November 2011 | Commentary | Checking In

@Home With Demand-Driven Logistics 

Tags: Expedited Shipping, E-commerce

Keith Biondo is the publisher of Inbound Logistics magazine.

I recently got into a discussion with a reader about the most important developments in logistics during the past decade. "Mainstreaming of the term 'logistics' by UPS ranks right up there," he said.

"Civilians" just don't understand what you do, the complexity of the challenges you face, or the intelligence, dedication, and hard work you put into the seamless—and almost magical, instantaneous—appearance of whatever product they want when they want it. But that is changing.

Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Toto reveals the truth behind the magic and the Wizard commands, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"? UPS, with its ubiquitous "We Love Logistics" commercials, has pulled back the curtain and introduced the consuming public to the importance of logistics in their lives and the economy.

Readers of this magazine know how important it is to use speed and reliability to hit delivery windows. It's important to consumers, too.

UPS is trying to mainstream that concept with a new service called UPS My Choice. The service, started on Oct. 3, 2011, "helps avoid the disappointment and hassle of missing a home delivery by empowering the consumer to take control of UPS deliveries the day before arrival," according to UPS. Demand-driven at home?

UPS My Choice offers consumers the same type of control inbound logistics practitioners require by "increasing the likelihood of a successful delivery on the first attempt by providing delivery alerts, specific delivery time frames, reroute options, visibility tools, and electronic delivery release." All of this can be accomplished via desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

There are two levels of service, My Choice and My Choice Premium, both with fees attached. Phone, email, or text alerts arrive one day in advance, providing the confirmed delivery window (two or four hour). Consumer "inbound logisticians" can even reroute shipments in transit—for example, to the office, another residence, or the local UPS store for pickup later.

Given the continued growth of direct-to-home shipments, despite the economy, UPS expects the service to grow. It is already popular with retailers such as QVC, "because it allows consumers to get their deliveries on the first attempt," says UPS Chief Marketing Officer Alan Gershenhorn. No doubt that also helps with customer service, loss, and returns expenses.

Businesses have sought to link demand signals to supply, and orient operations to support that logistics philosophy. Visibility technology such as this acts as a force equalizer, enabling companies, large or small, to have the control required to drive world-class supply chain operations. Now consumers have the power, too.

The world is truly becoming our warehouse.