The 3 Things that Matter in Delivery Productivity

delivery productivityFor all who are familiar with the saying “There are 3 things that matter in realty: location, location, location”, there are also 3 “Ls” for delivery productivity: less, less and less. Time is the enemy of delivery productivity and the less loading, less unloading and less driving time spent, the more deliveries can be made. While much emphasis has been spent on minimizing drive times—and more will be covered here—there are tremendous opportunities to minimize loading time at the DC or store and unloading/receiving time at the customer. Interestingly, all of the data required to maximize the 3 Ls in delivery exists in today’s integrated route planning and mobile solutions. Fleet operators need to exploit that information with fulfillment operations to reap the productivity benefits and delight customers.

Don’t miss the opportunity. If your organization is using an integrated route planning and mobile solution, the data already exists to not only help delivery fleet operations to be more productive, but also to engage other parts of the delivery chain to increase that productivity. The 2018 Fleet Management Strategies of Top Performers Benchmark showed, however, that only 40% of respondents share route information with warehouse and distribution operations and with customers. This is clearly an opportunity for leading delivery operations to leverage the broader power of delivery data to help improve fleet opportunity. The following 3Ls are examples of how leading delivery operations are using delivery data internally and externally to improve productivity.

Less loading time. For many companies, delivery operations are dynamic with pickups and deliveries interspersed throughout the day. As a result, delivery vehicles are heading to DCs or stores to get their next delivery orders. Ensuring that the next orders are staged and ready for loading to minimize turnaround time is a well understood concept. The problem executing the staging timing is knowing when the vehicle will arrive. Static daily delivery plans given to the warehouse too often fail to be relied upon as orders and route ETAs change. When multiple vehicles use the DC, the challenge is determining what vehicle will show up first. These cases are where real-time GPS tracking combined with up-to-date delivery schedules can better inform the warehouse or store of the timing of the expected pickups, ensure that the right orders are ready to go and actually cut loading times by over 50%. We have seen customers integrate this information with their warehouse system or provide staging resources with route information via kiosks or tablets to quickly realize the value.

Less stop time. Customers can also be a big inhibitor to delivery productivity. They are either not ready to accept the delivery and/or provide poor delivery location information (especially for construction job sites). Delivery stop time information in the route planning system can also be inaccurate and most likely too long in duration because it was built based upon some fixed assumptions or standards that may not reflect the required delivery time. There are several ways that GPS-based route information can reduce stop time or ensure that customers are ready to take the delivery when it arrives:

  • Leading companies are now using notification processes with real-time ETAs to make sure that customers are prepared in advance for the delivery and ready when it arrives. The following two examples from Origin Energy do a great job at illustrating the notifications process and customer-facing real-time delivery tracking.
  • Taking this same GPS information and analyzing it over time provides powerful insight into the actual required delivery time for customers. Not only do customers see what it really is but, most importantly, they also see how well their best drivers do versus the rest of the organization. Any delivery operations manager knows that, through tracking and training, there is a significant opportunity to reduce delivery stop times.
  • Even when the driver has arrived at the customer location, getting directed to the right delivery point can also be a productivity killer. Whether it is the back of a large retail store or a location on a job site, having the right address is essential to the optimal delivery route. By evaluating the actual geo-stop versus the given address, the route planning system can make route corrections that cut out wasted time getting to the customers’ real delivery location.

Less drive time. Understanding planned versus actual performance is critical to improving delivery productivity. Delivery data can help in two areas: optimization performance and driver performance.

  • Optimization performance is only as good as the system configuration and base data (e.g. digital map data) that are used. In many cases, initial configurations are conservative to ensure that delivery service objectives are met and that routes are feasible. Without an easy way to compare planned versus actual performance, many companies don’t take the step to improve those settings once the system is in production. Using the actual delivery data to evaluate planned versus actual road speeds, use of various road classes and driver route navigation choices, delivery operations planners can tune the system to produce more realistic and productive route plans—and happier drivers.
  • This brings me to driver productivity. Just like stop productivity, en route productivity can vary greatly by driver. Understanding the decisions that better drivers make on the road to keep their delivery commitments on track, and even get back early, can help in coaching other drivers. Just imagine how much more productive your delivery operations would be if the bottom third of drivers performed as well as the top third.

Time is the driving factor in delivery productivity. Knowing how your delivery operations, DCs and customers are actually using it is the key to maximizing delivery productivity. How is your delivery organization using its actual performance internally and externally to improve productivity? Let me know.

As Executive Vice President, Marketing and Services, Chris Jones ( is primarily responsible for Descartes marketing activities and implementation of Descartes’ solutions. Chris has over 30 years of experience in the supply chain market, including the last 10 years as a part of the Descartes leadership team. Prior to Descartes, he has held a variety of senior management positions in other organizations including: Senior Vice President at The Aberdeen Group’s Value Chain Research division, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Development for SynQuest and Vice President and Research Director for Enterprise Resource Planning Solutions at The Gartner Group and Associate Director Operations & Technology for Kraft Foods.

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