Palletised freight delivery system

Over the last few years, Pallet Network operators have invested heavily, both in terms of money and sheer hard work, to establish the necessary IT infrastructure to revolutionise the efficient movement of customer consignments through their networks.

However, increasing competitive price pressure, coupled with changing customer expectations, has provided a window of opportunity for new players, armed with the latest technology, to enter the market and win valued customers. As a result, customers today expect lower prices and accurate real time delivery and collection information.

Fortunately for established companies who have already invested already in IT infrastructure, these challenges can be met through the Maxoptra Plug-In.

The Challenges:

Over-reliance on fixed runs based upon postcodes and variable load sizes means that vehicles are not routed cost efficiently, affecting customer pricing and competitiveness.
Increasing customer demand for narrow time windows and other order complexities such as tail-lifts or load types make it impossible to work out the most efficient use of vehicles in real time.
Figuring out the most cost effective vehicle to make a collection is impossible without knowing where vehicles are or how much progress they have made with their schedules.
Answering customer queries on ETAs reactively can be a time consuming and expensive manual process reliant on numerous phone calls – and it still does not meet customers’ expectations of being proactively advised on when their consignment will arrive.

The Solution:

  1. Delivery orders are exported from the company’s database automatically
  2. The routes are produced by Maxoptra based upon customers’ windows, vehicle types, equipment requirements and are shown on the map. They are reviewed by the dispatcher and sent to the driver’s navigation device or smartphone.
  3. Drivers on route can continually update orders status and report on job status.
  4. Getting vehicle locations from tracking devices or smartphones.
  5. Customers are constantly informed about estimated time of arrival (ETA) through SMS or email messages.
  6. Driving manifests are sent to the wholesale distribution company’s system for further invoicing and reporting.
Gist logo - Route Planning software users

"The solution gives us a clear competitive advantage in more efficient scheduling and better utilization of our own and subcontractor’s vehicles through a multi nodal network enabling us to grow the business and increase our market share without a significant increase in assets or team indeed."
— Mike Flynn, Business Solutions Director for Gist

Business advantages:

Maxoptra was specifically designed to allow Pallet Network operators to drive operational efficiencies, allow rapid reaction to any changes in real time and improve customer service, thereby:
  • Reducing operating costs by up to 10% to enable new pricing competitiveness
  • Meeting customer expectations on real time delivery and collection notification, leading to increased satisfaction and business growth by:
    • Growing new opportunities and repeat business with existing customers
    • Increasing loyalty and retaining existing customers
    • Winning new customers

Improved customer service

Integrated with TomTom Telematics, Maxoptra’s delivery routing software constantly updates the delivery status of each order, the vehicle position and calculates the estimated time of arrival. Dispatchers and users thereby have better visibility into where product is in the staging and loading areas.

Faster reaction to new collections coming in

The system automatically assigns the most appropriate vehicle to each new order coming in during the day. Even when routes are already started, Maxoptra continues to monitor progress on each route, the current vehicle position, orders completed by each driver and the remaining driving hours. Maxoptra continually finds the best driver to meet the customer’s specified time window and provide a higher level of service.

Less fuel and drivers’ hours

An initial schedule is produced by Maxoptra to optimise fuel savings and reduce unnecessary driving hours. It doesn’t matter how many deliveries each individual postcode has because the system cost efficiently distributes all orders throughout the region amongst the drivers. Routes are sequenced to match customer’s time windows and to always be on time.

During the day when new orders come in, the system constantly improves the schedule to adjust delivery sequence, new pick-ups, weights and vehicle requirements into consideration.
Maxoptra route Optimisation & planning users

"Magenta offered the right blend of affordability, ease of implementation and use. The user interface allows our controllers to easily input jobs, calculate routes and timelines and change them, if needed, on a visual map display. Seeing the real time ETA of our shipments helps our customer service staff improve service with valid addresses a lot quicker, allocating routes efficiently and updating our customers with changes in schedules. I believe that Maxoptra is the only solution in today’s market that is ideal for SME, but growing, companies."
— John Burgess, Transportation Consultant of Champion Timber

Read Some of Our Recent Blogs

Direct to Consumer (D2C) - The delivery model saving retail businesses today

July 2020,

COVID-19 has thrown retailers and businesses in almost every industry some significant challenges to deal with, with little warning or time to prepare.

This initially resulted in many ‘bricks and mortar’ stores turning to ecommerce to maintain engagement (and sales) with their customers.

In fact, according to data from ACI Worldwide, online retail sales increased dramatically in March, with a 74% growth in average transaction volumes compared with the same period last year.

Furthermore, B2B businesses, such as grocery suppliers and breweries, found that many of their customers, such as restaurants, pubs and schools, were shutting down. This meant that they had to pivot from B2B to a B2C offering - delivering directly to the end customer at their home. Many of these businesses are using this to their advantage, planning on supplying B2B and B2C post-lockdown.

One delivery model that underpins all of these changes is Direct to Consumer, or D2C. Businesses are fast realising that B2B and B2C models are becoming irrelevant and outdated, and are looking at D2C methods and functionality.


