Agile is the new normal for businesses and distribution

With most of the world coming out of lockdown after the spread of COVID-19, and many businesses cautiously starting to ramp up activity to entice back their customer base, the expectation across many countries is to get back to the ‘norm’ asap, so that economies can recover from the aftermath, and people can carry on with their lives.

However, consumer behaviour is not going back to pre-COVID-19 levels immediately. It is predicted that many consumers will continue to shop online and stay at home while they remain cautious; increasing the usage of the D2C (Direct to consumer) models from businesses who are desperate to maintain engagement with their customer base.

Many companies who are supporting this strategy will be relying on logistics to cater for this consumer behaviour. But what does the ‘new norm’ look for logistics, and how is it supporting both businesses and customers in these uncertain times?


Remaining agile

The most important thing that businesses need to keep in mind right now is to become agile. The ironic thing about the phrase “new normal” is that any sense of normal isn’t likely to exist in the near future.

Specific cities and businesses may find themselves put under lockdown as soon as they’ve re-opened, and advice and procedures are likely to change as we continue to learn and adapt.

To ride this wave, businesses must remain nimble and agile, embrace new technologies and automation, and have contingency plans in place for various situations and eventualities.


Streamlining your planning and processes

An important part of being agile is planning as effectively and thoroughly as possible. However, for businesses who are functioning with a smaller team, are overwhelmed by a ramp up in activity, or are supplying a new audience, planning processes can quickly become complicated and time consuming.

That is why during any period of change and uncertainty we would recommend streamlining your planning and processes. Not only is this beneficial to navigate the challenges that businesses are currently experiencing, but it also helps to future-proof businesses for the unknown.

For any business dealing with logistics and delivery, a great place to start is by streamlining that all-important delivery and route planning. By embracing new technology, systems and algorithms, businesses can produce efficient and reliable routes, fast. Technology such as MaxOptra automatically plans routes daily, weekly, monthly, or however frequently they require their dynamic schedule. Algorithms produce efficient and reliable routes, quickly, and automatically take 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 or manual planning, reduces their planning time and streamlines their processes. They can even cut operational costs by up to 20%!


Strategic planning

Strategic planning is all about future-proofing your business and preparing for ‘what if’ scenarios. Whether it’s reviewing your fleet configuration, looking at the impact of introducing electric vehicles, or deciding where to locate your new distribution centre, by implementing systems such as MaxOptra you can review, compare and report on a range of different scenarios.

For example, maybe you are looking to add a new distribution centre, or move an existing one,  due to an increase in eCommerce activity. MaxOptra is able to look at the implications of this, including potential service levels and cost.

Or perhaps you are changing the number of vehicles you run, or considering running Electric Vehicles as businesses are increasing their focus on protecting the environment. MaxOptra can help you evaluate service levels and manage range as part of the automated planning process.

By modelling different scenarios you can quickly and easily understand the cost, resource and customer service implications of all change options; making informed business decisions which are essential during such a period of uncertainty.


Tracking and monitoring performance

Another key part of being agile is knowing what works for your business, and what doesn’t. Tracking and monitoring performance of your deliveries and drivers is essential to achieving this.

Without tracking and monitoring, even if you have a perfect delivery plan and schedule, how do you know if it is being executed correctly?

By utilising systems such as MaxOptra, you can monitor and analyse exactly what is happening out on the road. This enables you to refine your planning parameters based on real-life information, and build more realistic route plans as a result.

Furthermore, real time tracking enables your business to be even more agile, as you can deal with issues as they arise. This may mean communicating with your customers if there is a delay, or re-routing vehicles if there is an accident.


Communication

Communication has arguably never been as important as it is now. With new rules and regulations in place, and constantly changing, it can be difficult to manage expectations and processes.

Firstly, communication between employees is integral for the smooth running of a business, particularly when it comes to those last steps of getting an order delivered to the customer.

Secondly, communication with the customer is essential to help reassure them during a period of unpredictable delivery times and business operations. Customers expect regular communication as standard, and the situation with COVID-19 has only increased those expectations.

One way of enabling communication is via Electronic Proof of Delivery (ePOD); a paperless solution deployed on smartphones or handheld devices, which is designed to give businesses complete visibility of their delivery operations. All delivery activity is tracked electronically, including task management, driver and customer communications, signatures, photos, and access to notes.


Next steps

We appreciate that building agility into a business is not an easy step. Systems, legacy processes and employees all need to be thought of, which can soon become overwhelming.

If you would like to discuss your options and receive free, expert advice, the MaxOptra team is always on hand.

Just get in touch!

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