How to handle peaks in last mile logistics
Christmas comes early for the logistics industry. Black Friday sees the start of the peak season for all logistics companies working with last mile delivery. It all kicks off during the days after Black Friday and continues until Christmas! Of total annual retail sales, 30 percent occur during this period. Several crucial challenges present themselves when it comes to handling last mile logistics efficiently during this peak period. We would like to share some ideas on how to manage such issues.
Additional resources required
During peak periods, logistics companies need to bring in additional resources to manage the increased volumes. These are often external resources with limited knowledge of business processes and how to perform the work. One way to mitigate this is to use mobile IT-tools to guide new staff through the various tasks, preventing them from making major mistakes. For example, drivers’ stops are presented to them in optimized order. For each stop, they receive clear instructions on what to do. The system also helps them handle any deviations or problems that arise.
Adding resources also requires new devices. One way to manage this efficiently is to use smartphones/BYOD for additional resources brought in during peak periods. A traditional smartphone with a camera and with or without an external Bluetooth reader is a good choice depending on the number of parcels involved.
Optimization – using resources correctly
Naturally, when delivery resources are limited and kept busy delivering large numbers of parcels, it is highly important that they are used as efficiently as possible. Accordingly, it is essential to use appropriate optimization tools. For example, optimum routes can be planned based on geography. However, shippers must not forget to provide consumers with precise time-windows. If it is possible to ensure that the addressee is at home waiting for the parcel, greater efficiency can be achieved, avoiding costly returns and re-deliveries. Ultimately, of course, this also means happier customers!
Of course, the optimized route should also be considered when loading the vehicle. This minimizes the time spent at each stop, helping drivers quickly locate the parcel in the van or truck.
To get even more out of existing resources, a dynamic optimization tool can be used to plan the distribution route dynamically based on the deliveries to be made and other pre-set parameters. This means existing resources can be used to their full potential, while avoiding the need for costly additional resources.
Handling the load and avoiding disruption
From an IT-perspective, the days after Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the approaching Christmas period are the most intense time of the year. IT systems must be able to cope with substantially higher loads and everything needs to work flawlessly.
Nowadays, one way of dealing with the increased load during this limited period is to use cloud infrastructure to scale up resources on existing servers. Alternatively, scale out with additional machines that can help with the increased load. This means you only pay for the time during which the resources are being used!
But to keep the IT-system running smoothly, you need to monitor the system closely. For example, how many events are being logged per second; are there any delays/queues; what are the typical response times, etc.? Keeping track of all these important parameters often allows IT to stay a step ahead, implementing the counter-actions necessary to ensure that all those consumers out there get their parcels in time for Christmas.