critical. Route planning is, therefore, essential to gain a holistic view of the various legs of a journey from start to finish.

    The utilization of technology to design transportation routes has evolved from being non-existent to becoming an indispensable tool in recent years. Nevertheless, due to the unpredictable nature of the global supply chain, it is vital for businesses to leverage a combination of technology, data analysis, and human expertise to plan effectively.

    In route planning, the establishment of human communication and transparency is of utmost importance, as they foster trust and situational awareness among stakeholders.

    It’s crucial to focus on the journey rather than the destination, as this is the most important aspect of efficient route planning. A collaborative approach between technology, human experience, and data is essential to navigate the complex terrain of global shipping.

    Maja Bernstein is the VP of Industry Relations at Fluent Cargo. She has vast experience in logistics having previously worked at Rock-it Global as a freight forwarder specializing in live events for several years and most recently at Oceanworks as operations manager.

    This article originally appeared in the 2023 Global/Cross-Border edition of PARCEL.