Dispatch Software: 9 Must-Have Features

Evaualting Dispatch Software

There’s never been a more critical time to implement the right dispatch software. The demands on delivery operations have never been greater: online grocery grew by 4-5 times since last year, and online retail sales are up for home improvement and home furnishings – all categories which generally require specialty delivery services. Additionally, there is a cross-vertical increase in demand for same-day delivery, with over 50% of retailers and shippers already offering same-day delivery to their customers. To meet these new challenges in delivery volume and service type, businesses can hire more drivers or engage more contracted fleets. But to fulfill efficiently – taking into consideration jumps in demand, costs to deliver, and driver efficiency – businesses also need to be smarter about how they dispatch and use these fleets.

New, better services vs. cost to deliver

Two-day shipping costs almost twice as much operationally as five-day shipping; however, in an era of same and next-day delivery, it’s going to become a necessity if you want to be competitive. To implement these services profitably, you’ll need to save on time and resources by optimizing how orders are dispatched, and to whom.

For example, optimized dispatch can cut down on some of the costs of faster delivery by reducing delivery mileage and inefficient truck rolls. Estimated costs for a truck roll start at $150 and go as high as $500; reducing even one truck roll per day can add up to significant monthly and quarterly savings.

Optimizing dispatch processes can be difficult – but it doesn’t have to be. Intelligent dispatch software can provide the enhanced flexibility companies need to enable the delivery experiences that brands and end customers expect, while remaining cost-effective.

What is Intelligent Dispatch Software?

On a basic level, dispatch software is any digital tool which helps dispatchers or businesses choose which driver or fleet will deliver an order. This can be anything from simple apps to ‘digitize’ pen and paper spreadsheets, to platforms which connect the entire supply chain, including integrations with external fleets, retail systems, and other logistics systems.

Intelligent, multi-fleet dispatch software is advanced technology which incorporates multiple capabilities to identify and dispatch the optimal driver and route for each delivery, for the optimal choice of fleet and route, at the optimal price point for the end customer and the company performing the dispatch.

Intelligent Dispatch is not just about having access to more fleets, but about sending the optimal driver, fleet and vehicle for every order – and defining what is ‘optimal’ based on your unique business considerations.

Here are the primary features to look for in intelligent dispatch software:

9 Requirements of Intelligent Dispatch Software

1. Automated Scheduling
2. Customized dispatching per operational logic and business priorities
3. Route Optimization and order batching
4. Real-time integrations
5. AutoDispatch and manual dispatch
6. Fulfillment flexibility and automation
7. Visibility and coordination across the delivery flow
8. Real-time data and alerts
9. Robustness and agility

1. Automated scheduling software

Dispatching and Scheduling software deal with the same question: When can/will an order reach the customer?

Many white glove deliveries and services such as installation and assembly require that the end customer or consignee be home for the delivery, and they may need to be contacted in order to schedule the delivery or service. Scheduling and dispatching go hand in hand in this process, since delivery windows, dates and pricing vary based on a fleet’s real-time capacity.

For example, when someone buys custom-made furniture online and pays for 48-hour delivery, the retailer and logistics provider know where the inventory is, and that it must reach the customer within two days. Once the order is ready, either the brand or the logistics provider could send an automated message to the customer, directing them to a page where they schedule their exact delivery window. This scheduling software can save thousands of hours each month for service centers which would otherwise have to call the customers directly. To be accurate, scheduling should be part of a dispatching solution that bases scheduling on the availability of inventory and fleets.

At the same time, not everyone will schedule online – and orders cannot be dispatched without a delivery window. An intelligent dispatching software will be able to differentiate planned orders that have been scheduled, from those that haven’t yet been scheduled, and alert the relevant teams accordingly.

Scheduling for Logistics Providers – Logistics providers need to be able to send quotes to shippers’ sites. This requires integration not only with the relevant eCommerce providers, but with all contracted fleets. The right software will be able to serve the needs of both shippers and consignees by identifying the shipper (including an shipper-specific service level agreements) and use this to determine the optimal scheduling options and windows

2. Customized dispatching according to operational logic and business priorities

Different businesses have different KPIs and need dispatch solutions that suit their specific business goals. For instance:

Retailers, especially those selling big and bulky products, will want to schedule and dispatch based on fleets already delivering to the same area.

Logistics Providers must take into consideration different service levels provided to each shipper, and then match each order with the relevant type of service (e.g. 4-hour delivery windows in a premium plan vs. 8 for a basic plan). How can they identify the service level per order?

Grocers and convenience stores might need to dispatch alcohol deliveries. Who meets the regulatory requirements for delivering alcohol?

Restaurants may need to prioritize fleets by price, speed or distance. Which fleet offers the lowest price point for a specific delivery?

