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Archives for April 2019

6 Best Practices for Successful Last-Mile Delivery

By Contributing Author | 04/29/2019 | 6:56 AM

By Gilad David Maayan

Gilad guest blog image 4.25.19

While there is no certain way to create a successful last-mile delivery strategy, this article proposes creating a strategy that meets specific consumer needs. By following a blueprint designed to balance consumer needs with the resources of the company, you can create standard procedures that can withstand fickle trends and unplanned changes.

What Is Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery is the final step required to fulfill an order. The length of the road doesn’t matter—It can be a mile, three feet, or across states. As long as this path takes the order to its final destination—to the end consumer—the delivery is recognized as a last-mile delivery.

Why Does Last-Mile Delivery Matters

Last-mile delivery is responsible for creating a lasting customer experience. If end consumers receive their order in a timely, efficient, convenient, and cordial way—last-mile delivery can result in positive customer experience. If important consumer expectations aren’t met, last-mile delivery will result in negative customer experience.

In a time when one customer can instantly spread their dissatisfaction with a global network of people, one bad review can turn into a massive virus of bad PR that infects prospective customers across the Internet and beyond. Once the damage is done, fixing the reputation of the company might be expensive and time-consuming. In the meanwhile, the company suffers from a decrease in sales and monetary loss.

How Last-Mile Delivery Influences Consumers

Nothing can ruin the customer experience quite like last-mile delivery. Nowadays, if a website is slow to load, a consumer can move on to another one. If they insist on staying because they’re emotionally attached to the product, they can tinker with a poorly-designed website until they finally press that desired buy button. But if something gets in the way between this product and the consumer? There would be hell to pay.

Consumers develop an emotional connection to brands and products even before they make a purchase. Once a product is bought, it becomes a possession of the consumer. While possession has always granted people certain rights, the digital revolution has tipped the scales towards instant gratification.

Now, as soon as money is exchanged, consumers expect to receive their physical order almost as fast as a digital order. Any last-mile delivery delay or inconvenience might cause a visceral emotional reaction that can send the consumer on a borderless ranting spree. Thus, negative last-mile delivery usually translates into bad PR—online and offline—and damaged bottom lines.

Six Consumers Expectations in Last-Mile Delivery

The overall experience of last-mile delivery can be broken down into six factors. Each of the following factors represents a need the consumer expects to be met during last-mile delivery.

Convenience

Consumers expect to be offered a variety of delivery methods even before they order the product. The variety of the available delivery methods influences the decision to purchase a product, and consumers have shown a distinct preference towards the most convenient delivery method.

It is important to note that ultimate convenience relies more on customization rather than speed. One consumer may benefit from one-day delivery because they need the product urgently. Another consumer may want to time the delivery to two days hence in preparation for a planned house party.

The key goal here is to provide consumers with a variety of delivery options needed to help them incorporate the delivery into their time, rather than the other way around. You can do that by running last-mile delivery in-house, managing your own warehouse and drivers fleet. Or you can partner with a third-party provider.

Speed

Consumers expect fast and prompt deliveries. A prompt delivery means providing the consumer with their order on time without delays. Research indicates that failure to deliver on this promise can cause the consumer deep emotional distress. If you’re running your own fleet, you can use technological solutions such as route navigation optimization to ensure your drivers are always prompt.

While fast can be a subjective term and needs to be defined individually by each company, there are certain standards companies need to meet in order to compete in the market. Companies like Amazon have become world leaders in last-mile delivery and standardized fast delivery options such as two-days, one-day, and same-day delivery.

If you don’t have the resources to provide fast delivery in-house, you can take advantage of the available last-mile delivery services offered by third-party providers. Many third-party delivery providers offer end-to-end solutions that should cover all your last-mile needs. You can also incorporate a variety of third-party solutions into your delivery infrastructure. Be sure to make sure all the tech tools you choose can integrate seamlessly into your system.

Aesthetic

People are often prompted not to judge a book by its cover. However, most of the time people do exactly that. Consumers, like any human being, are subjective to universal signals. We see an envelope icon and we understand it represents emails. We see an old man dressed in red and we recognize him as Santa Claus. We see a woman figure over a door and understand it designates the room beyond as the ladies’ room.

People are naturally visual and see the world in symbols. The way a package is designed and packed often tells a consumer a lot about what they’re getting. At the branding level, appealing package design can spell luxury or high quality. A branded package design can hint or tell a consumer what type of product they can find inside.

Done right, the package design can create a connection between consumer and brand that may even lead to saving the package. However, a package doesn’t have to be branded to meet consumer expectations. It does need to be properly packed to show care for the product and care for the consumer expenses. Receiving a product in a squished package tells the consumer you don’t care enough to protect the product the consumer spent hard-earned money on.

