An autonomous decision support system for the optimization of planning processes arising in the context of Waberer’s International.
In the long-haul full-truckload freighting and transportation industry, satisfying 5000 orders per week and planning the route of more than 3000 trucks, trailers and drivers all across Europe can prove to be a substantial business challenge.
From time to time, one has to assign available resources to freight tasks derived from orders. While doing this particular job, route planners and unit fleet operators have to consider many constraints, such as the driving time limits according to regulation of the 561/2006/EC directives, the opening hours of depots, drivers’ work schedule and other business factors. The cost-efficient operation of the fleet depends on the efficiency of the work these people perform on a thrice a day basis.
The resulting assignment plans should adhere to the strategic goals of the company. There is a signification risk involved if these plans, despite satisfying demand, fail to meet the company’s cost efficiency requirements. The result can be undesirably high operating cost, due to the suboptimal utilization of the fleet.
NEXOGEN approached Waberer’s International with a custom-tailored decision support solution based on the company’s own proprietary mathematical optimization framework. This framework was capable of effectively addressing the issues of delivering high-quality assignment and routing plans on the total fleet. The goal was to introduce a solution into the existing IT infrastructure, which could allow optimal planning to satisfy business constraints under very short time constraints. A secondary objective was to save error-prone and time consuming activities for the planners which could otherwise hinder the efficacy of the underlying decision making pipeline.
Analyzing the domain problem was our first step. Our proficient business analysts identified and assessed the business processes arising in the context of FTL (full truck load) long-haul freight transportation planning at Waberer’s International. In the very early stage of the project,critical factors and key performance indicators of the underlying problem were determined. The simultaneous, multi-objective minimization of the average waiting time and the empty kilometers performed by the trucks assigned to the respective tasks were necessary to make the overall project successful and efficient from both technical and business standpoints.
After this stage complex mathematical models and accompanying algorithms have been developed to efficiently describe and solve the NP-hard combinatorial optimization problem of a generalized resource and task assignment. This modeling process also involved the incorporation of various side-constraints and objectives imposed by the domain problem. These models and methods have been embedded into the optimization framework of NEXOGEN. The solution was integrated into the corporate IT infrastructure of Waberer’s, which is based on a custom made ERP solution, via SOAP/WCF interfaces. Additionally, our system has clear and well-documented interfaces, which can be connected to any major ERP platform/vendor, such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics AX and Oracle.
The integrated solution has evolved into a high performance, custom-tailored decision support system and optimization tool, which suits the needs of Waberer’s International the best and is able to obtain high quality, executable, valid and optimal plans. The integration of this solution into the customer’s planning pipeline resulted in substantial improvement of the key performance indicators, which could be measured in explicit cost savings. The solution has paid off within the month after introduction, while the whole project, from the signing of the contract to the installation, took only 6 months in total.
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