The Last Mile is the Longest Mile

Best practices for optimizing last mile pick up and delivery operations


5. Understand qualitative and quantitative constraints in the delivery process

Just as every customer has particular delivery requirements, every business will also have specific ideas with regard to how best to deliver their products. These requirements may be quantitative or qualitative in nature. For example, some companies do not want drivers moving outside of specific geographies, while for others certain items may need special delivery considerations. In developing a delivery plan, all of a company's specific needs must be taken into account. When considering a technology solution to assist with the delivery planning process, ensure it is flexible enough to allow for the typical quantitative constraints as well as the more qualitative business specific requirements and constraints.

6. Manage the driver, not just the vehicle

The key asset in managing any delivery route is the driver. Many companies focus only on the vehicle and not the driver, therefore only addressing part of the activities and costs associated with the P&D process.

For example, while drive times may be separated into morning, afternoon and evening times, routine tasks undertaken by drivers before they are on the road — such as vehicle circle checks and loading activities — may not be factored in. Although these activities are important, they can typically be managed more effectively if companies benchmark and measure actual performance of these tasks in order to get their drivers on the road faster. Secondly, estimates show that between 40 and 60 percent of a driver's time away from a distribution center is not spent driving. In order to ensure that this time is most effectively spent, companies need to carefully examine and monitor what the driver is doing at each stop, measuring driver performance and service times against activity-based standards.

7. Plan around the customer

The concept of “customer is king”' also applies to the P&D business. While every company wants an optimized routing plan, it needs to be balanced to ensure routes and delivery times reflect customer needs and demands. For example, route plans may need to be adjusted to accommodate certain receiver requirements: restaurants that can only receive deliveries at specific times; retailers with tightly coordinated loading dock schedules; or business customers that expect the consistency of 10 a.m. deliveries.

At the same time, consumer expectations are higher than ever, especially when it comes to service. Consumers expect more frequent deliveries of fewer items and are not willing to accept broad delivery windows that keep them tied to their homes for hours. By establishing best practices, businesses can narrow their delivery windows, and in doing so improve their customer service levels.

8. Measure your customer

Measuring customer performance can be valuable as well. Capturing customer history and exceptions, such as dock delays or receiver problems, can highlight delivery problems that are being caused by the customer. With this information, delivery companies can work with their customers to ultimately lower the cost of each delivery and ensure better customer service.

9. Expect the unexpected

Exceptions such as bad weather, traffic jams and unexpected delays are all contributing factors when it comes to on-time delivery. Since even the best made plans can fail, contingencies must be established and delivery organizations must have real-time visibility into exceptions immediately when they occur.

With a high degree of visibility into delivery operations, dispatchers can proactively respond to service disruptions or delays and immediately adjust a driver's schedule accordingly. Customer service reps can resolve customer issues more effectively and, in some instances, customers may then receive notification of pending delays and updated estimated times of arrival.

10. Measure performance against a plan

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