Efficiency

Efficiency is the primary strategy of achieving any goal in the western world. Modern consumers often manage busy lives, juggling multiple tasks and priorities. To handle all of their responsibilities at home and at work, consumers need to be efficient. People continuously look for productivity tools to help improve every aspect of their life.

Today’s consumers are tech-savvy—and that includes almost every generation alive. From baby boomers and their overshadowed generation X siblings, the notorious millennials and their responsible generation Y counterparts, and the generation Y children who were born into a connected world and can’t even imagine life without technology as a source of instant gratification. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t use technology to become more efficient.

While receiving an order is often regarded as a fun activity, many consumers don’t have the time nor patience for an inefficient delivery experience. Consumers want to know their order is on its way and will arrive promptly. Integrating with tech solution such as last mile tracking can infuse transparency into the last leg of the delivery and inform consumers of the location of their order in real-time. Efficient delivery experience translates into a positive customer experience.

Conduct

In brick and mortar shops, sales representatives are the face of the brand. In e-commerce and delivery-oriented businesses, the delivery drivers serve as the face of the brand. In both cases, consumers expect, at minimum, a cordial treatment from the personnel that hand over the product. While the delivery drivers don’t have to be smiling rays of sunshine, they should present a standard of a professional manner as defined by the company.

Companies that manage an in-house last-mile delivery operation can dictate the standard manner all drivers must adopt and every aspect of the handoff—from the type of outfit, where to park the vehicle, how to greet the customer, and how to present the order. Tech-savvy companies can also give their customers the ability to rank the drivers and their satisfaction with the delivery.

However, companies that rely on third-party providers have less control over this aspect, if at all. As a service, last-mile delivery often comes at a fixed model with zero customization options. That means relying on the provider to manage their drivers properly. You will have no authority or power over the drivers and no way of implementing any changes for the better. If the driver, for example, throws your carefully packaged order over a fence, you will not be able to prevent this driver from continually ruining your reputation.

Communication

Since the invention of 24/7/7 live customer service via chats, consumers expect instant gratification on the communication level. Time has become the number one commodity, a priceless resource that should be used and prioritized to maximum capacity. Not because time is money but because time is living.

No one wants to waste their lives waiting for a customer service representative. No company wants to appear so slow in its service as to be compared to a sloth. Implementing smart technology solutions can help improve all levels of communications in last-mile delivery operations. Improved channels of communications can serve as an open channel for delivering efficient service that promotes a positive customer experience.

Incorporate Consumer Expectations into Your Last-Mile Delivery Strategy

It is possible to operate a business without a strategy or plan. You can wing it, and the success of the venture will rely on your intuition. However, creating a strategy and a plan can help ensure you take steps in the right direction. With a plan, nothing is vague or mysterious. You have pre-defined goals to follow and specific measurements with which to count your success.

When you create your strategy, you can incorporate as many of the delivery expectations as possible. For most companies, it is nearly impossible to achieve the highest level of quality in all delivery expectations. A strategy can help you evaluate the capabilities of your business and define the minimum and maximum level of delivery quality you can achieve.

Once you have a roadmap ready, you can opt to create your own in-house delivery operation, delegate the responsibility to a third-party provider, or implement the strengths of both delivery models into a hybrid strategy—a unique delivery infrastructure modeled to fit your business DNA.

 

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Oracle, Zend, CheckPoint and Ixia, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.

Warehouse Spring Cleaning Checklist for Safety and Efficiency

By Contributing Author | 04/23/2019 | 11:07 AM

By Don Connolly, Manager, Floor Cleaning Equipment & Commercial Products, Nitco

 

Spring has officially sprung, and with the changing of the seasons comes an annual tradition—spring cleaning. Most people associate this chore with home improvements, but this is a wonderful opportunity to take a look at cleaning and reworking your warehouse.

Undertaking such a project can sound daunting, but a spring cleaning is also a chance to assess warehouse safety and streamline your workflow. Many warehouses also use this time to implement a regularly scheduled maintenance program to sustain the progress made during warehouse and equipment spring cleaning.

No matter what tasks you tackle—re-evaluating your fleet needs or updating your janitorial schedules and policies—there are four key areas that you should make sure you include on your spring cleaning checklist.

1. Aisles, parking lots, loading dock ramps, yard ramps

All of these locations in and around a warehouse are where people and vehicles travel, making their cleanliness of the utmost importance. For equipment safety and employee safety, these areas should always be kept clean and clear of debris and clutter.

This also means, unfortunately, that these are high-use areas, making them more difficult to clean. One option is to utilize flooring cleaning equipment that saves you manpower hours and can be scheduled to run at times that don’t disrupt efficiency and workflows.

