How distributors and suppliers can ramp up activity for retailers

On May 26th the government announced that as part of plans to further ease lockdown, all non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June.

Additionally, outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen even sooner, from 1 June.

This announcement has been received with excitement, and relief, by many businesses who are desperate to get up and running after months of significantly reduced sales, or being closed down entirely.

Responding to the announcement, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“We welcome the announcement of the government’s road map for reopening a broader range of shops next month, which provides much needed clarity on the route ahead.”

“Now that we know which shops can open and when, retailers can begin communicating their plans with their workforces and customers. The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the economy moving again.”

This of course means that retailers will be getting in touch with their suppliers to ensure processes are up and running, fast, and that their stock will be delivered in time for their much-anticipated reopening.

With only a few weeks to achieve this, significant pressure is being put on distributors and suppliers. Many of which had previously furloughed a considerable amount of their staff, or have shut down operations entirely. They are now expected to quickly get back to ‘normal’; managing an influx of orders, potential new addresses, and keeping their customers in the loop as they anxiously prepare for the 15th.

From speaking to some of our customers, we know this is a stressful time for many. Here is some advice that we are offering business to ease the burden and help this process run as smoothly as possible.


Implement dynamic routes

Our very first recommendation is for distributors and suppliers to implement dynamic route optimisation, if they haven’t already.

Many businesses work on a fixed route basis - which raises significant challenges and limitations for those dealing with an overwhelming amount of orders..

Dynamic routes allow businesses to plan routes daily, weekly, monthly, or however frequently they require a dynamic schedule. Systems such as MaxOptra utilise algorithms which produce efficient and reliable routes, fast. Taking into account traffic conditions and known roadworks, as well as vehicle capacities, live order volumes and delivery time windows.

All of this supports businesses in avoiding any potential inefficiencies of fixed routes, reduces excess mileage, keeps customers happy and, as a result, cuts operational costs by up to 20%.


Track your routes and deliveries

One of the results of an overwhelming increase in orders is losing track of where deliveries are, or how delivery routes are performing.

For any business who is running a distribution fleet, it’s important to know what’s going on once the vehicles have left the depot.

Businesses can either link route optimisation systems to a vehicle telematics device, or utilise a driver app, such as what MaxOptra offers, to monitor what is going on in real time via track & trace functionality.

This on-the-day visibility enables businesses to proactively deal with any delays or issues as soon as they occur. At the end of the day this valuable data aids driver debriefing, route refinement, and management KPI reporting.


Automated email & SMS updates for customers

Another result of order overwhelm for businesses is having to communicate with a large group of anxious and impatient customers, which can quickly become complicated.

Keeping customers happy is a key goal for any business, and automated email and SMS updates can help businesses to do this without an increase in workload.

These updates can include when a delivery is scheduled to arrive, when it’s on its way and even when it’s nearby. Not only does this reduce the workload for businesses who often have to deal with customer enquiries, it’s also incredibly beneficial for the end-customer.


Implement a driver app

For paper-based operations, an increase in orders can result in an increase in documentation. This can quickly get messy.

We recommend that any business facing delivery overwhelm implements a driver app, such as the MaxOptra iOS and Android app. This will allow businesses to run a paperless operation whilst automatically pushing jobs to their drivers.

Businesses will also be able to track delivery and driver progress, whilst dealing with any issues and amends in real time.

For added peace of mind, our driver apps which incorporate ePod functionality allows drivers to log proof of delivery signatures, photos and comments.

Overall, a driver app will streamline the entire delivery process - ensuring businesses can keep on top of their routes, drivers, deliveries and documentation.

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