The Ghent based start-up Dropon prides itself on making parcel deliveries more efficient. Its route planning software uses artificial intelligence and real-time traffic data. Unbelievably, today many transport and parcel delivery companies still draw up the planning for their drivers on paper. Or they create them in Excel and print them out.’ That’s Anthony Viaene’s answer to the question of how he can guarantee his customers time savings of up to 40 per cent.

Viaene (34) founded the bicycle courier service Bubble Post together with Ben Rieder and Michel De Waele six years ago. When Bpost acquired the parcel service in 2017, Viaene bought back the scheduling software he had helped develop as a CTO. ‘That software arose out of pure necessity. Existing packages were too expensive or not usable for Bubble Post. So we developed a tool ourselves. This was very welcome because four people were needed for the manual planning. The software reduced that to one employee. A time saving of 40 per cent is putting it mildly.’

At the end of last year Viaene and Jonathan Carette (31), who previously worked at BNP Paribas Fortis, incorporated this software into the new start-up Dropon. With 150,000 euro from a business angel and nine employees – two of whom developers in Poland – the package was developed into a platform for more efficient delivery rounds. The first customers are the paint maker Boss Paints, which uses it to supply its Colora stores, and the transport company Lindd. Dropon also brought in a meal supplier, but that name may not be released.

An algorithm powers Dropon’s route planning software, determining the fastest route, based on historical and real-time traffic data. The mapped out routes are then sent to the drivers’ smartphones. If there is a traffic jam, accident or unexpected obstacle, their route is immediately adjusted. The end customer receives updates about the expected delivery time via a ‘track and trace’ system.

Is that offering unique enough to snatch customers away from the existing players? ‘Our cloud-based solution is much less cumbersome than those of companies like PTV and Ortec, where the user has to configure servers,’ says Viaene. ‘Their customers are mostly large transport companies, we are aiming at SMEs with daily, frequent deliveries.’

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Photos © Emy Elbow