We are living in exciting times. Digitalization is advancing at an unprecedented speed, artificial intelligence is making our lives easier and more difficult in equal measure and hardly any field sales force is active today without automated route planning or territory planning.

The days of traveling salespeople who had to spend days and weeks making their way through sales territories with maps are most likely gone forever. Let’s take a look back at the history of the sales force and thus also at the historical beginnings of route planning, when things like digital processes or automated territory planning were still a long way off.

The early beginnings of the navigation

The roots of today’s sales force lie many centuries in the past. Travelling merchants were already known in ancient times and in numerous civilizations. These historical commercial travelers moved from city road to city road and offered their goods for sale. They also spread news and cultures between the regions they traveled through. In addition to spices and medicine, they also traded Information, animals and often even people. Away from known trade routes, people once used fixed points such as the position of the sun or the stars as a guide.

Knowledge of astronomical conditions, coupled with a fixed route, could therefore be regarded as the cradle of route planning. When the age of the industrial revolution emerged in the 18th century, many things changed abruptly. New products were invented and produced. However, this also created the need to deliver the new goods to potential customers. Some entrepreneurs therefore began to recruit employees, train them on the new products and send them out as representatives to retailers or end customers. The sales force was thus born and developed over the next three centuries into what we know today.

The cradle of modern route planning

The 20th century finally enabled the introduction of modern technology into the world of field service. The telephone, fax machine and finally the internet opened up completely new possibilities for internal and external communication between companies and customers. This greatly extended the reach of sales staff. With the progress of computer technology in the 1960s, the search began to look for a way to supplement maps, star images and experience with modern tools. While the travelling salesmen continued to navigate without GPS and digital aids, the first attempts were now made to plan sales territories and optimize tours using mathematics and the first algorithms.

The best-known of these early algorithms was developed by the Dutch computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra, who used it as early as 1959 to determine the shortest route between two given points in a network. Almost 15 years later, the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) became a topic, which revolves around determining the shortest possible route that only visits a list of locations once and returns to its point of origin at the end. Countless versions of possible solutions for the TSP ultimately led to the development of special algorithms on which today’s route planning in field sales force is largely based.

Up to date with portatour®

Today, the modern sales force benefits from the achievements and experience of all the traveling salesmen, researchers, mathematicians and inventors who pioneered in their fields to make possible what we now take for granted. Automated route planning and territory planning has become an integral part of the world of field sales. In a way, portatour® has joined the ranks of the pioneers.

Tourenplanung und Gebietsoptimierung aus einer Hand.

The ongoing quest for efficiency and optimization as well as the adaptation to current circumstances ensure that portatour® Route Planner and portatour® Territory Optimization are constantly being improved and new functions added. What began hundreds of years ago with a map and compass is now a highly developed technological process. The world is constantly evolving and only those who stay at the cutting edge of technology have a chance of holding their own. Try portatour® Route Planner for 30 days without obligation or sign up for a demo to discover portatour® Territory Optimization.

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