What is D2C?

Simply put, direct to consumer is a term that refers to brands selling directly to their end customers without going through a retailer, distributor, wholesaler or other outlet.

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D2C has existed in some form or another for centuries, but peaked in popularity during the dotcom boom of the 90s.

Since then, however, D2C hasn’t gained that much attention, often living in the shadow or widely known B2B and B2C models.

D2C is not a new or revolutionary concept, in fact, it dates way back 200 years ago, when one horsepower was the fastest transport in any neighbours garage, and jobs such as bowling alley pinsetter, human alarm clocks or lamplighters existed.

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Where there were real jobs, but without modern transport, people had to rely on what the farmer produced, and the quality of the shoe cobbler at the end of the street.

Slowly, as new technologies emerged and cities grew, entrepreneurs could utilise boats or steam engines to move goods to further towns and cities, thus increasing their market share.

As the moving of items increased, third party businesses sprung up, willing to take multiple goods across their network. Before long it became more cost-effective to have a shop that displayed goods collected from far and wide, and where customers could come visit. 

Fast forward 200 years to March 2020 and that whole network has collapsed, worldwide.

However, due to COVID-19, bricks and mortar stores were required to close down, temporarily. But businesses still had the goods, and consumers still had demand, meaning the D2C revolution was born once again.


D2C today

With the challenges businesses are facing today, D2C has become a delivery model which has seen a resurgence in population and a solution to the challenges that businesses are facing. It also offers an alternative to traditional B2B/B2C models, long term.

Many brands, both small and large, have turned to the D2C model to ensure a steady flow of engagement, retention, and sales throughout COVID-19, but also beyond.

This has been particularly prevalent for food and groceries, breweries and even building and manufacturing suppliers.

Pepsico started up two new websites specifically for the D2C models - snacks.com and pantryshop.com

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Tinned food giant Heinz has introduced its first direct-to-consumer (D2C) website, created in less than three weeks by ecommerce agency Good Growth.

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Even Disney utilised the D2C model, launching Disney+ to bypass cinema releases, and bringing forward their release of the musical, Hamilton, by a whole year - launching on Disney+ only.

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Business challenges

So what are these challenges that D2C can help businesses overcome?

Significant changes in business model

Since COVID-19, many businesses have found themselves having to refocus their business models. Fast. This has been particularly relevant for retailers without an ecommerce offering, or businesses who are primarily B2B.

Changing an entire business model, in a matter or weeks or even days, is by no means an easy feat. However, it is something that we have seen many of our customers do to maintain a customer base.

Ecommerce overwhelm

With most non-essential stores being closed down, and other bricks and mortar shops having their shelves stripped bare, consumers have naturally turned to retailers’ ecommerce offering - resulting in a surge in ecommerce demand for many businesses - often far beyond their capacity.

The crush of demand hit online grocery delivery companies particularly hard. Ocado, for example, had to suspend all access to its website for a period of time to prepare for the distribution of products and ensure fair delivery slots.

New and changing addresses

Of course, with a new and increasing customer base comes new and increasing delivery addresses. For many businesses who worked on a fixed route model, this was hugely overwhelming. They had to work out how to collect, store and distribute these addresses, before even getting to the delivery stage.

Increased planning time

This of course increases planning time significantly. For some of our customers, prior to working with us, they were spending hours each day planning, often working until midnight, and then having to be at the depot at 6am the next morning to prepare for delivery. This isn’t a sustainable process.

High customer expectation

However, despite the difficulties facing businesses, consumers still expect their orders to reach them quickly. 71% of consumers expect their order to be delivered within a week, and 29% expect deliveries to take no more than 3-5 days. This is a significant increase in expectation compared with before the lockdown.

It seems that offering a fast delivery is more important than ever.


Solutions

What solutions can businesses implement to address these challenges and run a D2C business model?

Increase focus on ecommerce

Customers were already enthusiastic online shoppers prior to lockdown, but retailers including John Lewis and Curry’s PC World chains reported a near doubling of online sales since the quarantine began.

What this crisis has made clear is that once stores do open, it will be to a very different environment. Most economists now agree that, even in the recovery phase, retail spend will be significantly depressed. Where growth does pick up, much will flow through digital channels and e-commerce adoption will continue to accelerate.

By continuing to strengthen your ecommerce offering, you can future proof your business for the ‘new norm’ that many retailers will be experiencing into the near future.

Dynamic route optimisation

Our very first recommendation is for businesses 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 business change or pivoting from B2B to D2C.

Dynamic routes allow businesses to plan routes daily, weekly, monthly, or however frequently they require a dynamic schedule. Route optimisation systems use 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%.

Customer communication

52% of consumers report they feel greater loyalty to brands that communicate effectively.

With so much uncertainty in business, and many brands turning to delivery for the first time, customers want to be reassured.

To achieve this, businesses can proactively send out advance email and SMS ETA notifications to regularly keep your customers informed at every step of the delivery process. From order confirmation, to letting customers know when their delivery is nearby.

