Organisations and service providers offering distribution operations are faced with an increasingly competitive marketplace. In an environment constantly challenged by customer demands, driver shortages, and adverse economic conditions caused by everything from the Global Financial Crisis, volatile fuel prices to inconsistent and constantly changing legislation.

These circumstances create an increasingly costly and complex task and dictate that companies must manage their distribution processes efficiently whilst considering diverse and complex elements.

Low cost and easy to implement technology solutions can provide a platform to effectively manage and reduce this complexity. Technology platforms create a more efficient delivery process, reduced distribution costs, improved margins, and improved performance measurement capability whilst providing exceptional service to customers.

Recently due to improvements in web reliability and increased data transfer speeds, a new breed of technology known as on-demand logistics services has entered the market to provide high-level logistics solutions in a practical and cost-effective way for fleets of any size. On-demand logistics services embrace a web-enabled platform to provide users with logistics services within one platform on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis.

This model eliminates the need to incur the upfront capital costs of hardware, software and longer implementation times usually required for advanced logistics services.  In short these solutions provide a low entry cost with a quick “time to benefit”.

Available functionality through these services includes strategic modelling capability, route optimisation and planning, load consolidation and rating, real-time vehicle tracking, dispatch management, dock appointment management and pro-active and automated customer service.

As a real-time, web-enabled offering, users can access secure, reliable and rich logistics functionality on-demand anytime, anywhere, by any authorised user over the Internet.

As a result, users can more effectively manage the entire delivery process from the time an order is placed through to the time it is delivered. This model also provides companies with the latitude to pick and choose the services they need, as well as scale up or down to meet seasonal needs and/or budget demands.

With ongoing real-time access to distribution activities, managers can improve routing efficiency, improve utilisation cost and gain real-time visibility into fleet activities whilst recording all movements for KPI development and compliance reporting – all of which lead to significant efficiency and cost improvements in operations:

Improved Routing

On-demand logistics services extend beyond simply planning a route from point A to point B. They utilise street level digital maps and consider multiple constraints including shift length, delivery windows, volume, weight, equipment type and shipment attributes of individual loads.

While other software solutions on the market tend to be specialised for specific business
models, on-demand services can be customised to factor in strategic requirement, static routing, sequencing, dynamic routing or even periodic zone rebalancing to update static routes. This flexibility is instrumental in optimising resources on the road while reducing the number of kilometres driven.

Real-Time Visibility

One of the biggest challenges for a dispatcher or operations manager is knowing the exact location of their drivers and the routes they have taken. On-demand GPS and interactive real-time tracking allows operators to know precisely the route taken, where drivers are at any given moment and immediately seeing the impact of changes in vehicle location on customers delivery expectations.

“Real Time” updated delivery ETA’s ensure ability to proactive manage the operation and improve Delivery in Full on Time (DIFOT) performance.

GPS and real-time tracking functionality also provides a detailed audit tool to enable monitoring and control of every kilometre driven, improving driver performance by reducing unnecessary “detours” and unplanned stops. and assisting in managing legislative requirements.

Improved and Simplified Reporting

With the increased service demands of customers and the increasing legislative burden in the transport industry, on demand logistics services ensure that route plans are not only efficient but assist in managing to legislative requirements.

With the addition of capturing “real-time” information from the field once routes are dispatched the Dispatcher, Operations Manager and Management have a retrievable and easy to assess history of daily activity which can be drawn upon to provide KPI’s to customers and the operation, in addition to being utilised in the event of questions around legislative compliance.

A Proven Solution

By performing field data analysis in real-time, managers can accomplish a number of things to improve their bottom lines without sacrificing quality of service. With the information in hand, they can increase stops per paid hour, consolidate deliveries to reduce consumption and kilometres driven, and monitor vehicle and driver performances to make proactive decisions and adjustments to daily operations

In addition to route and vehicle adjustments, optimisation and tracking delivers a number of
“soft” savings, including reductions in unnecessary driver hours, improved service to customers through more timely and accurate delivery cycles, and reduced data entry and call centre costs.

The new breed of on-demand subscription-based optimization and tracking services has already proven to reduce delivery costs by up to 15% – much of which is reflected increased efficiency, utilisation and customer service provision.

As the battle to control costs, improve efficiency and improve service offerings, there is no question that effective and efficient route plan combined with real-time visibility into fleet activities will become an essential tool for survival.

No longer is manual planning with location only GPS a differentiator in the market place or a mechanism to unlock operational costs.