For businesses quickly ramping up capacity by engaging new fleets, dispatch limitations will hold back their ability to scale.It’s also unrealistic for dispatchers to take every single factor into consideration. You need a ‘smart’ operating system that can make decisions for you, based on your unique considerations.

These considerations can include:

– Vehicle volume and weight capacity
– Driver costs
– Vehicle and fleet regional suitability (e.g. bike in cities)
– Time-to-delivery
– Advanced delivery requirements – Contactless, returns and rejections, age and regulatory restricted deliveries
– Estimated time on site, time to warehouse or dark kitchen and time to deliver to ensure on-time deliveries

For example, a business could choose to set weight capacity for each vehicle, as well as order capacity (the total number of orders that can be taken on a run) and cost for each fleet. Different orders would go to different drivers in your fleet, based on the weight and order capacity of the vehicle assigned to them. Similarly, distant deliveries would be assigned to a 3PD with a flat delivery fee.

Driver and technical skills – To dispatch technicians for a white glove delivery or field service, you will need software that takes into consideration both the specific skills required for the delivery, and the availability of both the relevant drivers, and any special tools or vehicle that they may need to perform the service.

Route Planning and Optimization for Trucks

For oversized deliveries and some services, dispatching trucks and timing delivery routes must take loading and unloading time into consideration. Dispatchers often want to know whether or not the consignee or recipient has a dedicated space for loading and unloading. Typically, dispatchers prefer to use smaller delivery vehicles for recipients that do not have a dedicated loading / unloading area, as these vehicles are easier to park closer to the recipient. However, if a larger vehicle is used for these deliveries, the time on site will often need to be adjusted for parking and unloading time.

The best trucking dispatch software will be able to optimize truck loading and dispatch on the vehicle level. These capabilities will both save time and ensure you are utilizing the optimal vehicle for each delivery or service.

3. Route Optimization and Order Batching

A simple way to fulfill more orders is to deliver more on a single run. Intelligent dispatching technologies should therefore include route optimization with automated order batching and drop density optimization.

Route Optimization – takes multiple variables into account – such as distance, estimated timing for all delivery stages, and custom business considerations – to calculate the optimal route.

Batching – Identify orders in the same delivery windows which are located near one another, and can be batched to reduce the cost of delivery.

Related: Route Optimization – Ensuring Faster, More Flexible Delivery

For Restaurants, where customers tend to order food for the same peak times of day, order batching is a particularly good way to optimize delivery resources.

4. Real-time integrations

No logistics software exists in a vacuum, and your dispatch software should be no exception. Dispatch technology in particular exists within an ecosystem of highly specific variables – from inventory to orders, as well as driver, fleet and vehicle availability – so it’s worthwhile to check potential systems for how the software integrates with the relevant OMS (Order Management System), TMS and other operational systems.

Fleet integration for Retail and Restaurants

While many solutions claim to have integrations with lots of delivery vendors, not all of them provide a real-time data sync. The result is that they can dispatch to a third party fleet, but they cannot take the driver/vehicle location into consideration. This makes it nearly impossible for dispatchers to proactively identify or reactively address issues of late deliveries. Moreover, these solutions may not provide data on vehicle capacity or capabilities that should be taken into consideration for optimal dispatching.

However, fully integrated, real-time data sync with 3PDs provide dispatchers with the same level of visibility and control as they would have with internal fleets, improving dispatch efficiency and delivery performance.

5. AutoDispatch and manual dispatch

Intelligent Routing and Dispatch Software

Your dispatch solution must meet your business goals, even as those goals change according to market needs. For example, a grocery chain may want to fulfill planned deliveries from MFCs, but also offer same-day delivery from urban retail locations. Likewise, a restaurant may want the flexibility to fulfill delivery orders from both dark kitchens and restaurants, or to offer on-demand delivery alongside next-day catering and food kit delivery options.

For active routes and same-day delivery, make sure that the dispatch solution you choose can support real-time, automated dispatching. For planned routes and deliveries that are next day or later, ensure that the dispatch tool allows dispatchers to intervene manually, (e.g. to support a customer with an urgent need). Strong dispatch solutions will allow you to use the same delivery resources for static, dynamic and real-time dispatch and deliveries.

Automated Dispatch for Off-Premise Food Fulfillment

On-demand food delivery has a unique dispatching constraint: a limited time in which to prepare the food and get it to the customer before food quality diminishes. If a driver arrives late, then the food can sit out too long, and lose its quality. This is especially true of off-premise restaurant orders, meal kits, and meal prep grocery orders.

An intelligent food dispatch software will sync with your kitchen preparation, so that orders are sent to prep only after the optimal driver has been identified and dispatched to the restaurant or dark kitchen. This way, the food will be ready just in time for pickup by a driver or customer, and drivers will never arrive early or late to pick up an order.

