Removing friction from a logistic business starts with understanding the people at the heart of it all: those who are hands-on, such as the drivers. Each driver has their own motivations and frustrations. Some of the biggest efficiencies, though, can be gained through better planning.

Put yourself in the driving seat

When starting within a logistics business, it's all about planning and getting up to speed with the processes and systems as quickly as possible.

As a new driver, I’m not expecting too much support in my first week beyond some safety training and an overload of induction paperwork. On my first day, I may receive an industry-standard scanning device and will likely spend a couple of hours sorting freight.

To my great surprise, my supervisor tells me to scan all my freight without sorting it. When I’m finished, the systems groups all my freight and puts it in the right order for delivery. Once on the road, the system would tell me, the dispatcher, and our customers when I should be arriving at their business. The systems may even help to direct me while I drive.

I finish my day in under 12 hours. I have hit my service levels for my customers and I could break even in the first week.

This is a great outcome for the customers, business, and drivers. The reality is that this isn't the norm. It takes hard work, commitment, and investment to get there. So, how can your business achieve this?

The next steps on your logistics journey

Start by spending time to understand the outcome you’re looking for. Do you want to achieve a reduction in operating costs, a reduction in training, or higher customer service? Is this the thing that will move the dial, is it the right dial, and is it the right time? How are you measured as a business?

To help answer these questions:

  1. Make sure your team is ready for this change as it touches everything. Drivers, dispatchers, customers, and operational management.
  2. Ensure you have the right data and can access it. Basic incorrect information like customer addresses will stop a project in its tracks and frustrate users and customers alike.
  3. Start slow and build up. Your direction will change as you learn more about what is possible.

Start with the basics and get the information you need to understand your current performance. Then, give your drivers the information they need — good visible address information and navigation — with the ability to put the deliveries in an order that makes sense to them. Get estimated time of arrivals (ETAs) based on the driver's proposed order.

Next, get the solution to put the jobs in the best order for delivery based on traffic, customer demand, and drivers hours. Expect some push back here as drivers and AI (artificial intelligence) systems don’t think the same way. Runs will look strange.

Finally, get the solution to allocate the freight to runs in the best order. This is far more complex as it includes the freight handlers and you need to know what’s arriving in the depot before you allocate it to the metro or line haul trucks.

Achieving better results

By taking the time to slow down and assess, you're more likely to achieve:

  • Higher customer service and fewer calls to the call centre
  • The ability to bring drivers onboard faster and have them be more productive.
  • Lower operational cost and the ability to bring on more freight volume (in a more predictable way).

The journey may be difficult. The destination, though, is worth it.

With over 30 years of experience, supply chain expert, Dave Ffowcs Williams, works with businesses across New Zealand to help them get on the road to a more efficient, traceable, and responsive supply chain.

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