The throes of COVID-19 remain an unprecedented challenge for supply chain management. However, the traditional concerns of efficiency within the supply chain continue to set the standard for operational efficiency. C-Suite executives have their minds focused on the need to serve customers and maintain safety, and organizations across the globe continue to implement more strategic capabilities.
Did the Disruption Cause a Retooling of Last Mile Visibility Initiatives
An interesting point surrounds the issue of COVID-19 and supply chain visibility. Companies have worked to improve fulfillment models and move more freight in response to the disruption. In the last mile, deliveries are now “contactless” and reliant on technology to complete transactions. It sounds like a future application of supply chain management, but this reality is not necessarily new. It only gives the perception of it and that is what you need in the last mile of shipping.
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As explained by Supply Chain Digital, “COVID-19 has uncovered weaknesses in many organization’s supply chains. Companies must now review the global footprint of their supply base to avoid supply-side risk from one geography. The coronavirus has shown that companies that have developed and introduced supply chain risk management as part of their SRM framework are better prepared to mitigate the business impact.” Even Amazon is getting in on the issue, working to fulfill orders and maintain visibility. Ultimately, COVID-19 hasn’t changed the game for the need for visibility; it only heightened already-existing pressures to gain true end-to-end visibility.
End-to-End Visibility Implies a Direct Need for Last Mile Visibility
Visibility is the goal for C-Suite executives. More visibility leads to better balancing of cost and performance. It ensures business activities actually align with business strategies and objectives. Unfortunately, companies may fail to understand the costs associated with gains in productivity.
For instance, better dock management through another system of record can improve dock scheduling. Of course, it comes at the need to remember login information, access another system, integrate the system, and more. It’s an endless hassle, and while it may not reflect many impacts on a single transaction, it adds up over time.
End-to-end visibility requires last visibility. It’s simple. However, end-to-end visibility that requires additional stress in simply getting information does little to benefit supply chain efficiency. After all, what’s the use in adding a new system if it still relies on outdated, manual data entry? So, what can companies do to achieve last mile visibility without risking their sanity and profitability?
How to Increase Last Mile Delivery the Right Way
The last mile has always been subject to a lack of visibility. Since it forms the steps of transit that include countless delivery stops, it also carries the highest risk. Packages may shift in the back of a truck, and items may be placed at the wrong doorstep. However, the same technology that lets drivers mark items as delivered and track their hours could be applied to improve visibility in the last way. In fact, consider these options for gaining visibility in this final stage of outbound logistics:
- Telematics and GPS data can connect to the TMS and applicable systems to automatically populate location data and improve responsiveness of your customer service teams.
- ELDs provide insight into driver hours, as well as proving whether carriers were able to keep up with their commitments.
- Automated notification systems can help customers know when to expect packages, as well as alert customer service agents when a customer reports a missing delivery.
I’d also like to take a moment to share a real-world example of the value of automated notifications and alerts for customers that happened this week. I was expecting a package for delivery. It didn’t come, but then, I received a notification that it had been rescheduled for Wednesday. I thought, “okay, let me just check on it.” Upon logging in, I was asked to “confirm the reschedule?” I clicked “no.” I figured that would be the best way to pick a different day. Within 15 minutes, the package was at my doorstep, and it was 11:30 PM. Obviously, my experience boosted my confidence in the carrier, and it only occurred because of my immediate intervention.
Imagine if the systems in use had that capability, alerting drivers still in the neighborhood that I’m waiting for my package. It’s an amazing concept. Now, continuing that list of steps:
- Work with carriers to share data, using APIs and EDIs, avoiding the lost costs from extra logins and building digitization into the foundation of the interaction.
- Leverage automated audits to hold problem-makers accountable, explains Supply Chain Brain, such as keeping carriers on their feet with delivery expectations and recapturing revenue from billing errors.
- Allocate resources based on last mile demand, reducing the risk for delays, and building further confidence in both your brand and the carriers involved.
- Invest in a data-driven TMS that includes last mile visibility metrics, providing the insight needed to keep shareholders informed and more.
Choose a High-Quality 3PL to Boost Last Mile at Last
The last mile doesn’t have to be complicated. It simply needs information and shareability of data. Shared data is the ultimate win for supply chain efficiency and productivity. Also, better traceability in the final mile will lend itself to improved management of customer experiences and avoiding extra losses from recalls or other adverse events. The supply chain continues to evolve, and C-Suite leaders that double-down on accessible, easy visibility will gain a competitive advantage.