Our manual dispatch is typically used for next-day or later planned dispatch as well as for exception management, and gives dispatchers the same visibility and behind-the-scenes data as AutoDispatch. For example, the Dispatch engine may be used to suggest routes, drivers and vehicles. Dispatchers can manually adjust the plan as needed. Once a dispatcher makes a manual change to a driver, order or route, the entire planned run – including ETAs – will automatically update to reflect that change.

6. Fulfillment flexibility and automation

Flexible dispatch allows businesses to create different delivery logic and flows for every use case. This can mean using different fleet models in tandem, with a fleet tethered to a store, or pooled within a region. It also means automatically allocating orders to the optimal fulfillment location (e.g. an MFC, dark kitchen, or one of several local retail locations), and then dispatching deliveries as needed.

7. Visibility, communication and coordination across the delivery flow

Intelligent dispatch software works as part of an integrated, intelligent ecosystem, ensuring that every team works in sync. Each team in a delivery flow needs to know when and where they should be in order to hand off a delivery to the next team. This means drivers need to be told which location they should pick up from, which loading bay they should go to, and when they are needed. Similarly, retail staff need to know which orders need to be prepared, where they should be staged and when.

All of this must be fully automated and coordinated, in order to minimize expenses, while meeting the customer’s delivery windows. And in today’s market, all of this must be supported equally for multiple fulfillment models: delivery from store or MFC, curbside pickup, click and collect, reverse logistics, and more.

Look for dispatch software with in-app and mobile communication and tracking tools, so that each team can coordinate deliveries seamlessly. Mobile Inventory and asset management, too, should be a part of your dispatching solution, whether as a separate integrated management system or as part of your dispatch technology.

Software solutions for scheduling, dispatch and routing
Good dispatch software will optimize based on a wide variety of variables.

Centralize dispatch operations with contractors and master contractors

Many logistics providers need the ability to dispatch across internal and external drivers, as if they were a single team. Others want to dispatch on the fleet level, then delegate the final optimization of outsourced drivers and vehicles to the master contractors.

This calls for dispatch software solutions with customized permissions that give the contractor customized visibility over their drivers and those orders which are assigned to them, as well as access to dispatching tools for both planned and active routes.

You will also need a dashboard which displays upcoming deliveries and those in progress. Ideally, this dashboard will have different views, so that dispatchers of contracted fleets can view only their drivers, while still keeping all of the data in one centralized location. This way, both contractor and provider can be alerted if a driver is running late, or if anything goes wrong.

Centralizing dispatch of both internal and external fleets will enable you to handle greater delivery volumes, while using contracted fleets more cost-effectively.

8. Real-time data and alerts

Let’s face it, exceptions happen. Dispatchers need visibility into their resources, from driver and fleet availability to understanding where trucks are when requests on existing routes come in.
Dispatching software that is synced with inventory as well as fleet availability can create more efficient and cost-effective routes that ensure on-time deliveries, as well as potentially creating room for more orders per route. All of that can only be accomplished only through a tight loop of accurate real-time data, live alerts, and the resulting decisions made by dispatchers.

‘Smart’ dispatch software should contain automated exception flows which trigger relevant processes and alert the right people when something unexpected happens.

Live alerts must be extremely rapid, accurate, and sent to the right people over the correct channels. These alerts act as a ‘decision hub’ for zero-hour delivery facts on the ground, and should include notifications on delivery status, driver ratings, average time-to-delivery, missed deliveries, and everything else relevant to crucial dispatcher decision making. For example, platforms that include predictive capabilities on top of dispatching can alert both drivers and customers when a delay in delivery is predicted.

9. Robustness and Agility

Choose a modular platform with capabilities that can expand with your needs.

As your delivery services expand, so will your dispatching needs. You may engage additional contractors or external fleets, expand to crowdsourcing, or even use more internal drivers; you may work with trucks but then expand to other vehicles. The same goes for geographic reach, and dozens of variables.

Look for broader delivery orchestration platforms which include dispatching alongside other tools for fast, efficient delivery. Choose a modular platform with capabilities that can expand with your needs, whether you work with a fleet of 50 vehicles or 5,000. For enterprises or businesses supporting multiple delivery and fulfillment models at scale, managing your different flows from a single, centralized platform is the best way to ensure optimal resource utilization.

Dispatch software is just a small piece in the puzzle. Connecting, digitizing, automating and optimizing the entire delivery process will set market leaders apart from market donors in the era where, to shippers, customer experience is king.

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Intelligent, multi-fleet dispatching is one of the primary ways that global brands use Bringg to reduce delivery costs and improve performance. It’s also a core capability of our unified delivery and fulfillment orchestration platform.

Bringg’s dispatching algorithms prioritize dispatch around your business goals and intelligently factor in your unique considerations in order to suggest the optimal driver, fleet and vehicle for every delivery. Learn more about Bringg’s Intelligent Dispatching and Routing or discover Bringg’s full suite of unified delivery and fulfillment solutions.

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