Many people are now returning to their offices and places of work as the nation moves towards a new normal. However, transportation has changed since the Covid peak and lockdown restrictions. Surveys of commuters tell a new story now, with more than a third of pre-Covid public transport users now saying they will only travel via private means. Individual preference to use trains and buses has fallen by 45% and 36% respectively, a dramatic difference that will increase traffic on the roads and add to congestion and pollution. The greener future that was envisaged may not be as feasible as hoped; many are stating they will be working from home more regularly and so reducing overall transport use this way, but there are millions who will not be able to do their jobs from home. So how can delivery and logistics businesses adapt to this new normal and ensure deadlines and customer satisfaction are maintained to the highest standard?
It’s obvious Covid-19 is already, and will continue to have, an unprecedented impact on every industry and part of life. Some of which can be positive, for example the survey result that states active travel looks to increase, with 77% more commuters citing cycling as their preferred mode of transport and a 37% increase in those choosing to walk or run. However, the resultant repercussion of this is a potential increase in bike lanes, walk/cycle-only zones and inner-city congestion fines that slow down transport and add extra delays and obstacles to logistics services and schedules.
Clearly there is a need for a solution that works in real time to adapt to trends as they unfold, as a smart answer to delivery scheduling and routing for logistics managers. Customer satisfaction is paramount for businesses and must be a priority to ensure smooth operation and a growth during the economic recovery.
After all, the number of deliveries to consumers has increased tenfold since the beginning of the lockdown, and this ease and convenience hasn’t gone unnoticed. Many who are now used to home delivery will not return to traditional shopping in the high street, particularly as the risk of Coronavirus continues to loom and different locations across the nation have and will continue to face regional restrictions at short notice. Furthermore, with people returning to their place of work, specific timed delivery slots are required, rather than all day or AM/PM options. Customers are no longer at home the entirety of the working day, so require accuracy and precision to ensure they continue to use the home delivery service and buy from the retailer without issue. Not only does this technology help with customer satisfaction but it’s to the benefit of the logistics business too, as it reduces the number of times a vehicle has to return to the location and minimises the logistics involved in rescheduling a delivery.
Operational efficiency is vital to capitalise on the growth in ecommerce and demand for home delivery. Congestion, as well as a higher demand for timed delivery slots means that businesses need to be smart about the solutions they deploy to leverage greater accuracy and efficiency. Combining routing and scheduling solutions into a singular package, that can react in real time to events and also adapt to future trends and changes will help businesses improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.
A solution that provides visibility throughout the supply chain, from initial collection to the last mile of home delivery offers the opportunity to maximise operational efficiency. Integrated telematics and mobile data communications provide increased visibility for the fleet manager and consumer, as they can see in real-time, exactly where a vehicle is against the plan and route set out by the scheduling software. This added insight allows transport operators to add or amend jobs to avoid disruption, such as traffic, as well as send automatic updates to the customer about any changes to their delivery.
The other consideration is the increase in low emission zones, and the desire for more electric vehicles. Smart routing systems that can analyse a route and recommend which vehicle is best suited from the fleet taking into account low emission zones, distance and products to be delivered is essential.
For many industries, it’s been an evolve-to-survive time, and many more challenges will unfold as the world continues to find its feet with Covid-19. Managers must make the most of the smart tools available to ensure they can keep pace with the economic recovery and importantly, stay ahead of competitors. Efficiency and streamlining that provides maximum fleet optimisation, is the best way to meet increased consumer and business demands and deliver customer satisfaction. Smart routing and scheduling solutions help to achieve just that.
Andrew is Head of Marketing at Descartes Systems UK Ltd and has over twenty years’ business-to-business senior marketing management experience with high technology solutions (hardware, software and services) in complex business-to-business markets that includes logistics and transport with organisations such as Intel, Securicor, Unipart Technology Logistics and Orange.