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In the logistics and supply chain ecosystem, there’s on-time delivery, late delivery, out for delivery, scheduled delivery – all of which refer to the shipment and/or transportation of your goods and package. And while all forms of delivery have its role, let us today talk about delivery scheduling systems and how scheduled delivery impact goods transportation, their role in facilitating same day and next day delivery in eCommerce, and their importance in B2B delivery services.
What is scheduled delivery?
In common parlance, scheduled delivery is often used to indicate when a package is to be delivered. That is, it is scheduled.
However, in the language of logistics, scheduled delivery refers to a shipment method that pre-plans the date and time of delivery based on the convenience of the shipper, consignor and consignee. Whether it is for B2C eCommerce or B2B shipments, scheduled delivery services provide the customer with a range of delivery options for selection. This gives the customer the ease and flexibility to select a slot that works best for them. Also, it saves the delivery company the hassle of non-delivery and repeated delivery attempts or reverse logistics.
Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) vs Scheduled Delivery
Though ETA and scheduled delivery are both delivery related terminologies used for delivery schedules, the main difference lies in how the terms are used.
For instance, in B2C eCommerce grocery delivery, the vendor will consider inventory, packaging time, transport routes, delivery agent availability, traffic, and other factors and provide the customer with multiple time slot options, e.g., same-day delivery, next day delivery, get in in 2 hours, or 4-6 p.m., 6-8 p.m. and similar. These are the delivery schedules or slots.
Once the grocery order is out for delivery, an update will be sent to the customer as to by when it can be expected. For example, package arriving in 30 mins, or similar This is the ETA or expected time of arrival.
How do delivery scheduling systems work?
As can be understood, there’s a much larger and complex operation working in the backend to ensure smooth functioning of delivery scheduling systems.
The key stakeholders involved in the delivery scheduling system are:
- The shipper or logistics/transportation or trucking company
- The sender or seller
- The recipient or buyer or customer
If we return to our example of grocery eCommerce, this is how a scheduled delivery flow would look like:
- Customer places the order and selects a time slot (based on the options provided) for delivery scheduled for next working day based on the available options e.g., Monday, 4-6 p.m.
- The notification is received at the vendor managed inventory and transportation units
- While the vendor prepares the order, the trucking company maps the routes, delivery timelines, checks vehicles and resources, etc.
- The vehicles are loaded with all the deliveries for the route or time slot, and deliveries are made as per the assigned schedules i.e., on Monday, between 4-6 p.m.
- This is usually followed by delivery update status message sent to the respective stakeholders on completing the order
Benefits of scheduled delivery
Let us now take a look at some of the advantages of scheduled delivery systems and why it works for both B2B and B2C sectors.
- Convenience for all stakeholders – Having pre-determined delivery slots works for the buyer, seller and transporter. As customers get to choose their slots based on their convenience, there are lesser failed deliveries or multiple attempts at delivery. Also, customer experience is improved as they have clarity on when the package will be delivered.
- Cost savings due to minimum redelivery attempts – As customers book slots based on their availability there are lesser deliveries rescheduled or reattempts. In the larger context, this enables logistics companies to save on transportation costs.
- Customer satisfaction and empowerment – No one wants to keep waiting for their deliveries or be unclear or when their package is incoming. Scheduling deliveries allows customers to feel empowered as they get to select the delivery schedules based on their availability. This is especially trues for B2B deliveries and bulk deliveries, where product quantity and quality have to be checked to avoid damages, and requires the presence of a designated personnel and team.
- Competitive edge – Offering customers the flexibility to plan their deliveries can be a competitive advantage for a business, especially if not many are doing so. Yes, it will require operational restructuring and planning, but successful deliveries will only result in loyalty and repeated sales for business.
Challenges in scheduled delivery processes
And while having knowledge on delivery timelines can be a great experience for the customer, it’s not an easy process for the logistics company.
- Last mile delivery challenges – While customers can select their delivery slots, the actual success depends on last mile delivery. Roadblocks, bad weather, traffic, vehicle breakdown, poor network for GPS, these are genuine challenges that can impact the last leg of the delivery system. And while every logistics service provider can make top-notch preparations, it’s the last-leg that can either make or break the delivery scheduling system.