Once you’ve completed this season’s cleaning of aisles, parking lots, ramps, and loading docks, consider creating a year-round cleaning schedule to save you valuable time come next spring. This is also a great time to re-evaluate whether you’re using the ideal vehicles for the tasks performed in and around your aisles, parking lots, loading dock ramps, yard ramps.

2. Machine maintenance and replacement

This is probably part of your regularly scheduled processes, but an extra-thorough cleaning and tune-up of machinery and equipment is a must for warehouse spring cleaning. Check batteries, gas lines, brake lines, wind shields, and more, and ensure they are working properly and up to code. If needed, give them a tune-up or schedule a professional company to come service your equipment.

Once you’ve cleaned and assessed your fleet, replace any parts or machines that need it. Tires are a commonly overlooked item but are vital for maximizing efficiency. If entire pieces of equipment need replacing, check out new, used and lease options from dealers. Used equipment from NITCO can be an excellent long-term investment that saves you thousands of dollars.

3. Shelving

It can’t be avoided: Idle inventory collects dust in any warehouse. After you clean up shelving, boxes and your product, implement a rotation schedule. Turning boxes will reduce mess and dust buildup over time, saving you lots of cleaning time and money on ruined goods.

To do this effectively, start by making sure you have the right equipment for the job. Forklifts and materials handling equipment run the gamut, so check the options at your disposal. The shelving used to store your goods is also important, both for accessibility and safety. Try the 80/20 rule: keep the 20% of inventory that gets the most touches in an easy-to-access zone, as this is what your employees will be picking 80% of the time.

4. Spring-cleaning your processes

Now that you’ve made your warehouse and equipment spotless, it’s time to spring clean your processes! This is the perfect opportunity to evaluate and re-evaluate your operations to see where improvements can be made.

Take a big-picture look at the functionality of your business. Are your aisles set up in the most efficient way possible? Could you add or subtract shelving solutions to maximize your space and employee productivity? Could a barcode system to streamline inventory processes be a valuable upgrade? Maybe a new stretch-wrap system could make your pallet processing even faster.

One innovation many are exploring is warehouse automation. What used to be an ambitious undertaking is now easier than ever, with user-friendly equipment that can impact and improve nearly every area of warehouse operations.

 

Don Connolly (Nitco)Don Connolly is the Floor Cleaning Equipment Department Manager for NITCO. Don has been in the industry for 38 years and has experience is all aspects of floor care. He has worked for both manufacturers and dealers of floor cleaning equipment in his career that gives him a unique perspective on floor cleaning. When not working Don spends his time outdoors and camping with his family.

Brexit: The Never-Ending Merry Go Round For the UK and the EU

By Contributing Author | 04/16/2019 | 6:58 AM

By Guy Courtin, Vice President, Industry & Solution Strategy, Retail and Fashion, Infor

 

The past few years have had their fair share of global disruptions and unexpected events – for example, the US presidential elections in 2016, the “gilets jaune” protests in France, and of course the vote by the British people to leave the European Union. Three years ago, the people of England voted to leave the European Union, setting a deadline of March 29, 2019. However, after three years of non-stop failed negotiations, Britain still does not have a plan and faces the danger of a “hard Brexit.” The current administration of Theresa May has gone to great lengths to try to establish an agreement on what Brexit will look like, even offering her resignation once an agreement is finalized. However, not even this desperate move has yielded the results wanted.

This has led to uncertainty among many British and European citizens and raised questions as to how this changing relationship between world powers will affect the lives of all involved. And for the supply chain – a great connector of businesses and trade across global boundaries – the various Brexit scenarios have already begun to paint a picture of a difficult path ahead.

The European Union was started post World War II, in large part to secure peace on a continent that suffered two global wars. By creating a unified market, the belief was peace and prosperity via a common market would trump any temptations of military aggression. To a large degree, the European Union achieved these goals. However, the openness of the union also created some misplaced fears and misgivings. A growing fear related to the free movement of people across borders and a swing back to nationalism as individual countries felt they gave up greater fiscal and monetary freedoms by being in the union. These points can be debated at length, but for many the benefits outweighed the negatives. But the perceived fear of a wave of refugees pouring over open borders, the belief that Brussels was exerting too much influence in domestic policies within the UK, and a political gamble by then Prime Minister David Cameron, led to the infamous referendum on June 23rd, 2016.

The slim margin for Brexit – 51.9 percent voting in favor versus 48.1 percent against led to announcement the UK would leave the EU by March 2019. What has transpired since that vote has sent shock waves throughout the global community. While the ultimate outcome remains a mystery, Brexit is already having a major impact on supply chains.

 

What Happens to the Flow of Inventory?

One of the primary benefits of being part of the EU was the removal of borders from the map. Goods could flow freely between member states. While there were still delays at places such as Calais, they were due in large part to the physical constraints of those ports. Much of the red tape associated with tariffs, customs and border inspections had been removed.

