Enhanced multi-scenario distribution network modelling with latest version of Optisite, Mapmechanics’ affordable and accessible modelling system

Optisite diagramEven faster and more practical real-world planning of distribution networks and warehouse locations can be achieved by logistics and transport analysts and consultants using the latest 2017 version of Optisite, the distribution modelling system from Mapmechanics.

Multiple scenarios featuring similar parameters can now be set up extra-quickly using “cloning” (copying of shared features), and all scenarios can be processed and saved automatically without any interim user intervention. It is now also easier to specify existing locations that must always figure in the optimised solution, and to apply them to all scenarios.

Handling of distances has been enhanced in the latest version of Optisite, which can now show road miles in addition to the “straight line and scale factor” estimation (sometimes known as the “straight line plus circuity factor”) that is characteristic of modelling systems of this kind. This helps users evaluate the real-world impact of its optimised solutions in terms of distances to be travelled.

Mapmechanics is well known in the logistics world for its work in developing and marketing the Truckstops routing and scheduling optimisation system. The company is a specialist in solutions and data for location-based services (LBS) and geographic information systems (GIS) for business intelligence (BI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart Cities, sales and marketing, telematics, scheduling optimisation, territory management and drive-time analysis.

Optisite offers much of the power and versatility of high-end distribution modelling solutions costing many times as much, yet it can be learned, set up and configured for use much more quickly. Drawing on its Anglo-American pedigree, Optisite is suitable for use anywhere in the world, featuring online address geocoding and a choice of map displays including hybrid and aerial photography.

Whilst many users rely on Optisite as their sole network modelling solution, it therefore even appeals as an affordable “what if” optimisation alternative to users who already have a capable but more demanding and time-consuming high-end modelling solution in place.

Following a comprehensive rewrite and relaunch by Mapmechanics in 2016, Optisite further reinforced it’s “what if” credentials by gaining a brand new Workspace Manager. This gives users fast and convenient access to various setup parameters, and provides an easy way of handling multiple projects and multiple scenarios within a project.

Metadata relating to each scenario can be documented separately within Optisite, showing users at a glance which factors have been assumed in that scenario. This makes the product an even more compelling choice for fine-grained sensitivity analysis.

The practical new features in the latest 2017 release take full advantage of last year’s rewrite, making it even easier for analysts and planners to create and explore multiple network scenarios quickly and easily. In particular, cloning allows users to set up a complete scenario and copy it multiple times, maintaining most assumptions each time and varying just selected features. These might include parameters such as target number and location of warehouses, maximum distance from warehouse to delivery point, and demand levels. Each scenario is saved separately.

Processing has also been simplified. A new “batch compute” capability ensures that the task of optimising multiple solutions can be “chained” into a single operation requiring no user involvement once it has been initiated. Users simply select the scenarios they want to run from a list, then leave Optisite to optimise each one in turn.

As a safeguard, each optimised solution is now saved separately and automatically for later evaluation, minimising the risk of data loss during processing.

It is now also easier for users to require existing locations to be preserved during optimisation. Whilst this was already possible, such locations had to be specified for each optimisation run. A feature called “warehouse fixing” now allows users to set an “always include” attribute to required locations that will apply across all scenarios.

Retained from the latest Optisite rewrite are features such as its inbuilt online geocoder, its integral HERE background mapping, and its ability to display a “heat map” around each proposed warehouse location. This colour-codes the incremental changes in cost as the facility is shifted away from the chosen warehouse site.

Optisite also provides fast, informative reporting, and can directly output graphical map-based displays suitable for use in presentations.

Mary Short, founder of Mapmechanics, comments: “Logistics analysts are nearly always working under pressure, and want fast practical modelling tools. In our experience, Optisite is the solution they want – especially its straightforward ability to load source data directly from spreadsheets. Users want modelling tools that are easy to set up without a complex learning process. These requirements have been very much in our minds as we have refined Optisite.”