How Delivery & Logistics Companies Can Streamline In 2022

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Trying to streamline a business can be tiresome and challenging, no matter what industry you’re in — and things get particularly thorny in the field of delivery and logistics. Companies large and small face intense challenges as they try to compete with dominant rivals in a marketplace where customers all expect next-day delivery and detailed order tracking. Indeed, recent times have resulted in a full-blown supply chain crisis.

Such businesses can’t simply sit back and focus on service, though, as enticing as that notion may be. If they can’t operate efficiently, they’ll ultimately find themselves undercut and squeezed out by more performant rivals. In this article, then, we’re going to set out some key ways in which delivery and logistics companies can trim their processes and workloads, helping them keep up. Let’s get started.

Invest in holistic assessment and improvement

When you’re trying to streamline a business, you can’t just make little tweaks here and there with no consideration of how the component parts fit together. Logistics businesses function through complex sequences of events, and a minor change to one step can have major consequences elsewhere. That means it’s imperative to take a macro view.

Sure, it’ll be easier to make quick adjustments when issues are flagged up, or shuffle some teams around, but that’s only kicking the real problems down the road. Eventually those issues will compound and leave you wondering why you didn’t take overarching action sooner — so it’s best to bite the bullet now and do a full top-down review.

Now, we’re not saying you need to pore over every last piece of your operation at this stage. Such an endeavor could take months, and you’d inevitably miss things along the way. But you can certainly make time to launch an interdepartmental investigation with the goal of identifying any roadblocks (no pun intended) getting in the way of smooth progress.

Are your drivers giving useful information in their reports, pointing out potential issues with their routes? Are there minor annoyances in their regular workloads that haven’t seemed worth noting but might cause serious problems on aggregate? Does everyone on your payroll understand how they fit into the business and what others expect of them?

Synergy is a term that’s often mocked, but it’s very important for a delivery company since no department can run effectively in isolation (hence the general need for enterprise resource planning tools like Oracle’s NetSuite). If stock doesn’t get handled properly, your drivers can’t make their deliveries. If mechanical issues aren’t addressed in a timely fashion (more on this later), vehicles can’t run. And if customer complaints aren’t handled properly, orders will dry up and contracts will be canceled (or left to expire).

Bolster technical infrastructure

We live in the age of cloud-based technology, and there’s a surfeit of options awaiting those willing to risk system migrations or experiment with automation. The safe option is always to stick with what you’re already using, but that became the safe option for three reasons. Firstly, software used to be licensed through one-time payments. Secondly, it was typically a challenge to move data between systems. And thirdly, it was sufficiently tough to get employees trained on software that it was tough to accept changing it.

At this point, the first two issues have largely disappeared. SaaS has changed the game, shifting businesses to cloud systems with no long-term obligations and convenient data export features. Many of them are even open-source in nature: consider how full-service cloud hosting companies (Cloudways et al.) yield ROI not through the platforms or technologies they offer — with many being free — but through their ability to tie everything together and keep things running nicely with minimal client engagement.

The third issue is still troubling, admittedly, as it takes time to move between dashboards — but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was due to the years of iterative improvement that have taken place since that era. And with most workers now having grown up using computers, IT literacy is at such a high level that there’s no reason to hold back on software changes. So if you feel that your foundation is holding you back, take the intimidating step of moving to a fresher system. Once you’re through the short-term turmoil, you’ll be free and clear.

Consider fleet size and ownership options

aerial view of vehicles in parking area

If you’re running a delivery business, it’s imperative that you treat your fleet as an organic entity of sorts: something to review and adapt on a semi-regular basis in response to changing demand. After all, the right fleet can come in all shapes and sizes, and the relevant factors will inevitably shift over time.

Remember that streamlining isn’t always about removing things from your operation. The objective is to make things run more smoothly, and while stripping unnecessary parts tends to be the easiest way to achieve that goal, you’ll sometimes find that adding things is necessary to help you make consistent progress. Having too few vehicles in your fleet can lead to a significant backlog, leading to issues developing elsewhere in your pipeline.

Checking in on how far you’re stretching your vehicles will help show whether you might need to invest in more. Tools such as Connecteam can track the performance of your vehicles in addition to the progress of your deliveries — and if you pair that data with your maintenance records, you can usefully predict the operational lifespans of your vehicles, allowing you to determine when you’ll need to replace them (or add to them).

On the other end of the spectrum though, you can have excess vehicles in your fleet — and having them sit around unused will soak up insurance and tax resources without returning any value. If you have trucks waiting there for weeks with minimal wear and tear, you should seriously consider selling them: barring rare exceptions, vehicle value drops steadily over time, so it’s best to offload them while they’re relatively in-demand.

Prioritize preventative maintenance measures

Even if you have exactly the right number of vehicles picked out, they can still absorb resources at a frightening pace. They need to be fueled, insured, and taxed — and these costs add up quickly. By far the biggest expense, though, is maintenance. Getting a vehicle repaired can cost an arm and a leg, even if the issue is relatively modest, so it’s untenable to consistently allow mechanical issues to reach that point.

Most vehicles (particularly those intended for fleet use) are provided with clear servicing recommendations, though they aren’t always followed. It’s better to err on the side of caution. You may suspect that some proposed actions are unnecessary, and it’s true that there’s a lot of money to be made in servicing, but the alternative is worse.

Every company with a fleet should have a calendar clearly displaying when each vehicle needs to be serviced (and making it easy to find and investigate previous issues, services and repair efforts). Tools such as Whip Around are great for this. Be mindful that no amount of diligent tracking will guarantee success, though: the onus is on you to ensure that proposed appointments are met and appropriate specialists are chosen.

Focus on shoring up communication

Lastly, all transport businesses must strongly commit to clear communication if they want to fully streamline their services. If there’s ever any doubt about what’s going on in a particular department, the results can easily be disastrous: an order can be duplicated, for instance, or sent out to a driver who isn’t actually working that day.

To ensure that information flows easily, put systems in place to help teams communicate. Secure internal comms systems like Rocket Chat can help office teams converse, cover vital admin issues, and even share ideas for marketing campaigns, but don’t forget to give everyone the ability to participate.

Even when drivers don’t need to cover work-based topics, they may want to get involved in the social side of the business. It can get lonely out on the road, after all. So giving them opportunities to make suggestions and laugh along with their colleagues (when they’re not driving, of course) can help them stay positive — improving their performance metrics — and understand how others prefer to discuss things, leading to more efficient messaging.

Yes, streamlining a delivery business can feel like trying to turn a truck around in an alleyway, but it’s not an impossible task. Making small incremental changes will allow you to make steady progress until you eventually reach your goal.

 It’s vital to streamline in a healthy way, of course, so keep factors like eco-friendliness and mental health in mind (don’t push drivers too hard). But assuming you can do that, following these tips will get you moving in the right direction.