Editor’s Note: Today’s article is from Derek Jones, VP of Enterprise Strategy at Deputy. Jones discusses 4 last-minute issues that can arise during the delivery process and how to handle them.

Ecommerce behemoth Amazon’s ever shorter delivery times have created lofty expectations among customers of supply chain and logistics businesses. Deliveries that span days are now viewed with some degree of derision and disbelief. There’s pressure to deliver quicker without any significant change in delivery prices. Delays aren’t tolerated. That’s why supply chain and logistics enterprises must have a plan to mitigate against any last-minute issues that could constrain their ability to get a delivery to its destination. There’s perhaps been no better time to plan for such disruptions than now.

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The COVID-19 pandemic may be a health issue but it has had a profound impact on global supply chains. When the novel coronavirus was at its peak, factories were closed all over the world. This unexpected shutdown affected manufacturing and shipments across the globe. When last-minute issues such as these come up, certain things will be outside your control. However, there are actions you can take that can help mitigate the negative impact. Here’s a look at last minute issues and how you can sort them out in-house.

1.   Disruption to Transportation

Natural disasters can occur with no warning. Earthquakes can damage roads, floods render driving impossible or volcanic eruptions ground flights. Such disruption to the means of transportation you depend on for your delivery would make it harder to get your package to the customer in time. Waiting out the disruption until the transportation is restored would be one way. A better solution would be to have an alternative means you would deploy if the primary one is rendered temporarily unusable.

If your shipments are conveyed by air, would it be feasible to get them to their destination via road or rail? For relatively near destinations, it may be possible to do this and still get the package to its destination in time. For further off locations and if you are devoid of options, you could advise the customer that their shipment will be delayed due to circumstances beyond your control. If you already have intermodal transportation built into your delivery, you’ll have a considerable advantage in switching from one means of transportation to another.

2.   Missing Carrier Cutoff

If you are using a shipping carrier, something could happen that makes it impossible for your shipment to make the cutoff for next-day delivery, 2-day delivery or other delivery target. When that happens, your options would depend on the value of the order and your judgment of the urgency.

For example, if you have a delivery where your profit margin is in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, booking a private jet could be well worth the extra expense. You could even do the delivery via a commercial plane, a cheaper option than a private jet.

A more long-term solution to mitigating carrier cutoff is to establish your facility or take up warehouse space close to the carrier’s collection and distribution hub. With that, you’d require less time to get your items to the carrier which gives you more time to play with.

3.   Systems Failure

Various technologies have made the logistics landscape much more transparent and quicker than it’s ever been. Employees and customers can log in to dispatch and track orders. Supply chain businesses and delivery services can stay on top of their capacity and customer locations. But technology can and does fail. And such failure could happen when the system is most needed. Information technology brings convenience and scale but a system failure shouldn’t bring your business to a complete halt.

At the minimum, you must have redundancy in place that allows you to launch a backup system. That way, you can continue your work with minimal interruption to the customer experience. Second, you must have a manual workaround that would allow the delivery process to proceed somewhat while your systems are down.

4.   Sudden Unavailability of Critical Staff

Modern-day delivery may rely heavily on technology but it’s the staff along the entire delivery chain that actually make things happen. If a sizable number of your most critical employees are suddenly unavailable, that could make it harder for you to fulfill deliveries in time. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, think about employees who may have been forced to self-isolate following suspected exposure to the virus.

You need a robust mechanism for ensuring any staffing gaps are filled quickly and by competent persons. Pairing each member of staff with the right backup person is something you should do beforehand.  Leverage the power of staff scheduling software to, for example, fill in shifts based on drivers’ availability, skills, experience or location. Quickly match employees to emerging gaps for a smooth transition when any critical staff is suddenly absent.

Wrapping Up the Issues in the Delivery Process

Your ability to respond to last-minute issues in your delivery process can only be as good as your planning for it in advance. The better prepared you are for any eventuality, the less you’ll need to take expensive extreme measures.

Overall, always leave time and financial room to accommodate any last-minute events that could inhibit delivery. With these healthy margins of error, you retain some flexibility to ensure the shipment gets to the recipient on time.

Derek Jones  (VP Enterprise Strategy, Americas)

Derek spearheads key initiatives at Deputy, a global workforce management platform for employee scheduling, timesheets and communication.  With a focus on Logistics, Derek helps business owners and workforce leaders simplify employment law compliance, keep labor cost in line and build award-winning workplaces. Derek has over 16 years’ experience in delivering data-driven sales and marketing strategies to SaaS companies like MarketSource and Griswold Home Care.

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