Whether your operations require first, middle or last mile delivery there are key capabilities that can make a difference to performance and impact to the business. The technology now available is helping companies implement strategies that improve performance in a number of ways including competitive differentiation, customer experience, revenue growth, profitability and of course, cost reduction.
The industry’s most sophisticated platforms address a wide range of requirements including scheduling delivery appointments, optimizing routes, managing their execution, directing drivers, working across delivery channels and engaging the customer. When considering all of these areas, six key capabilities raise to the top to deliver superior performance.
Here are the six key capabilities to look for in a fleet and last mile delivery solution:
1. Powerful and flexible route optimization engines
Every business has a unique set of requirements for its fleet and last mile operations. The ability to uniquely model those requirements can make the difference in getting the desired results in a way that is consistent with how the business wants to operate.
The same situation applies to the planning process. No single optimization engine adequately addresses the breadth of planning problems that companies can face.
Having the ability to model strategic and operational processes using optimization designed for them is critical to achieving the best results. The ability to deploy advanced optimization across the delivery lifecycle in appointment scheduling, route planning and dispatch and tracking processes allows companies to maximize the performance of every phase of the delivery and last mile process.
Advanced approaches such as continuous optimization and same-day optimization provide companies with new ways to plan and run their business.
2. Leveraging advanced technology
The technology advances in logistics is transforming what can be accomplished with fleet and last mile delivery solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI) and its subclass, Machine Learning (ML), are helping to automate the configuration of solutions and improve the accuracy of the solutions to produce results better reflecting real-world conditions and squeeze out the best performance.
However, there are more advances that have equally powerful impact. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is transforming how plans are created and executed, raising the level of results by automating best practices and minimizing human intervention. Advanced analytics is providing deep insights into operational performance to identify areas for improvement and identify where and why some areas of the operation are delivering the best results.
Finally, location based services (LBS), the digital map data, has increased significantly. Whether it is commercial or hazardous road restrictions, historical traffic patterns, real-time traffic or weather information can improve the accuracy of the road network, compliance with regulatory road requirements and planning and execution of routes due to changing traffic patterns.
3. Unifying, end-to-end delivery and last mile platform
Whether it is the delivery lifecycle from appoint to post-delivery performance evaluation or orchestrating multiple last-mile delivery channels from the fleet to 3PLs, couriers, parcel networks and gig economy workers, companies need a solution that harmonizes and optimizes the delivery operations.
The solution needs to dynamically determine the best delivery options to present the customer based not on a static set of delivery rules, but based upon existing orders, delivery capacity and dynamic cost calculations. Once the option is determined, the platform needs to provide the mode specific execution services such as parcel manifesting and load tendering.
Providing visibility to delivery operations and customers in real-time requires wireless global network that connects to not only the vendor’s mobile application, but telematics, third-party applications and carrier networks.
4. Real-time everything
From delivery appointment scheduling, to planning, dispatch and tracking, third-party delivery agents and customers, information must flow, and intelligent solutions act upon it in real-time. The ability to have time-definite optimized same day delivery depends upon the and end-end-real time solution architecture.
Static delivery appointment scheduling and batch based planning solutions will not maximize the productivity and minimize the cost of the delivery operation in same-day delivery because they cannot evaluate new or changing orders as they occur.
In addition, customers want real-time interaction from the time they pick a delivery window during the buying process to rescheduling if needed, knowing the delivery is in route and seeing when it will arrive.
When a delivery is complete, businesses can ask customers to provide instant feedback while the experience is fresh in their minds. This increases the survey response rate and makes it easier to tackle issues as they arise.
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Last Mile Delivery Best Practices
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5. Customer-facing solutions
Customers demand transparency and engagement throughout their order lifecycle. By proactively communicating with customers at key points in the post-purchase journey, businesses can reduce failed deliveries, minimize inbound phone calls and improve customer satisfaction.
In advance of the delivery, automated reminders help customers to plan ahead and reschedule if necessary. On the day of delivery, real-time notifications and ETA updates ensure that customers know what to expect.
A branded portal with map-based order tracking builds confidence and adds to the feeling of a seamless customer journey. In addition, customer-facing information and actions must be accessible through APIs to allow that data or logic to be seamlessly integrated with other solutions to give a more unified customer experience.
6. Scalable, mission critical architecture
The extent and importance of delivery and last mile operations to the overall success of a company has dramatically increased.
So, has the need for solutions that can handle large volumes of orders, automate the processes to schedule appointments, plan deliveries routes and execute them and interact with customers without human intervention. Traditional planning architectures were not built for this scale, the real-time flow of information and to operate 24 X 7.
Putting it into the cloud doesn’t address scalability if the solution wasn’t designed to take advantage of it. Concepts like horizontal scaling and elastic cloud optimization take advantage of the available computing capacity in the cloud.
Robotic process automation also helps systems scale by creating autonomous planning bots that work across large order sets, run continuously and execute deliveries. These solutions also drive real-time calculations for ETAs and are integrated to customer notification systems to keep customers appraised of the status of their deliveries and react to unforeseen events, rescheduling or resequencing of deliveries.
All of these key capabilities point to the breadth required in a first, middle and last mile delivery platform. For those companies who want to use their delivery software to create a competitive advantage, they need to evaluate how the solution dynamically engages the customer throughout the entire purchase to delivery lifecycle to establish a relationship that not only keeps them coming back for more, but drives additional services revenue and lowers delivery costs.