- Load planning software saves time and money for a company by optimizing the load planning process.
- There are different types of the software based on the mode of transportation and companies’ needs.
- The core features of load optimization software are registration, dashboards, load placement calculator, map integration, and export.
- If you’re creating the software for your business, think about how you can integrate it in the company’s existing workflow.
What is load planning software?
During the load planning process, workers optimize loading sequences: they arrange freight in vehicles and plan deliveries to warehouses or other endpoints. The cargo needs to be organized by size, weight, with regards to order priority, and always in concordance with safety regulations. Cargo planning minimizes the number of vehicles and standard shipping containers used: trucks, railcars, pallets.
Workers conduct load planning and calculate container load differently each time — load planning systems require a lot of manual oversight. First of all, the route can change — the vehicle may have to take detours at multiple stops to reload. Also, workers have to choose different containers based on mode of transportation: maritime, railroad, or air shipping. And no two packages are alike: their length of supply chain, final destination, size, and specifics differ. For example, some products have to be refrigerated, while others get damaged under 0°C temperature.
Load planning software optimizes the loading sequence by adding automation and creating optimal loading plans for any given route.
For example, it can show how to organize pallets in vehicles, or make a path that drivers can follow to deliver goods quickly. It saves time and money for the company. Keep reading to see just how beneficial load planning software can be for a business.
How one can save time and money with load planning software
There are several reasons why companies implement load planning software. It helps to:
Optimize containers’ load capacity. With load optimization software, you can automatically calculate how to sufficiently load a vehicle. This speeds up the load planning process. The company can maximize containers’ load usage faster, and ship the same amount of cargo with fewer vehicles. More carriers deliver more orders — and profits increase.
Reduce load planning mistakes. Human errors are not uncommon in logistics, and they increase operational and transportation costs. If a mistake was made, a load planner would have to bear responsibility for it. Improper loading can damage goods. If orders are not packaged according to plan, workers can accidentally mix them up and deliver them to wrong locations. With the software, these mistakes are minimized — drivers will spend less time making return trips to warehouses, and the company will avoid the hassle.
Plan routes efficiently. With load planning systems, drivers themselves can quickly map out the most efficient route to deliver every necessary order. The app can help workers choose safe routes and also adjust the routes based on order priority and cargo specifications. The driver spends less time on deliveries and less money on fuel while the company can hire fewer people — and saves dollars.
Types and options of load planning software
Here are a few load planning software types — we will also showcase examples which can serve as inspiration for your own apps:
Truck and trailer load planning tools
They can either show the best ways to place loads in a truck, trailer, and container — or map out a route for a driver to make swift deliveries.
Example. EasyCargo is one such web-based solution. The user can import a list of items from an Excel spreadsheet, and the app will calculate how to load them into a container automatically. There’s a manual editor which shows a 3D image of a container and pallets. A load planning specialist can use it to readjust the position of certain pallets, and ensure no space is wasted.
Aviation load planning software
Companies use special tools for aviation loads because of this mode’s unique characteristics. For example, there are certain weight restrictions — if workers don’t follow them while mapping out load planning logic, consequences can be disastrous.
Example. CHAMP Weight & Balance takes an Excel spreadsheet with ready-to-ship goods and plans loads automatically. The software is designed to comply with industry standards — it calculates loads in a way to save fuel. It supports any type of aircraft from passenger planes to freighters, and ensures load and transport efficiency.
Vessel stowage planning software
This type of load optimization software is specifically designed for ships. With its help, companies can use the space of a vessel more efficiently, track accurate data about cargo, and exchange information between ports and ships.
Example. Videck Stowage Planning is one of such load planning solutions. It’s a desktop-based app which specializes in visual cargo placement and planning. It helps plan load placement depending on type of cargo shipped: e.g. general cargo, oversized and overweight cargo. A user can upload a list of virtual goods — then products turn into images which users can choose how to position on a voyage. The app also has specific tools for showing how to stack pipes and coils without wasting space. Once a user completes load planning, they can share their work with engineers or customers.
Multimodal shipping software
Companies use this kind of software when they ship different products with different modes of transportation. For example, small refrigerated goods by maritime transport, and large, fragile objects by air transportation.
Example. Shiptify is a web-based transport management system. Users can integrate this SaaS-product with their business: monitor their shipments, sort them based on order priority, and estimate delivery expenses. If a company requires some logistics information on paper, it is possible to automatically generate reports concerning loads and shipments.
Custom software for the needs of an individual company
Some companies don’t benefit from these solutions. They have sophisticated supply chains which are incompatible with existing load planning software. So they develop a custom app, which adapts to their business strategy and can be scaled with the company over time. Keep on reading to learn how to create such an app.
What features should be included in load planning software?
You’ve figured out the type of app you want to create — with the goal of either selling it to others as a universal service or using it in your own company. In order to find out if it will be useful and you won’t waste money, consider creating an MVP first.
MVP (minimum viable product) is a barebones version of the app. It has only essential features. An MVP is cheaper than a full-blown app, and it helps companies see whether their idea is viable in the first place. They can gather feedback from the first users and adjust software accordingly.
You don’t need to integrate every feature there is to create a good MVP. You can always add more features later on. What matters at the beginning are core features — they remain the same regardless of the type of app you want to make. Here are some ideas to implement in your software to plan loads and optimize routes:
Registration. Loading plans and cargo tracking data are sensitive, classified information. If somebody else besides employees or customers gets access to it, the cargo can be exploited — damaged and outright stolen. Or some private info can be put in danger. Registration helps mitigate these risks.
Dashboards. You may need to create a multi-purpose app — by multi-purpose software we mean that it can be used by different types of users: for example, load planners and delivery drivers. Create separate dashboards for each type of the user while keeping the design simple and intuitive.
