Every step of retail supply chain management so far — demand forecasting, workforce optimisation, and pick & pack — has led to this point: Ensuring orders are delivered on time in full (OTIF) with streamlined logistics and distribution. Accuracy is a strategic priority for retailers as even small delays and errors can result in operational turmoil, customer dissatisfaction, and revenue loss.
For these reasons, large retailers use their scale and negotiation power to share the pressure with manufacturers and logistics providers, imposing stiff penalties for missing promised delivery windows. Supply chain partners are, therefore, left with no choice but to find ways to cope with imposed industry norms.
And the task is complex. Multiple factors influence the transport of goods between two or more locations, and they are often beyond anyone’s direct control. So how can shippers overcome the challenge and meet delivery SLAs while, at the same time, maximising asset efficiency?
Intelligent algorithms give a fresh perspective to supply chain players, allowing them to build on established rules to, run predictive analytics across scenarios, and facilitate decision-making in real time. Let’s take a look at some applications that enable logistics and distribution optimisation.
Low margins, capacity constraints, and retailers’ expectations have transformed the way loading is done. Logistics providers now need to optimise capacity utilisation while keeping some flexibility in order to deal with contingencies — e.g., last-minute orders, rerouting, and cancellations.
Algorithms are well suited to make sense of such dynamic and unpredictable realities. They provide resilience to cope with the inevitable changes taking place and can identify the most contextually adequate clustering solution — i.e., how to group orders best — bearing in mind stackability, destinations, and delivery windows.
Getting loads ready is only one part of logistics and distribution optimisation. Shippers must also decide how goods will be transported to maximise the number of utilised hours per truck and minimise empty mileage. And this requires considering multiple predefined parameters:
Algorithms ensure drivers can complete the delivery of as many loads as possible while complying with the law. As new conditions emerge, such algorithms can also automatically recalculate estimated times of arrival (ETA) and warn retailers about changes potentially affecting agreed schedules.
Algorithms can also make recommendations about how to streamline pick and pack. For example, let’s say that a new truck with a different loading capacity is allocated for a specific delivery. New set of rules can be incorporated such that batching and 3D cubing is optimised accordingly to fill this truck most efficiently.
Additionally, drivers and retailers can flag damages that occurred during transportation such that manufacturers and shippers’ algorithm powered systems can prevent these in the future — e.g., by selecting packaging material and size better or avoiding putting certain items together in the same crate.
Last mile delivery is a cumbersome task as many factors are hard to predict and influence. Shippers can avoid delays, penalties, and customer dissatisfaction by incorporating algorithms into their logistics and distribution processes. To help you keep your algorithms in optimal condition, Widget Brains provides the services to automate the entire scheduling process from beginning to end. Using these services, companies are sure to meet and balance their KPIs.
As labor laws impact the lives of employees, franchisors should actively encourage franchisees to comply with these laws. We'd argue that the franchisor should provide the scheduling tools to enable them to do so in order to protect the brand reputation among many other reasons. Learn more about how to ensure compliance.
Knowledge is power, particularly for algorithms. Understanding the basics of how algorithms need to be trained and managed will allow you to avoid scalability issues that can seriously affect your company. It will ultimately give you the edge over your competition who might not have read this article.