o find the optimal route planning and route calculation is the be-all and end-all in many areas. Be it in sales, technical service, logistics or appraisals. Tools for free route planning in field service seem attractive here, but often turn out to be a mistake that costs you business.
We have all got lost at one time or another. Or we have arrived too late because we planned badly. Fortunately, there are now software and apps that make route planning and tour planning easier. Many of them are even free, available as so-called freeware. However, this can backfire on you in a big way.
FREE TOUR PLANNING IS OFTEN JUST ROUTE PLANNING
If you need to plan your journeys in a professional context - possibly every day and not just for yourself - there is more to it than just finding the best routes. You need a trip planner that schedules your jobs and takes all related aspects into account. This requires much more than simply calculating destinations and routes on a map (see below for reason 1).
Read more: What is the difference between a route and a tour?
There are now good tools for field service and route planning on the web, many free of charge. But as soon as it goes beyond private use or beyond a certain number of destinations (for example, if you are looking for a free route planner for more than 50 destinations), you won't get far with free software (freeware). In the worst case, a free field service app will hinder your business more than it helps it.
The following 17+1 reasons show why you should not use free software for route planning in the field and service.
FREE TOUR PLANNING ONLY PROVIDES HALF THE PLANNING
For efficient planning, you need more than just address data. Because you do not simply determine routes, but tours, i.e. the completion of orders and appointments. The best route is only one part of route planning. What you also have to consider (incomplete list): Appointment time slots, customer preferences, visit frequency, staff skills, vehicle types, job types, costs and values. Many free tools are only route planners, not tour planning tools.
MANUAL EFFORT WITH FREE FIELD SERVICE SOFTWARE
In reality, hardly any day goes exactly according to plan. If something changes in the course of the day, for example an emergency appointment occurs or one of your employees is absent, you have to react quickly. With free tour planning tools, you usually have a lot of manual effort to reschedule. Paid software offers the great benefit of automated route optimisation, even across employees.
FREEWARE LIMITS THE NUMBER OF TARGETS OR TOURS
The number of destinations that can be planned is sometimes limited with free route planners. If you have to plan more than 20 destinations or tours for several sales representatives, you may reach a limit. Professional route planning software, on the other hand, allows you to perform a vast number of calculations and route optimisations at the same time.
AND THEN IT BECOMES CHARGEABLE AFTER ALL
You can expand the limited scope of some freeware - for a certain price. For example, you can buy a package to increase the number of possible stopovers and stops. However, the question then arises whether it is not better to go straight for a more professional software or app as the complexity of the planning increases. This costs more, but also gets more out of it.
UNDEVELOPED FREEWARE: THE FEATURES
Free tour planners not infrequently offer extended functions for planning in addition to their basic functions. However, at varying degrees of maturity. It can happen that these additional features are not yet fully developed and provide inaccurate or misleading results. So you end up with a tool that is not fully developed in parts and is difficult to use.
WHAT IF THE INTERNET IS GONE? MISSING OFFLINE FUNCTIONS
The countryside, land of dead spots ... If you are on the road with an online tour planner or a field service app, you may not have internet here and there. Good tools therefore have offline functions so that you can continue to work even in this case. This is not necessarily the case with free apps, route planners and the like.
Read more: Our field service app with online and offline functionality: FLS MOBILE
DOES FREEWARE RESPECT LABOUR LAWS?
A jigsaw of labour laws can be strict and regulates, among other things, working hours and breaks. Especially when you are planning for your employees, you have to take this into account. A solution from Silicon Valley will probably not know the exact working and break times of your people and include them in the route planning or route calculation.
SECURITY RISKS OF OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE
Many a free tools are called a Open Source Software
(meaning the source code is public and can be viewed by third parties, changed and used). Open source is usually published with a licence. However, this does not mean that the software has been tested by an official body. And a licence does not mean that the software has been well tested for security weaknesses.