A Great Route Can Be Hard to Find
MichaelWatson 270002K5FS Tags:  sterling_tms ilog optimization transportation_analyst 2,106 Visits
Finding good routes can reduce transportation costs by 5-15%.
Finding great routes can reduce costs by a further 5-10%.
These savings can add up fast.
However, finding these great routes can be difficult.
On one level, routing seems trivial. If you have 75 shipments to make, you can easily look at a map and come up with routes. If analyze the routes, you can probably make changes to reduce costs. But, how do you know if you've found good solution? How do you know if you've found a great solution?
What is not obvious at first glance is how many total possible routes exist in a routing problem. In a problem with just 75 shipments, if you allow up to 10 stops per truck, the total possible routes exceed 10 to the 100th power (10 followed by 100 zeros)! Even with today's computing power, there is no way to evaluate each of these options.
And, the problem becomes harder when you consider delivery windows, different types of trucks, the ability to do backhauls, making making multiple trips with the same vehicle, and so on.
This is where IBM's optimization expertise comes in. Both the IBM ILOG Transportation Analyst and Sterling TMS use the ILOG CPLEX Optimizer to find great routes. The ILOG CPLEX Optimizer product contains a module for Constraint Programming (CP). CP is well suited for tough scheduling and routing problems, especially routing problems with time windows. It is this optimization technology that allows to you to find great solutions.