Load placement calculator. It doesn’t matter if your company or your clients deal with truck or air shipments. Load planning apps need load calculators. They can help configure cargo in a way that utilizes available space effectively. Also, it can show how to distribute loads and pallets so that the weight is balanced — otherwise, some parts of a vehicle could malfunction.
Map integration. Load planning and route optimization go hand-in-hand. Maps help visualize those routes. Map integration is beneficial both for load planners and drivers. Load planners can make adjustments beforehand keeping order priority and cargo content in mind. Delivery drivers can follow the laid out path — or make corrections if they’re low on fuel.
Load plan sharing. After load planning is finished, the data should be stored in a reliable, easy-to-use manner. Make sure you have some type of export feature in your software. Integrate exporting to Excel spreadsheets — it’s an industry standard.
How to develop the load planning software
At Purrweb, we’ve been creating MVPs for 8 years — we have developed over 300 projects. Our teams already have experience in logistics software development. We believe that starting with an MVP is still the best way to go about making software.
Before creating an MVP, it’s essential to hire high-level professionals or find a competent software development company. This ensures that your project will be high quality and released on time and you won’t lose potential profits.
We’ve condensed the process of load planning software development into 5 steps.
Step 1. Identify business requirements and the type of software you want
No matter whether you’re going to create an app specifically for your business or develop a load planning software for other companies, you first need to analyze the supply chain. What mode of transportation do you or your potential clients use when shipping goods — by air or by sea? Or maybe they load trucks instead? This will inform the type of app you’re going to develop.
Analyze other similar products on the market. Find their strengths and weaknesses. No product is perfect — maybe they have features for every type of transport deliveries, but their UI/UX design is unintuitive. Use this information to create better software.
Step 2. Choose features
The choice of functionality should be based on the business needs and the analysis of your competition. You can pick features we’ve outlined previously. Don’t include features which are irrelevant to your clients’ companies or your business — you can save money by integrating only necessary features which help navigate complex supply chains.
Step 3. Create solid UI/UX design
Keep in mind the way users will interact with the app. What do they do the moment they open the app? And after that? Map out their user-flow — every scenario how they will navigate through the software.
Make sure to integrate different functionality and interfaces for different types of users. Delivery drivers and load planners should have separate interfaces — if you mix them up, your users will get confused and won’t use the app.
Don’t overload your design with unnecessary flourishes and useless buttons. They can mislead users — it’s frustrating to deal with.
Step 4. Develop an MVP and test it
This stage includes coding and QA.
Choose a tech stack thoroughly. We recommend React.js and Node.js if you’re planning to create a web-based app. These frameworks minimize bugs and shorten loading times — your software will run smoothly.
If you want to create a desktop app, stick with Electron.js. You won’t need to hire two separate teams of developers — you can create software that’s compatible with MacOS and Windows in half the time.
For mobile apps, consider React Native which allows creating apps for iOS and Android using a single codebase.
Be sure to test the app and fix glitches.
Step 5. Release the app and continue software maintenance
After you’ve developed the app, test it with first users. Their feedback is crucial — record their suggestions and grievances, and update your software. This way you’ll improve your service and make dealing with supply chains easier.
After integrating new features, keep improving your app. This ongoing process of load planning software development won’t end. Keep listening to feedback, or test some market hypotheses — over time, your software will solve your company’s or your clients’ problems better than ever.
How to integrate the load planning software with your workflow
If you’re planning to create an app specifically for your business, it’s essential to understand how the app will be integrated into the existing load planning system. Designers can create decent interfaces or map out features to include, but it may turn out to be useless for your company. There’ll be no choice but to push deadlines further and search for other solutions. To avoid this, there are some best practices to follow when implementing load planning software.
- Keep in mind that the app should fit existing business processes. Think about tools and management systems that you’re already using and how the new software can be integrated with them.
- Consider integration with analytical tools to track the software efficiency.
- Don’t forget about supporting and maintaining your software. Technical issues are not uncommon in the sphere of load planning software. You need to make sure that you can continue updating load planning systems — adding new features and optimizing code so your technology runs smoother.
To tackle the tasks efficiently, be sure to collaborate with system analysts. System analysts can help you figure out the type of the load planning software you need and will help pick up features relevant to your supply chain. They also help push the load planning software development by making communication between you and designers and developers smoother.
Our experience: Cargo case
Purrweb has experience in developing an app in the logistics sphere. Our client was an entrepreneur who wanted a solution which they could sell to other companies. Basically, a SaaS-product which would optimize logistics for small businesses: restaurants, fast food joints, online stores. This is when we created Cargo, an app for delivery drivers.
Drivers use this app throughout the entire delivery process. When they arrive at a warehouse, they open the app and note that they’re present. When couriers find items which they need to ship, they scan the goods’ barcodes and assume responsibility over the parcels. And as soon as drivers load their vehicle with products, the app maps out a route to customers’ locations based on order priority and driving convenience.
We made sure to design this app in a minimalist fashion. Our customer wanted a “White Label” type of app — they wanted to sell it so that other companies can seamlessly integrate it into their brand strategy. In order to keep design simple without looking half-baked, we paid attention to details — designed special icons and pictures. This way, the app looked and felt finished — but still flexible enough to adjust to any branding.
When the MVP had been completed, our client wanted to integrate some new features, like allowing a courier to pick up parcels from any part of the city besides warehouses. We managed to scale this load planning software, and now our client sells it under the Illuminate Software Solutions company.
In this article, we’ve outlined load planning software development — what it is, necessary features, and benefits. We’ve also detailed a step-by-step guide on how to create your own load planning software.
If you want to digitize load planning for your own company or develop an app to sell to other businesses, make sure to leave us a message in the form below. We’ll reply in 24 hours.