Forget Christmas: why we’re planning for a non-stop peak

Paul Soong

Especially during the holidays, customer satisfaction revolves around one thing: did my gift or Christmas food hamper arrive on time? It’s estimated that Australians spent $25 billion collectively last Christmas. And behind every dollar spent were people in the transport and logistics industry working frantically to ensure each step of the supply chain runs smoothly. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help with ensuring the smooth flow of goods in peak periods that all businesses must consider.
But first, let’s address the notion of peak periods. One of the biggest challenges transport and logistics companies face is the evolving retail cycle. Traditionally, we could expect peaks with Christmas and then Boxing Day. Now, things are busy all year with the addition of Singles’ Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Click Frenzy and countless other sales events to the Australian retail calendar.
From a transport perspective, the peak is smoothing out and many organisations aren’t coping well with the requirement for a constant level of scalability. What options do these businesses have? Do they scramble to find extra drivers? Use a gig-economy model for unexpected peak periods? Invest in establishing an overrun service (such as what Fastway Couriers has with Blu Couriers)? Or simply work longer hours in attempt to cope with the increasing demand?
There are two areas that will greatly increase operational efficiency and put businesses in a good position to deal with peak periods.
The first area in which there’s a long way to go is visibility. Transport and logistics companies need visibility of what’s happening with their fleet and drivers to manage expectations for customers, operations and management, especially during peak periods (expected, or not).
Closing the gap in visibility starts with determining your goals and assessing your ability to meet those goals. Businesses should be asking themselves: does an existing system meet your current and future needs for all necessary modes of transportation? Does it interface well with other systems and can you easily add future interfaces? And most importantly, does the system accommodate your business process? If a business can get this foundation right, it will be starting in a good place for all of the other details.
Most supply chains use a variety of logistics service providers, transport service providers and others. As soon as the chain of custody of a particular order or shipment transfers to another party, the degree of visibility changes. This has resulted in many companies exploring establishing a multi-party supply chain ‘control tower’ through which all activities are coordinated and controlled. But, while this is where technology is headed, there remains a lot of operational and cultural challenges before it is widely adopted.
The second key piece is to optimise — and then optimise again. Many in the industry continue to take an ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ attitude toward supply chain management. Particularly at peak times, there is a clear opportunity to be constantly reviewing and refining processes and procedures that are not optimal.
This starts with having quality data — and putting it to work. For example, if a vehicle breaks down on route to make a delivery, often companies would call on the nearest driver to step in. While that driver might be closest, adding an additional drop off could impact a number of deliveries down the line. Instead, the use of data and analytics in this situation can identify the best available driver to step in, with minimal impact on other orders.
It’s never too early to plan ahead. Businesses should not be planning for peak to start in October this year — with the market flattening out, this needs to be happening now. To be forewarned is to be forearmed!
Paul Soong is the regional director, ANZ, of BluJay Solutions.

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