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Route Optimization

What Drivers Can Learn From Amazon’s Efficiency and Route Optimization

Zach Blank


February 3, 2021

In the race to rule the delivery world, Amazon is poised to win. Since the beginning, Amazon employees have been told to treat every day like it is Day One. This fundamental tenet means never settling for “good enough” and drives every member of Amazon’s legion to strive to optimize. Today, this mindset is rewarded by consumers and investors, as Amazon represented 31% of all US e-commerce sales growth in 2020, and current market evaluations make Amazon a 1.65 trillion dollar corporation. For everyone outside the Amazon bubble, their competitiveness is a real threat to business itself. It’s time to catch up or permanently fall behind.

How does Amazon Stay on Top?

In the delivery business, route optimization is the key to their success. Constantly pushing for better, faster, and more reliable distribution has made Amazon the force to reckon with industry-wide. Even now, Amazon continues to push for 1-Day Prime Delivery to all people everywhere, a logistics accomplishment never seen before.

Amazon’s Focus on Continuous Improvement

Since the earliest days of Amazon, executives have always focused on improving every part of the business, especially supply chain & logistics. In recent years, Amazon has acted as a pioneer for the industry, championing robotics, electric delivery vans, and even autonomous drone delivery. This culture of innovation makes a big difference for their business, as more and more customers turn towards Amazon due to its superior service, speed, and consistent quality.

When it comes to delivery, route optimization is central to Amazon’s innovative approach. The savings from route optimization are tremendous: 

• Delivery vehicles last longer
• Increased fuel efficiency
• More packages delivered with the same resources

As Amazon grows towards a 2 trillion dollar company, route optimization is necessary to stay organized and efficient. Even today, millions of parcels are being delivered daily through Amazon’s ecosystem. The impact of intelligent routing is seen more than ever before. But how does Amazon manage delivery, and what tools do they give delivery drivers to optimize route?

How Amazon Delivery Works

Amazon’s Delivery System is unconventional, especially compared to the likes of FedEx, UPS, and the USPS. Many drivers don’t even work for Amazon directly, they are tied to distributors who partner with Amazon, and rent trucks & vans for the job. Individual contractors can sign-up to deliver through the Amazon Flex app on their phones, using their own cars to deliver.

All drivers receive a manifest when they start their shift at the warehouse, but the manifest isn’t traditional either. Drivers aren’t given explicit addresses due to privacy reasons, but instead have barcodes that correspond to delivery zones. Each delivery zone has a certain number of packages that the driver has to deliver that shift. In order for the driver to get going, they use their Rabbit, an app created by Amazon, to navigate and stay organized for the route. The Rabbit handles scanning, inventory, and step-by-step directions, enabling drivers to do all of their work effectively.

Once a driver logs into the Rabbit and scans the codes from their manifest, they are ready to go. From the outset of the day, delivery drivers have little-to-no friction getting started, which makes a big difference in the driver’s organization. The Rabbit optimizes their routes taking into account traffic conditions, accidents, and delays. As the driver completes their deliveries, they can use the Rabbit to mark them off, staying on track and giving users real time data on delivery status.

As Amazon grows to serve millions of people around the world, so does the system of logistics and delivery at its center. With more packages to deliver, especially around the holidays, the route optimizations from Rabbit add up to significant time saved for drivers. This optimization-focused approach allows Amazon to continually deliver a high level of consistency and satisfaction to their customers.

How does the Rabbit optimize routes?

The Technology that Powers the Rabbit

The Rabbit, built off a powerful mapping technology called MapBox, uses several factors to optimize routes for drivers. Rabbit examines current traffic conditions, historical data, road closures, construction, weather, and Global Positioning Satellite data to understand the best possible way to get drivers through their route. Keeping a centralized route optimization software has provided Amazon with big savings. All drivers have a simple and easy orientation to the app, and a strong feedback loop allows Amazon to continually update and improve Rabbit.

As a delivery driver knows, there are few truly good applications that can fit their needs and seamlessly integrate with their workflow. In addition, it is rare to have a delivery aid that actually takes user feedback and integrates new features through updates. Attention to the delivery driver can have a tremendous impact on the time they save and the earnings they make. 

For delivery drivers looking for their own Rabbit, it can be tricky to know which service is best.

Drivers want powerful mapping technology, like MapBox, but they also want real-time optimization, looking at hundreds of factors to give them the best advantage for the day. Ease-of-use is also a high priority for drivers, because anything that wastes time or distracts on the road can be dangerous. Most of all, it is important to have a delivery tool that works for delivery drivers, something that can handle hundreds of stops in a given day, and the unique challenges only delivery drivers face.

How Drivers Everywhere Can Work at Scale

For drivers outside the Amazon sphere, delivery is a challenging job to optimize. Manifests are long, recommended routes aren’t ideal, and hours get wasted, resulting in significant losses that are assumed mostly by the driver.

Fortunately, there are strong services that can give delivery drivers the same power and attention as the Rabbit does for Amazon drivers. One of these options, Straightaway, is built from the ground-up with delivery at the center of its mission. 

Straightaway starts with MapBox at its core, the powerful mapping engine used by Amazon, FedEx, National Geographic, even Porsche. Then, Straightaway builds in Machine Learning, which examines hundreds of data points and finds the best possible prediction for the driver’s route. After taking into account weather, closures, and everything else that’s on the road, Straightaway delivers navigation that can save hours per day for drivers.

When drivers are on the road with Straightaway, the app is updating every 30 seconds, looking at traffic and all other conditions to ensure the route is still ideal. The impact is real and tangible, as drivers can use the app at any point to see analytics on the time they have saved, and the miles they’ve driven.

Takeaways from Amazon

As Amazon races ahead to conquer the delivery market, and become ubiquitous with speed, quality, and consistency, every delivery driver can learn from the optimizations and culture of the company. Continuous improvement translates to happier customers and more productive drivers. While Rabbit isn’t available to all, the best parts of the software are available to more and more drivers everyday. Now every driver can get in on the race, and a tool like Straightaway is the best place to start.

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Zach Blank

Zach is the co-founder and CEO of Straightaway.

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