29. July 2019 ǀ Munich Ismaning

Using digital data to revolutionize route planning – Associate Professor Anne Meyer conducts research in the field of corporate logistics & supply chain management

Associate Professor Anne Meyer, a question has been popping up: How can you automatically make good logistics decisions based on data? Among other things, the results of her research work are being incorporated into the software of geologistics software provider PTV. Her work is also being used in the maiTour intelligent route planner from maihiro products. 

In her interview, Anne Meyer addresses the difficulties and challenges that arise when the human factor plays a special role in logistics, and she explains how data analytics forms the basis for good decisions.

Ms. Meyer, which criteria play a special role in the sales force when focusing on optimized route planning? 

Anne Meyer: "Unlike many other route planning problems in logistics, the human factor, i.e., customers and employees, clearly plays the most important role. For sales representatives, customer loyalty is paramount. The better the employee knows their customer (and the better the customer knows their sales contact) the better the sales department runs. From the customer's point of view, consistency and reliability are important for establishing this relationship. From the employee’s point of view, it’s compact route territories (meaning short distances) that sales representatives traverse each day.

In addition, suppose for example that on Tuesdays travel should not take place in a territory that is many kilometers away from the territory traveled the day before, meaning that on this day the salesperson can perhaps also easily visit customers that he has been unable to reach before. If more customers eligible for a special promotional campaign than can be feasibly handled by a single sales representative before the end of the promotion period, it is also important to offer additional support: Which customers should definitely be approached, which ones can easily be “picked up” along the way, and which ones should be left out for this round?"

And what are the dependencies that these plans are tied to? 

Anne Meyer: "Ideally, in the short term to high sales potential, and in the longer term to high customer loyalty: In the short term, I would like to visit as many customers as possible who promise a high level of sales, but in the longer term I cannot lose the loyalty of my other customers, though they may be smaller. This is why historical data is very important, since it gives me information about precisely these factors. At the same time, however, a great many peripheral conditions play a role. These include working hours per day, week, and month, up to the ability to schedule overnight stays, as well as the requirements for consistency and reliability that have already been mentioned. On the one hand, I need a good database for assessing sales potential and customer loyalty, and on the other hand, I have stringent requirements for tactical and operational planning processes that are able to integrate all of the factors as efficiently as possible."

Keyword "integrated approach": What does optimal route planning based on digital data look like? 

Anne Meyer: "Generally speaking, we are dealing with issues related to logistical optimization: What data do I need where, when, and to what degree of accuracy in order to make good decisions. The goal is thus to combine data analytics and mathematical optimization methods to automate and improve decision-making processes."

Please briefly describe your research activities. 

Anne Meyer: "During my time at the Computer Science Research Center, I have worked for many years under a cooperative partnership with PTV on the development of territory and route planning procedures, which to a very large degree integrate both the long-term and the short-term aspects of planning the work of sales representatives. We are currently working on a team consisting of FZI, PTV, and TU Dortmund in order to improve short-term optimization procedures. The goal of this collaboration is to put the latest insights from data analytics and mathematical optimization into practice. Conversely, collaboration also offers us the opportunity to examine fascinating issues encountered in practice in the research space."

Vita Anne Meyer:

  • 2007: Degree in technical economics with a focus on logistics and transport from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).
  • 2008-2018: Research assistant and department head of the Logistics and Supply Chain Optimization Group at the FZI Computer Science Research Center in Karlsruhe
  • 2015: PhD from the Institute for Materials Handling and Logistics Systems at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • September 2018 to present: Associate professor at TU Dortmund specializing in the digitization of corporate logistics and supply chain management 

Autor: Verena Holzgreve ǀ 29. July 2019 ǀ München Ismaning

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