Running an online business is no easier than running a brick and mortar business, especially when you consider the added responsibility of ensuring timeous deliveries when customers place their orders. Along with optimized stock and operations management, many online business owners who choose to invest in their own fleet also have to dedicate time and attention to streamlining logistics management. Here’s how to go about it to ensure reduced costs, maximum productivity, and, of course, happier customers.
Ensure streamlined fleet management
Unfortunately, simply buying a fleet of company vehicles isn’t where the job begins and ends. Once you have a fleet working for you, you will need to take proper care of it to facilitate safer, faster deliveries. Several aspects of fleet management require your attention. Here is a quick breakdown:
- Before you purchase your vehicles, you need to take the time to research which types of vehicles would be best suited to your business and your delivery requirements. Perhaps you need spacious vans because the merchandise that you sell is rather large, or because you want to allow for multiple orders to be carried at once? It is also essential to look into fuel-efficiency. Obviously, the less fuel that the vehicle utilizes, the lower your monthly expenses will be.
- Managing the overall cost of your fleet is another essential part of fleet management. You will need to sit down and budget carefully when it comes to purchasing your vehicles, keeping them going monthly, as well as maintaining them to increase longevity, protect your warranty, and maximize your drivers’ safety when out on the roads. All of this costs money and can quickly get out of control if you are not continually looking for ways in which to reduce these expenses. Be careful not to ‘cut corners’ to cut costs, though. For example, avoiding monthly maintenance will save you money in the short-term. Still, you are almost certain to pay a more substantial sum in the long-term– never mind the fact that you could be slapped with a lawsuit if your company vehicle is involved in an accident and it comes to light that it is behind on its maintenance schedule.
- Hiring and managing fleet labor often falls into the hands of Human Resources, but it also plays a significant role in fleet management. This could mean hiring and managing your drivers and their schedules, but it could also mean deciding to hire an in-house mechanic to give your company fleet some TLC in between deliveries. Many e-commerce business owners find that an in-house mechanic can drastically limit the risk of breakdowns and failures, ultimately reducing maintenance and repair costs.
- One of the most essential parts of fleet management is ensuring the timeous and meticulous dispatching of fleet vehicles. You need to tell your drivers where to go and when all the while carefully planning the route to allow for maximum efficiency (more on that below).
- Keeping in touch with your drivers is always a good idea. Firstly, they are your employees, and it is, therefore, vital to speaking to them directly about any challenges that they may be facing and about what you can do to help make their jobs easier. Happy, well cared for drivers perform better than unhappy, neglected drivers, after all. There is also evidence to show that by actively communicating with your drivers, you will have a better chance of identifying potential problems with company vehicles before these problems worsen and end up costing you a fortune to rectify.
The great news is that even though fleet management can be complicated and demanding, there are solutions to streamline and automate many aspects of it with the right software and technology.
Never underestimate the power of route planning
So, you have made sure to invest in company vehicles that allow for plenty of space for larger deliveries, and you have gone the extra mile to ensure that they are all up to date from a maintenance perspective. What have you forgotten? Route planning! Route planning is all about minimizing driving time when making multiple stops along the way with the end goal of saving money on fuel and allowing for the fastest possible delivery time. When planning the most efficient route, you need to take various factors into consideration, such as traffic congestion, road accidents, and vehicle load capacity.
When you first kick-start your business, you may have few enough orders to tackle this aspect of fleet management manually. However, as word starts to spread and customer interest spikes, you might need a bit of extra help to properly optimize delivery routes. The best approach to streamlining route planning and many other aspects of managing a fleet of vehicles? Investing in fleet management software with a route optimization feature.
Effective fleet management software is beneficial for many reasons:
- It allows you to visualize delivery routes with real-time traffic updates. The software also automates a significant portion of calculating the best route and can re-optimize if anything unexpected happens between dispatch and delivery.
- It will save you time and money. In fact, research shows that it can save you up to 40% on drive time and fuel. Further to this, another beneficial feature is that of auto-dispatch. The software is created to provide your drivers with instant instructions regarding where to go and when.
- It makes it possible for both you and your customers to track orders in real-time. When your customers have a direct link to answers relating to where their order is and when they can expect to receive it, you can also expect a significant reduction in calls, emails, and messages requesting support. This can make customer service much simpler and eliminate the need for an excessive number of employees, once again saving the business money.
- You will be able to download comprehensive reports dictating performance and areas that could do with improvements. From a delivery logistics perspective, you will find it effortless to track a host of important KPIs, from service times and successful deliveries to idle time and customer feedback ratings.
Now that you know how to optimize delivery logistics, you are sure to notice an improvement in customer satisfaction and your bottom line.