Track vehicles and performance

Similarly, businesses who are new to D2C distribution will likely want further reassurance that their orders are being delivered, and their processes are working effectively.

We’d recommend implementing a driver app which offers real-time job notifications, tracking, live reporting and electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) - all from your drivers’ mobile devices.

Your drivers can even take photos and electronic signatures once the order has been delivered, for added peace of mind.

To find out how you can prepare for post-lockdown and achieve all of the above, get in touch with one of our experts.


Success stories

We’ve worked with lots of customers throughout COVID-19 to help them implement these solutions, here are a couple of examples:

Delifresh

Industry: B2B Food distribution

Vehicles: 25

    33% increase in deliveries
    12 hours implementation time

Due to COVID-19, Delifresh were having to pivot their business from B2B to D2C. However they quickly realised that this was a significant challenge. Fixed routes were no longer applicable and planning hours suddenly increased. Despite receiving thousands of orders from new customers, Delifresh were having to limit the amount of orders they could fulfil due to this unmanageable workload.

We were able to get Delifresh up and running with a free trial within an hour, and fully implemented in only 12 hours. Through the use of dynamic route optimisation, Delifresh were suddenly able to plan 700 orders a minute - freeing up considerable time.

Delifresh quickly saw results, with deliveries they could fulfil increasing by 33%, and the additional capacity meaning Delifresh could support NHS workers by delivering food parcels to key hospital locations.

Sambrook’s Brewery

Industry: B2B beverage distribution

    50% reduction in planning time
    48 hours implementation time

Duncan Sambrook founded Sambrook’s Brewery in 2008 when there were just five breweries operating in London.

He wanted to offer something different - a local London brewery that sourced and sold everything locally; including hops from Kent and malts from Wiltshire.

Despite their growth and success, Sambrook’s Brewery faced sudden, significant challenges posed by COVID-19. The team at Sambrook’s Brewery reacted fast, seeing there was an opportunity to sell to individual customers, at their homes, during the crisis.

However, Sambrook’s started facing significant pressure to plan routes. The D2C model was very different, with dispersed addresses throughout the local area. As Sambrook’s were bringing in an increasing volume of orders, they were soon spending hours each day planning deliveries and routes. This resulted in long working hours and often delays in getting the team of drivers out on the road.

Sambrook’s spoke to their brewery management software, BrewMan, who recommended us due to it’s route optimisation functionality, and ease of integration with the BrewMan system.

Sambrook’s Brewery were up and running with us in just 2 days. They received support from the Implementation Team, who helped the team to get to grips with the system and also buy into the process.

By using our dynamic route optimisation and a driver application, Sambrook’s Brewery halved the amount of time they were spending on route planning. This meant that there were no longer any delays in getting the team of drivers out on the road, so that deliveries could be made on time.

Sambrook’s plan to continue working with us to deliver to both D2C and businesses post-lockdown - expanding their customer base and effectively managing the process.

If you’d like to learn more about how we help businesses to deliver direct to their consumers, or how you can implement the strategy into your business, get in touch!

Agile is the new normal for businesses and distribution

July 2020,

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!

MaxOptra continues to support global businesses by attending the Last Mile Summit

July 2020,

Last week MaxOptra attended the Last Mile Summit - MEA; a virtual summit that hosts 300+ industry leaders from E-Commerce, Parcel & Couriers, 3PL / 4PL Providers, Supermarkets, Food Delivery, Pharmacies and more from the MEA.

The 2-day initiative strives to ‘decode the last mile challenge’ through a series of cutting edge keynotes, panel discussions and workshops, hosted by industry veterans and leading ‘Last-Mile’ Solution Providers.

Our very own Sales Manager, Tim McCarthy, joined our valued partners, Location Solutions, to present on the challenges businesses have faced due to COVID-19, and advise businesses on the solutions available to them.

Notably, Tim focused on the D2C (direct to consumer) strategy; where businesses who are traditionally B2B or B2C are now delivering directly to their customers’ doors, overcoming issues faced by the temporary closure of retail and hospitality premises.

Tim noted:
“At MaxOptra we have learned so much from our own customers over the past few months; working alongside them to pivot their businesses and maintain their customer base throughout lockdown.

It was a pleasure to share this experience and advice with the global businesses at the Last Mile Summit, and to directly help those who reached out after the presentation.

We look forward to working with these businesses to improve their delivery offering and help them navigate this difficult period, and beyond.”

Tim’s presentation clearly resonated with the challenges that many are currently facing, as he was requested to present once again in the afternoon, and was contacted by a variety of global businesses afterwards for further advice and guidance.

MaxOptra MD, Sanjay Gandhi, noted:
“During this period one of our main priorities has of course been continuing to support our current customer base; offering them advice and guidance to help them remain agile and flexible.

However, businesses all over the world are feeling the effects of COVID-19, so we have been focusing on supporting more global businesses who are adapting their business model, through our thought leadership, expert advice and innovative technology.

We are very proud to be able to support businesses across four different continents and help them meet changing customer requirements.”

If you would like to find out more about our work with global businesses, or require some advice yourself, don’t hesitate to contact us.