Streamlining Retail Logistics

Here are 10 ways for retailers to streamline logistics operations and implement best practices so you will have the right inventory at the right location.

1. Embrace automation. Automation reduces manual tasks and eliminates steps in the process, helping orders to get out faster. An optimized transportation management system (TMS) automates these tasks while lowering transportation costs, improving logistics efficiencies and productivity, and providing real-time visibility that enables proactive actions and responses.

2. Prepare to handle demand volatility. The ability to scale with flexible logistics operations to handle demand is key. Work with your suppliers to emphasize demand planning and forecasting to ensure optimal amounts of inventory arrive at the right locations at the right time.

3. Treat drivers well and pay fairly. Drivers want work-life balance, so use scheduling tools (often built into a TMS) that take into account their preferences, like returning home after each trip. Give them the tools and perks they need to smooth the way for your freight.

4. Work with reputable carriers. Find carriers that are dedicated to best practices. Every retail operation needs access to quality carriers that are responsible for getting products delivered on time, in full, and in excellent condition. Create KPIs and measure carriers using scorecards to help improve performance. Honest two-way conversations between shippers and carriers is a win-win that can lead to a more satisfied relationship.

5. Embrace green practices. The call for sustainability in fashion has reached a new high, and many retailers are following suit. A TMS can help reduce mileage and fuel usage by optimizing routes. Smart trip planning reduces out-of-route miles and provides the most advantageous stops for fuel and rest. Look for a TMS that reduces deadhead miles where trucks eat up mileage without carrying a load.

6. Track shipments from start to finish. A TMS monitors ELDs, telematics, and GPS devices to show the status of all shipments and sends alerts to management if any delay occurs. If an issue arises, being proactive and resolving it quickly leads to happy customers.

7. Use mobile tools. Mobile tools allow drivers to upload critical documents. This speeds invoicing and settlement, allowing you to send a bill within hours of delivery and shorten the time to receive payment. Proof-of-delivery mobile apps help improve customer satisfaction for last-mile deliveries. Drivers take pictures of the delivered product to prove the order arrived safely. Some mobile apps provide turn-by-turn directions, which help speed deliveries.

8. Verify delivery addresses. As you type in the address, a TMS can verify to make sure it is a valid address with the right ZIP code. This reduces errors and speeds processing.

9. Run what-if scenarios. Use analytics tools that factor loads, origins and destinations, hours-of-service (HOS), and real-world ETAs to see how your assigned drivers’ current and future load routes mesh with your strategic goals and KPIs. The goal is to develop a step-by-step plan defining where drivers need to go for their pickups and deliveries and enabling them to automatically stay compliant with HOS requirements.

10. Coordinate inbound shipments. This will eliminate crowded docks and long lines in the yard. Communicating with truckers prior to their arrival will reduce time spent in the yard or at dock doors. A mobile app can show drivers their assigned loads, dock door location, and appointment times so they don’t waste time driving around the yard.

SOURCE: Ryan Camacho, Director of Strategy and Business Development, Axele

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