New version: time windows and pickup & delivery

routexl-time-windowsWe only had three major overhauls since we started in 2009. Our multi stop route planner was regularly updated with many small changes. Incremental improvements are valuable, but we needed bigger steps to add time windows and pickup & delivery.

Time windows

Time is only becoming more precious in our 24 hour economy. People have full schedules and high expectations that delivery persons must meet. City centers are closed for delivery during shopping hours. Businesses require just-in-time deliveries. The last mile in distribution is not only defined by an address but also by a clock.

Time windows have a big impact on the itinerary. If one delivery is required before 9AM, it makes no sense to make the drop at 11AM. Our route optimizer needs to take time constraints into account when optimizing the order of stops. It will set up a itinerary that meets those time requirements if possible.

Each address can be assigned a ready and due time. Both can be edited from the location infowindow, that pops up when you click it on the map or in the address list. The ready time sets the time when it may be visited earliest, the due time sets when it may be serviced latest. Both can be set to create a time slot.

For time windows to work, we also need to know the service time. That’s the time spent at a location. Service time can be set for each location after it has been added, or as a default value in the options dialog for registrered users. This default will be set for all new locations that are added.

We need to distinguish travel time from clock time. The travel time is the sum of time spent on actual travel between stops, e.g. driving the car. The travel time, excluding service time, is what is minimized in the route optimization. The clock time is the sum of time spent in total, including service time. This is used to check the itinerary against the time windows.

Order restrictions

Besides the time windows, users also asked for pickup & delivery. That is, people wanted to mark addresses as pickup points that need to be visited before delivery points. Say you’d like to pick up a smoothie before going to work. Or coffee.

These order restrictions also have strong impact on the optimization of the itinerary. Merely taking into account travel times is no guarantee that your stops are in the right sequence. Our core planning algorithm had to be adjusted to make sure these requirements are met in the optimized route plan.

For each destination, you can set wether it should be visited before or after any other destination. If you have more complex order restrictions to be taken into account, you can even construct multiple tiers of pickups and deliveries.

More updates

  • Registered users can set a default home address. This will be added as starting point for each new route. You can set the address in the options dialog.
  • You can add your current location as starting point. If you share your location (browser dependent) with our website, you’ll be able to add it with one click on the button in the address list.
  • We’ve added the arrival time for each stop in the driving directions. Besides the travel time between stops, you’ll notice a clock time before each address which indicates the expected time of arrival. This sums up the travel time and service time for all locations visited.
  • Don’t like our route? You can manually reorder the route in the addresses list by dragging the addresses. Note that the route will no longer be optimal. Changes are not saved to the stored optimized route on our server.
  • Do you like our route but want to try it the other way around? Flip around the optimized itinerary with one click on the button in the address list. You may need to re-open the dialog.
  • We show the estimated CO2 emission reductions we calculated in all routes in the last period. The reduction is estimated by comparing the original order with the optimized order.
  • We have further improved our optimization algorithm. Earlier this paved the way for an increase of the maximum number of addresses that can be added. Via Paypal you can now upgrade your account up for route plans up to 150 stops.
  • Next to all the planning goodies, we also made a visual refresh. With a more flat design we aim to improve the user experience, increase readability and speed up the website even more.
  • Next to the website, we have the API ready for testing. With this application programming interface other developers can integrate our route optimization in their systems. In a next post we’ll give a heads up.

Support

Because of the high impact of these changes, we have tested the new release version 4 thoroughly for a few months. A number of selected hardcore power users spent a lot of time to check out all the new stuff. We wish to thank all who helped us so much. A big shout-out to you!

But because of the same impact, some issues may still arise. If you have anything you’d like to get off your chest: ask your question, share an idea, report a problem or give praise in our support community.