Future-Proofing With Integrated Route Planning and Mobile Technology

The transition to optimized route planning and real-time dispatch and tracking solutions can deliver the efficiency gains and cost savings that are critical for remaining competitive in the face of today’s material cost increases and supply chain obstacles.
By Chris Jones
August 4, 2021

The construction industry was off to roaring start in 2020, adding more than $900 billion to the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2020—its highest level since the 2008 recession, according to research from Deloitte. Then, COVID-19 took hold in the United States, effectively wiping out two years of GDP gains and four years of job gains.

Even as the pandemic is beginning to wane and life is getting back to some semblance of “normal,” contractors face continued challenges that are impeding their ability to rebound.

On a positive note, housing starts are on the rise, according to U.S. Census data, and Deloitte predicts that an uptick in public and commercial spending could improve the construction industry outlook for 2021. As contractors try to balance the surge in need for construction services with rising costs, materials delays and labor shortages, many are turning to automated technology solutions to generate the operational efficiencies required to bolster the bottom line and differentiate their services from the competition.


As general contractors and building suppliers work to rebound from the pandemic-induced setback—and future-proof operations beyond 2021—the use of technology and digital workflows in the industry is accelerating. Building materials suppliers are replacing traditional paper-based, manual route planning practices with automated route planning, delivery scheduling and proof-of-delivery (POD) solutions that can keep pace with the dynamic construction environment; in parallel, contractors are embracing suppliers’ integrated mobile customer applications that give them access to the real-time location and status of deliveries.

Strategic routing planning and scheduling software helps building suppliers generate delivery plans that save money and better utilize resources to accommodate different materials with varying loading and unloading requirements and times (e.g., vans versus boom trucks; forklifts versus cranes). Automated route planning solutions also enable suppliers to deliver proactive, responsive customer service in the face of tight delivery windows, short lead times, unpredictable weather and unforeseen changes in customer demands.


Building suppliers are highly attuned to contractors’ need for work on the jobsite to be properly sequenced and tightly coordinated with the delivery of materials and availability of crews. To keep crews operating efficiently, especially as they combat the labor shortage, contractors require timely and accurate deliveries. For many projects, same-day ordering is a frequent necessity, further stressing the need for responsive and reliable service from suppliers.

By implementing integrated route planning and mobile technology, building suppliers across the construction ecosystem—from masonry, roofing and doors to plumbing, HVAC and electrical—can offer customers short lead times and flexible time windows to maximize delivery convenience, increase revenue through premium delivery services and reduce logistics costs.


As the single largest expense under contractors’ control, crew productivity is crucial to their bottom line; if the schedule is delayed because the required materials don’t arrive on time, the crew still needs to be paid. For this reason, real-time delivery information is vital, enabling contractors to have their crews on site in alignment with the availability of materials.

Forward-thinking building suppliers recognize contractors’ need for a high level of visibility into deliveries and are keen to differentiate their service from competitors. Using GPS-based mobile tracking, suppliers can leverage real-time visibility into driver availability and delivery status throughout the day to keep contractors informed of delivery progress.


As suppliers and contractors alike look for ways to curtail costs amidst post-pandemic supply chain challenges, an integrated last mile delivery solution is a smart option. Optimizing route planning and scheduling with an automated solution enables suppliers to deliver contractor orders reliably and cost-effectively in less time, while reducing transportation costs by minimizing mileage, fuel consumption and vehicle idle time.

Saving additional time and resources, automated real-time updates and POD data capture not only improve the customer experience but reduce failed deliveries and eliminate delivery discrepancies and unpaid invoices. Indeed, paperless POD significantly reduces the number of customer calls and claims, helping building suppliers save tens of thousands of dollars every month with better delivery claim resolution.

The transition to optimized route planning and real-time dispatch and tracking solutions can deliver the efficiency gains and cost savings that are critical for remaining competitive in the face of today’s material cost increases and supply chain obstacles. With automated technology on their side, suppliers and contractors can not only survive the pandemic-related economic fallout but future-proof their operations to thrive down the road.

by Chris Jones
As Executive Vice President, Marketing and Services, Chris is primarily responsible for Descartes’ marketing and professional services organizations. With over 30 years of experience in the supply chain market, Chris has held a variety of senior management positions including Senior Vice President at The Aberdeen Group’s Value Chain Research practice, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Development for SynQuest, Vice President and Research Director for Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions at The Gartner Group, and Associate Director Operations & Technology at Kraft General Foods.

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