The final mile of the delivery process may not be the most time-consuming piece in the supply chain, but it is probably the most important. Not only does the service that your company provides need to be completed within a certain time frame, but how the task is done in regard to customer relationships is just as, if not more, valuable.
Customers have gone from being okay with a three-day wait for their orders to arrive to expecting it either on the same or next day, which makes the final mile even more vital to supply chain operations. That’s why companies are doing whatever they can to use business intelligence (BI) tools to gain actionable insights into final mile operations.
Often, however, there are a number of challenges that have to be met for orders to be completed according to the contract. Shippers, carriers and customers all have to ensure that the standards of the contract are upheld and criteria met. Not only that, but, all three parties have to follow regulations set forth by OSHA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other government organizations. And, there’s the ever-constant hurdle of learning to use new, automated technology that continuously updates. So, it’s also important to stay current with learning how to use the technology that is available to you.
But what can you do to avoid losing sight of what your business is trying to achieve?
Here are some tips:
Understand the business obstacles in the way of achieving the objectives. It’s important to understand the needs of your stakeholders and not only your business. Once you have that, look for similarities and pull out the concepts. For example:
- Delivery time windows: Reliable customer service is, arguably, the most important aspect of the final mile. Hitting target delivery times is crucial for keeping your customers happy and ultimately retaining their business.
- Available capacity: We all know about the driver shortage, but that isn’t affecting final mile operations. In fact, the final mile is one area of the supply chain that has seen an increase in business, mostly due to the rise of ecommerce. So, maybe you can adjust your company’s lane operations to meet the high demands.
- Driver/Customer relationship: Final mile deliveries rely heavily on this. When the same driver is making the same delivery to the same person for an extended period of time they build a relationship. Changing up a driver’s route might not always be positive for your business.
- Seasonality: Using BI analytics can help fleet managers adjust to the lull of quarter one or meet the demands during the peaks in quarters two, three and four.
- Dynamics of BI and reporting: Work to gain buy-in from employees throughout your company. Change isn’t easy, so it’s important to teach them why the new reporting tool is needed and how it can boost change management.
- Other factors to consider include: integrating with an ERP, support for fixed, dynamic or hybrid routing, dispatch and visibility needs/demands, unplanned stops management, and communications challenges (mobile, telematics or devices).
Identify the business objectives. What is your business goal and how can you get there? That is the most important question for running your business. Create goals and research what data will best help you achieve them.
Decide what you want to answer. Keeping in mind your objectives, define both short-term and long-term goals so that everyone understands the importance of changing business operations. No matter how simple the question, if it needs to be answered, include it.
Define the KPIs. Not only from a metrics standpoint, but from the point of view of helping address overall goals. Also, only collect the data that you need. Don’t get bogged down in the additional noise.
Map KPIs to business obstacles. Have a clear understanding of how the KPIs map directly back to the key obstacles found. Is the data helping you find the inefficiencies that you wanted to address? Or, does it help reduce mistakes in orders? No matter how simple, have KPIs that address obstacles.
Create business analytics that will deliver against KPIs. It’s important to make your reports succinct and easy to understand so they provide the information that you need in a usable fashion. Otherwise, it becomes easier for employees to get distracted by un-useful noise.
Let KPIs evolve as needed. You may not get it right the first time. But keep trying because eventually you will find exactly what you were looking for. So, don’t trap yourself in one business process. Keep others involved so that they can provide input, if there’s a better way to do things. Also, if people are no longer using a report or KPI, find out what they need instead or how to make the KPI better. An ignored KPI is almost as bad as a non-existent one.
Consider working to gain champions for the cause from different teams across the company. Old habits are hard to break. Employees get tied down to the way reporting and data collection is done. But something in the process is broken and that’s the reason for changing. Remember, a good change process starts from the top down. When lower-level employees see their bosses buying into the new change, then, they too will be more likely to quickly adopt the process.
Also, part of successfully implementing new BI tools is also making sure that everyone is properly trained in both understanding how to collect the data and understanding what it means. Employees are more likely to accept the new information when they fully understand it and see clear outcomes as a result of analysis.
So, how do you apply this information?
Technology-driven solutions for business processes are available now, but the future holds even greater promise as such things as proactive and predictive analytics become more robust for the transportation industry. And, BI is at the core of making a final mile solution a more powerful impact on the business.
It can provide the analysis needed to go beyond basic dispatching, routing, or scheduling to provide the insights that truly affect business process improvements. If applied correctly, BI can make the final mile more impactful by meeting KPIs that have a lasting effect on meaningful business outcomes that map directly to overall business objectives. That’s why while final mile solutions are critical to companies reliant on pick up and deliveries, BI is the “secret sauce” in business improvement that takes final mile solutions to the next level for business success.
To help your business overcome challenges and deliver against KPIs, consider implementing a software solution like TMW’s FinalMile and business intelligence tools. For more information on how using BI can improve your business’ final mile, read TMW’s whitepaper, “Driving Your Final Mile Forward with Intelligent Analytics.”