- Complex logistics process flows – Whether you are committing to same day delivery or delivery scheduled for next working day, there’s a much bigger and complex logistics flow that needs to be aptly orchestrated to ensure that the delivery happens in time. Of course, large, successful logistics providers, 3PLs and 4PLs, courier companies have worked this out from their experience, but the challenge remains that any slip in the supply chain will have a cascading effect on the remaining processes and their timelines. This is especially true for long-distance or intra-city shipments, international shipment, and bulk shipping.
- Unforeseen and/or unplanned changes – As can be understood, there are multiple stakeholders and processes involved in ensuring that delivery happens on time. But what happens if the customer makes a change of plans? In older days, any changes for rescheduling had to be discussed and agreed upon. However, with modern technology, a click of a button is all that’s required to change delivery dates. In our example above, it would take only a few seconds for the customer to reschedule the delivery from Monday, 4-6 p.m. to Tuesday, 8-10 a.m. For the logistics solutions provider, this basically means an entire overhaul and re-doing the routes, schedules, vehicle/agent assignment again. Of course, this is expected and logistics companies are prepared for sudden changes, but it’s an ongoing challenge that’s yet to find its perfect solve.
How to drive efficiency in scheduled delivery in logistics?
When you want to build an efficient logistics delivery system, you start from the basics. Understand the existing processes, the gaps and challenges, external and internal environment, the need for logistics technology adoption, and the role of transparent, real-time communication.
- Use technology instead of manual processes – This is a given. When you are looking for efficiency, the move from manual to tech-enabled processes in mandatory. This will save you time, cost, reduce operational hassles, and keep the concerned departments updated on changes. For instance, using relevant tools, overbooking for a certain delivery time slot can be avoided. Or, bookings for a certain route can be open on specific dates or slots. This will reduce operational challenges and also bring efficiency in meeting timelines and resource optimisation.
- Grow your logistics network – It’s almost impossible to functional optimally without a wide network and partnership of logistics providers. Whether you are selling to businesses or end-users, it’s economically and operationally viable to partner with multiple logistics and supply chain providers for different types of logistics services and pincode coverage. For instance, returns management in supply chain can be outsourced. Similarly, partnerships with 3PL providers can be made for leveraging 3PL warehouses and micro-fulfilment centres at different locations.
- Optimise resource allocation and utilisation – A secret to being efficient with delivery scheduling systems is to optimise resources. Use technology for gathering insights, doing logistics cost analysis, route optimisation, and understanding the best way to use what you have. For instance, you can gather data and draw insights on which delivery time slots and routes have the maximum demand and allocate resources accordingly. Similarly, if you identify specific high cost, low demand routes, you can partner with a 3PL for PTL logistics instead of blocking full trucks for the delivery.
- Learn from competitors/markets and customers – You can also drive efficiency by closing following your competitors and market changes and listening to customer feedback. Understand, logistics is a highly competitive sector and the importance of customer service in logistics cannot be understated. Efficient delivery systems can enhance the delivery experience, leading to positive feedback, repeat business, and even new business. Similarly, following your competitors and offering similar or better services/features can be a gamechanger.
Next steps for your logistics delivery system
As a business owner or logistics company owner, it’s obvious that providing customers with the flexibility to schedule deliveries as per their convenience will be beneficial. It will bring operational efficiency, increase customer satisfaction, reduce reschedules, and eventually drive higher sales and revenue for business.
What you need to understand is based on your present capabilities, external competition and customer base, what are the delivery options you can offer. Remember, it’s better to promise what’s doable than overpromise.
Scheduled delivery is an optional or value-adding service that has a vital role in e-Commerce fulfilment and the overall order fulfilment process. Global players like Amazon and UPS scheduled delivery systems are known for their seamless efficiency – and are hence the go-to option for most customers. As such, evaluate your present status, invest in the necessary technology and resources, and include scheduled delivery into your processes if it will add value to your business.