Coping with peak volumes

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Scott Laird, vice president of operations at DHL Parcel, reflects on the 2018 peak delivery period and looks at what the year ahead holds

How did DHL Parcel perform during peak 2018?
We saw record volumes traveling through our network during the 2018 peak period, with consignment volumes significantly up year-on-year during November and December. For the first time ever, our busiest period was the Black Friday to Cyber Monday weekend, overtaking the week before Christmas which normally sees our busiest isolated days. During this period we saw volumes up by more than 15% on certain days.

What investments were made in 2018 to ensure that you could handle peak volumes?
Over the course of the year we planned and onboarded almost 1,000 additional final-mile drivers specifically for peak, as well as reconfigured operations to run an innovative second round of late afternoon and evening deliveries with the view to increasing the number of successful deliveries made on the first attempt. We also made significant investments in our transportation network to increase capacity on an ongoing basis as well as investment in technology such as driver scanners to give live updates to customers.

What were the key challenges faced during peak?
The number one challenge is obviously ensuring customer satisfaction during such a busy period. From an operational perspective, the challenge is increasing capacity and capability without proportionately increasing network footprint or assets. This is where our unique network mix of automation and cross dock sort really plays to our advantage, giving us the flexibility to use our larger depots as regional hubs through busy periods. Additionally, our second wave hub sort and supplementary fleet really helped extend the operating window available to us and improved our overall peak first time performance which is key to making sure the end consumer is happy.

How many extra staff did you have to employ?
We contracted with almost 1,000 additional final-mile drivers. Additionally we increased our LGV fleet by around 70 drivers and increased our sorting resources in our hubs and across the network by approximately 250 staff.

How did you ensure delivery demands for fast delivery were met?
The key was maximizing productivity and stretching our delivery window through the use of our second wave sort. This meant that we were able to get more parcels into the hands of customers first time which ensured they still had a positive experience throughout the busy online shopping period.

How did customers prefer to receive their parcels?
While we offer a full range of options including access to Service Points through our convenience store network, we find that the vast majority of our customers still want delivery to home. Our one hour ETA window for delivery often makes home delivery the most convenient option.

What will you be looking to improve in 2019?
E-commerce continues to grow and retailers’ overall success is becoming more and more dependent on these peak periods; 2018 was a great peak for us and we want to build on that. The success of our secondary hub sort and later phase final-mile delivery operation is something that we think have the potential to be used in future.

How do you see the parcel delivery market changing over the next five years?
We’re likely to see more innovation in convenience as consumers come to expect more varied options for delivery. Applications such as in-home delivery and automatic replenishment will be a key area to watch. Furthermore, robotics and AI are becoming more mature in logistics, they’re already being deployed in some contexts and we can expect roll-out to be much wider in future.

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About Author

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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