But, what will happen post-Brexit? Goods entering and exiting the UK will most likely be subject to greater controls and inspections. They will have to ensure they meet EU rules and therefore must be under more scrutiny than before. A simple detail such as the pallets needed to move the inventory is in question. However, the UK does not even have enough of the right types of pallets to move goods into the EU. Therefore, this lack of logistical material could create major disruptions in such areas as the food supply chain, where 3 million pallets move between the UK and the EU per month. This ultimately has the potential of creating food shortages post-Brexit.

This issue goes well beyond simply having enough French camembert cheese, Italian olive oil or German sauerkraut for the weeks that come post Brexit. Rather, firms will have to ensure they have enough inventory on hand to keep the store shelves replenished, medicine cabinets stocked, spare parts available for infrastructure – the list goes on and on.

Supply chains will need to plan for worst case scenarios. Ensure enough safety stock to support their UK operations, while also ensuring enough inventory from the UK destined to the EU is in the right locations on the continent. These same supply chains need to also plan for what happens if Brexit goes smoothly and the flow of inventory is not disrupted, but now there is a glut of inventory in different locations. Do you discount? Write off inventory? This has the potential to be planning headache for those responsible for the flow of inventory.

 

Can Manufacturers Adapt?

Without a doubt, manufacturing will have to undergo changes and adjustments. With open borders and one unified market, companies ranging from Nissan to Airbus have established manufacturing facilities in the UK. With open borders, these firms could look to use the distribution hubs in the UK to get anywhere in Europe, allowing for timeliness in delivery and manufacturing. However, now these firms are forced to rethink these plans. A study found that the investment in UK automotive manufacturing dropped 46.5 percent in 2018 as compare dto the year prior. Nissan has now decided to pull out of Sunderland, due to the referendum, while Airbus has expressed concerns about its desire to stay in the UK if there is a “bad” Brexit.

Manufacturing in the UK has been thrust under a cloud of uncertainty, and until the final decision is made, they will have to hedge on how much they continue to invest in the UK. They also need to consider the increased safety stock in vital raw materials – no one is certain there will not be weeks of delay with the flow of raw materials post Brexit. Additionally, these manufacturers must consider their long-term strategy with regards to servicing the EU and the UK markets.  Do they need to consider moving more manufacturing to mainland Europe? And if so, how do they manage their manufacturing needs to serve two distinct markets?

 

What Does This Mean for the Future Workforce?

While there will likely be some new rules with regards to the movement of finished goods and raw materials, there is also the question of movement of people. One of the benefits of the open borders in the EU was the lack of working papers and visas needed to work in member nations. By some estimations there are 3 million European nationals working in the UK, while there are 1.3 million UK citizens working in the EU. What will happen to this labor when Brexit takes place?

Industries such as healthcare are already seeing the effects of Brexit – 10,000 nurses quit the year after the referendum while the number of nurses from Europe registered in Britain has dropped by 90 percent. It remains to be seen how this impacts supply chains. As the labor numbers across the board continue to drop, the impact will be felt across all industries and through supply chains.

The question for companies and their supply chains – how will they make up for this shortage? One area of supply chains that are already feeling the impact of labor shortage is with the trucking industry – in the UK there is currently a 35,000-driver shortage. Couple this with a more challenging labor market as well as other EU nations competing for available talent, and you can imagine a serious labor issue in the future for UK based trucking.

 

Final Thoughts

Brexit has proven to be a major headache for businesses and their supply chains. The fact that the UK wants to leave the EU is not necessarily the most troublesome factor, but rather it is all the unknowns that come along with it. Will it be a “soft” or a “hard” Brexit? What will the relationship look like between the UK and the EU? Will Scotland look to leave the UK?

Any student of politics and history will realize that eventually the system will find a new normal. Businesses and supply chains will figure out how to function in this norm – some will even take advantage of it and reap the benefits. But the main dilemma today is the lack of clarity coming from London. It is the unknowns that will drive supply chains crazy. Until this fog of uncertainty is removed, see supply chain professionals will continue to struggle to determine the best course of action for their businesses.

 

Guy CourtinGuy Courtin is Vice President of Industry & Solution Strategy for Infor Retail and Fashion, a role in which he also drives thought leadership for the team. Guy has more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech industry, with expertise in the supply chain arena. Prior to Infor, he was a vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, covering how digital disruption was impacting supply chains. Previously, Guy was vice president of research for SCM World, where he spearheaded coverage of supply chain service providers.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About One-Off Sound-Off

Welcome to "One-Off Sound-Off," a blog page devoted to guest commentary on all things supply chain. This is a space where industry leaders can share their opinions and expertise with the logistics and supply chain community. If you have an article or commentary you'd like to share, please consider sending a guest blog proposal to feedback@dcvelocity.com.



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