- Amazon expects its new delivery route algorithm will help it avoid millions of miles driven this year after deploying it across the entire U.S., according to a post on the Amazon Science website last week.
- The Customer Order and Network Density Optimizer (Condor) algorithm assesses customer orders before they leave a fulfillment center to identify the most effective shipping options. It began running in a few Amazon delivery stations in January before going live nationwide. Now, the company plans to deploy it in other countries in the next few months, per the post.
- “We can enable carriers to deliver more packages to more customers on time, while reducing miles driven and carbon emissions from fuel,” said Andrea Qualizza, a senior principal scientist at Amazon, in the post.
For Amazon, a decision on how a customer order should be fulfilled is made quickly based on item location and other factors. However, there can be a five- to six-hour gap from when an order is placed to when the fulfillment center begins processing the order, and the plan may be updated if a nearby customer places an order later in the day.
This period prior to fulfillment gives Condor a chance to reevaluate the original decision multiple times to see if a more optimal route can be created.
Condor takes into account the entire geographic area a delivery station serves while determining how orders are split into shipments and the sourcing fulfillment center for each shipment. The program's "breakthrough" is that it is able to reduce the number of possible routing decisions to less than 10 per geographical block, despite the complexity involved.
Condor proved its mettle during tests involving Amazon scientists and engineers. In one experiment, a few selected cities were split between a group using the new program and a group not using it. It determined that Condor reduced required routing resources by about 0.5%.
“That means that if the whole network needs 50,000 routes without CONDOR, with CONDOR we should need just 49,750 routes,” Amazon Principal Scientist Rohit Malshe said in the post.
Delivering the same number of packages in fewer routes and miles driven helps parcel carriers save on last-mile shipping costs, a big reason why UPS and FedEx have launched their own initiatives in this regard. UPS' pilot involves holding an order for as long as the service agreement allows until it can match another shipment to the same address. FedEx is consolidating routes run by its separate Express and Ground companies via its "Network 2.0" plan.