Supply chain management solutions have revolutionized the movement of goods from one node to another, but the “last mile” of the supply chain — the point at which goods leave a large volume facility and then arrive at the final destination — is still highly inefficient and very costly. Final delivery can be complicated or delayed by traffic, construction, inefficient dispatching, incorrect addresses, unattended delivery issues, signature capture problems, and other factors. Because of this, last mile delivery can account for as much as 28% of total delivery costs
Companies have developed a variety of last-mile delivery solutions to combat these issues. Amazon has even investigated using unmanned drones to drop parcels at customers’ homes. Most companies aren’t going to go quite that far to improve delivery operations, but there are a number of technology and operational fixes that reduce costs and make your last-mile delivery operations more efficient.
Planning Tools Are a Must
Routing, scheduling, and planning are simply too complex, and customer delivery requirements too stringent, to possibly manage your operations in a spreadsheet or on paper. Invest in route planning and fleet management tools that can help you optimize routes while also providing real-time information on delivery status and truck location.
Using these software solutions, you can more effectively monitor vehicle running costs, driver overtime, number of stops completed, the quality of your routes, loading priorities, and delivery time windows. The solution should also include robust mapping tools to improve address accuracy. These software tools provide the data you need to accelerate the last mile delivery process, while also allowing you to optimize operations and improve routing and scheduling.
A good planning tool also continues to get better by using the data generated daily to help you better organize your network’s last mile delivery process. These systems can analyze your routes and help you identify optimal locations for depots, for example, or provide recommendations on growing or shrinking the delivery fleet, or even the potential benefits of outsourcing some operations.
Shrink Delivery Windows
With a planning and routing tool in place, you can provide more accurate ETAs to your customers in order to meet their increasingly strict delivery window requests. In addition to improving customer services, this allows you to increase your hit density, or the number of deliveries your drivers can make in a given shift. Increasing the delivery rate will reduce the overall cost of running that route, so any improvement can go straight to the bottom line.
Customer-specific delivery restrictions, challenging loading zones, customer delays, and perishability of freight will work against your hit density and route efficiency. Route planning tools can help take those elements into consideration, build the route to minimize their impact, and create more accurate ETAs.
Navigation Tools Boost Delivery Accuracy
Getting the drivers from Point A to Point B can be extremely difficult in some urban environments. Trucks don’t just need to know where to go; they need to know about weight and size restrictions for vehicles on certain routes, and customer-specific information about yards, parking lots, private roads, and other elements and obstacles that can make it challenging to reach the final point of delivery.
Navigation tools can help drivers make their way right to the correct loading dock, while improving driver safety and efficiency. Routes can be built to accommodate weight and hazardous materials restrictions in many municipalities. Some of these systems also include real-time traffic and construction data that can help reroute trucks dynamically to avoid time and fuel-wasting delays.
Mobility Completes the Package
The physical delivery process itself is another opportunity for efficiency improvements. This is where mobile computing technology can make a big impact. If drivers have to wrangle paper forms during the delivery process, it can increase the amount of time the driver takes to complete the delivery. That eats into the productivity of the route and increases costs.
Using mobile devices, like the Zebra MC9500-K Rugged Mobile Computer, drivers can quickly access the needed documents, obtain electronic signatures, and update the back-end supply chain management solution. Instead of spending time at the end of the route filing paperwork, drivers can schedule extra deliveries. In industries where drivers must maintain hours of service (HOS) or fuel tax logs, the fleet management system and hand-held computer can automatically track that information. That eliminates another time-consuming pile of paperwork for the driver and frees up valuable minutes to increase hit density.
As logistics providers and delivery companies vie for more business, the companies that are able to perform last-mile deliveries in the smartest, most efficient fashion will win out. Using route planning and scheduling, fleet management, and mobile delivery systems can give your company a critical competitive advantage.