June 24, 2013
Column | outbound

Humans alone can only do so much, but ...

Yes, you're going to have to do more, and you're going to have to do it faster. But you'll have help.

By Mitch Mac Donald

We have become a species of consumers entirely devoid of patience. If there's something we need, we want it now! With technology as the catalyst, our consumer expectations sit on a foundation of immediacy: We find things faster, buy things faster, and as a natural extension, want them in our hands faster.

The latest manifestation of our quest for instant gratification is the growing demand for same-day delivery. Imagine, if you will, a world in which what you find and buy online in the morning appears on your doorstep that afternoon. Far-fetched? Maybe yesterday, but not today, and certainly not tomorrow.

Right now, this type of service is available only in a few select markets. But indications are, the genie is already out of the bottle. There is a growing consensus that almost everyone will soon expect—and companies will soon need to provide—same-day delivery as a standard offering. (It's no coincidence that issues related to same-day delivery have been among the hottest topics at industry conferences and trade shows this year.)

In fact, there's evidence it's already happening. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents to a recent survey say their customers now demand same-day delivery service. And the trend clearly has them worried. Ninety-two percent of respondents to the same survey claim that meeting these expectations is creating significant challenges for their businesses. (The survey, underwritten by data capture technology specialist Intermec, was conducted in April over a group of 375 transportation and logistics executives at organizations with more than 500 employees in six countries—the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.)

So where are these companies looking for answers? If you answered "information technology," you'd be right. In this case, it's technology aimed at automating key processes in the pickup and delivery areas, as well as technology for drivers, such as GPS and mobile/broadband communications.

"Customer expectations in the industry are growing higher each day, putting increasing pressure on mobile workers to meet tighter deadlines," said Jeff Sibio, Intermec's industry marketing director for transport and logistics, in a statement.

As for what kind of savings we're talking about, survey respondents believe that arming their mobile workforce with new technology could slash pickup and delivery times by nearly a third, savings that could be crucial in boosting operational efficiency and meeting customer demands. "Companies anticipate that by adopting these technologies, the time taken for each pickup and delivery can be cut by 2.68 and 2.41 minutes, respectively," Intermec said in the statement, adding that this equates to a 30-percent savings on each pickup and a 29-percent savings on each delivery.

So what do we take away from all this? In a world where everyone seems to be asking whether they can do any more than they're already doing (or do it any faster), the answer is obvious. You can do more, and you can do it faster. You have no choice. It's what the world is demanding, your customers included.

Yes, humans alone can only do so much. But as we've argued in this space before, emerging technologies can completely alter the equation. Or to put it another way, with the proper use of enabling technologies, there are almost no limits to what your people can accomplish.

About the Author

Mitch Mac Donald
Group Editorial Director
Mitch Mac Donald has more than 30 years of experience in both the newspaper and magazine businesses. He has covered the logistics and supply chain fields since 1988. Twice named one of the Top 10 Business Journalists in the U.S., he has served in a multitude of editorial and publishing roles. The leading force behind the launch of Supply Chain Management Review, he was that brand's founding publisher and editorial director from 1997 to 2000. Additionally, he has served as news editor, chief editor, publisher and editorial director of Logistics Management, as well as publisher of Modern Materials Handling. Mitch is also the president and CEO of Agile Business Media, LLC, the parent company of DC VELOCITY and CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly.

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