CAN LAST MILE SOFTWARE SOLVE FULFILMENT AND DRIVER SHORTAGES?
3 min. reading time
23 July 2021 ·
James Alex Waldron
eadlines concerning supply chain and fulfilment issues remain persistent. No shortages are claimed in the production elements of food and consumer goods; in fact, we’re told, it’s the last mile delivery stage that’s led to empty shelves and disrupted services—again.
Whilst retailers have adopted last mile software to solve the supposed ‘last mile dilemma’ of cost efficiency vs. customer satisfaction, a complex group of influences have combined to create driver shortages, with estimates in the UK placing the figures at around 60,000 skilled HGV drivers. In the EU, surveys show around 20% of all driver vacancies are never filled.
In this post, we’ll look at three last mile software features that can ease retailers’ driver issues right now, and why they should become their best-practice operations for the future.
LAST MILE SOFTWARE TO SCHEDULE FEWER DELIVERIES
Food and general merchandise retailers know from their own eCommerce channels how just-in-time and on-demand fulfilment requires a deep understanding of customer requirements balanced with refining processes towards efficiency. Dealing with these without the costs getting out of hand can only be achieved through digitisation and continuous optimisation of the supply chain. With the economy re-opening, so too are risks of store estates operating with ‘skeleton’ staff numbers. In a driver shortage, risk is further heightened through the last mile. In a sudden semi-permanent shift toward stores requiring desired delivery windows, the supply chain must be rethought; your own staff are now the end point customer and your warehouses and stores need the same transparent flow of information throughout their delivery process.
Solutions that do justice to internal customer (store) requirements control the entire distribution process fully automatically, from scheduling to successful last mile delivery. This is holistically, digitally, and consistently optimising in real time. Ad-hoc delivery, same-day, and next-day delivery are already state-of-the-art service models. Now, store-requested time slots and shorter unloading times (punctuality and adherence to deadlines) are critical to avoid empty shelves.
Best-of-breed scheduling software will incorporate hard factors such as working hours, fuel costs, and miles driven as well as soft factors such as previous last mile delivery success (satisfaction) and optimise them in line with individual goals. A platform that effortlessly plans routes and schedules into fewer deliveries, whilst handling in-day staff and unit changes is a competitive advantage when dealing with driver shortages. A swift move into considering a store-servicing model means retailers can solve long-term inefficiencies.
GIVE DRIVERS LAST MILE DELIVERY AUTOMATION TOOLS
Traffic delays, sudden self-isolation, and store closures? No problem. Scheduling software paired with a native mobile app exchanges this information through real-time status reports. The entire route plan is automatically checked and re-optimised, taking real-time traffic data, staff availability, and even what merchandise is on the truck, into account. In this way, the next last mile delivery window is still likely to be met. The native app will give the driver all order-related information available for resource management, with little technical training required. Drivers will know they’re taking the routes that provide the best outcome.
Whether last mile drivers are employed or contracted-out, choosing an app compatible with all common operating systems and types of mobile device, such as smartphones, tablets or rugged devices means shipment tracking, barcode scanning, acknowledgment of delivery and handling of returns – any and all steps of your choosing are recorded and displayed in real time. A native app also reduces the risks associated with broken offline functionality, unsuitable generic maps, and through user and device identification provides protection against data misuse.
With a self-service portal, stores can track the status of their delivery, the current location of the driver, and the advised delivery window at any time, meaning they're ready on arrival. By using real-time traffic data, route planning is adjusted in real time in the event of unforeseen disruptions with road traffic and closures. A receiving team is informed fully automatically in the event of delays. All those involved in the process benefit from the mobile connection from the complete digital mapping of the service processes and controlled communication between head office and the store estate. Software’s reduction in dispatching effort and miles driven results in last mile cost savings.
SOFTWARE TO REWRITE YOUR LAST MILE DELIVERY PRACTICES
Driver shortages is a decades-old scenario, magnified by recent world events. Last mile software solutions such as FLS VISITOUR and FLS MOBILE map future scenarios for efficient logistics.
Whilst some retailers have spent time and money designing apps, single-sign-on processes, and carefully crafted delivery cost bands, they’re not considering the initial practices in offering a delivery service. Are the dates and times offered flexible, adjustable time windows with a clear reference to costs - already optimised for the route and resource and therefore cost-efficient? Has a background process taken into account road-specific speed profiles, vehicle attributes and restrictions? Does your delivery practice achieve a high adherence to deadlines through exact advance planning, such as predictive driver downtime and ongoing real-time adjustments?
For the last mile delivery, is a road-dependent truck necessary? An emerging best practice model for delivery in urban areas is proving itself in cities across Europe. Larger models of e-bikes can transport loads of up to 300kg. Retailers are partnering with one e-bike company to deliver around 100 shipments per day within a 10-mile radius of their stores. Stock transfers and customer orders can now ignore environmental and traffic calming restrictions, and overpaying to secure a licensed HGV driver is left in the past. Cargo bikes are allowed to drive where trucks and vans cannot get to, allowing company resources to focus further up the supply chain, such as freight forwarding to depots.