EDGE - Summary
The main idea in EDGE is to integrate state-of-the-art technologies for logistics control, distribution management and route design, with powerful solvers based on novel methods for solving large-size Vehicle Routing Problems. New, more effective and user-friendly user interfaces are developed, along with efficient methods for collection of address, time, and distance information where available electronic databases are not adequate. Hence, existing solutions for transportation management will considerably enhance their potential for logistics savings and their market penetration. Generic route planning solutions are enhanced with better optimization power, user-friendly web and PDA interfaces, and integration with real-time tracking systems. The innovative solutions produced in EDGE are exploited by 2 end users, and commercialized and disseminated internationally through 3 technology vendors.
Efficient and flexible transport logistics is increasingly important in society of today. In large-size, complex transport service operations such as newspaper delivery and garbage collection, tactical route planning is still performed manually. The result is that major route revisions are extremely costly and time consuming. Hence, they are performed much less frequently than desired. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten performs route revisions every 4-10 years. Revisions may cost up to 10 MNOK. These numbers are typical.
Advanced route planning technology with optimization is rapidly maturing. Automated route design and fleet management tools are now being implemented in industry, at an increasing rate. The state-of-the-art solution SPIDER Designer offered by the Norwegian company Spider Solutions AS is used by some 15 major Norwegian companies. However, evaluations involving competing systems have recently been performed by waste management companies and newspapers in the U.S. and Norway, with negative results. Significant innovations are still needed to enhance route planning technology to a level where they can meet the highly demanding requirements found in these services.
At the operational level, new technology has recently been introduced that enables route guidance for drivers and carriers, automatic tracking, and two-way communication. Such solutions enable a new level of flexibility in transport management. Routes combining several products may be varied dynamically. Prime examples of state-of-the-art solutions are the Electronic Delivery Guide solution offered by the Norwegian company Distribution Innovation AS (DI), and the wireless logistics management solution TCS offered by the Finnish company Ecomond Oy, primarily used by waste management companies. These solutions have not yet been combined with advanced, optimization based route planners. The reasons are that, for complex applications where a large number of households in an area must be serviced, state-of-the-art route planners have serious problems due to problem size, complex user interfaces, and the excessive human efforts needed for geocoding of households, plus associated time and distance calculations.
Two earlier RTD projects with partial support from the Research Council of Norway have been instrumental in the highly successful development of the DI solution. The eBudbok (2001-2003) and Mobidist (2003-2004) projects were focused on usability and user interfaces in designing, piloting, and evaluating the PDA based newspaper delivery guide. The solution is currently in use for newspaper distribution covering more than 50% of Norwegian households. Now, it is time to focus on the most crucial innovations for further increase of logistics efficiency gains through these solutions: namely via addition of novel, more powerful and user-friendly route planning functionality. This is what EDGE is all about.