Over the past decade, the logistics industry has worked hard to streamline processes and improve accuracy of package sorting and delivery. However, despite the use of automated label scanning within sortation centers, organizations are still reliant on human intervention – from checking postcodes before transfer to local service depots, to drivers responsible for determining the best route for parcel delivery.
While any level of human intervention will undoubtedly result in a degree of inconsistency in performance, for an industry that depends upon a high proportion of temporary agency workers the divergence in productivity and results can be significant.
However clearly defined the processes, humans are fallible – especially under pressure. Yet in a highly competitive market with huge price pressure, this inconsistency clearly creates an unacceptable degree of business fragility and fundamentally undermines essential attempts to improve the quality of the business offer.
By continuing to rely on manual decision-making at these key stages of the process, companies cannot avoid inconsistent performance. How can an agency worker, potentially new to the UK, confidently check postcodes and addresses? Whilst in theory the task is simple, when faced with a high volume of information to process every minute, errors will inevitably creep in.
Typically, mis-sort rates are notoriously difficult to quantify but can run at around 20 per 8,000 parcels – with higher levels for non-standard items such as perishables/delicates or large items such as bikes, which often have to be manually processed at every stage. The impact of such errors can be significant: mis-sorts that arrive at the wrong local delivery center have to be sent back to the central sorting depot and processed again – by which time an edible fruit arrangement will have spoilt and the critical delivery date (for wedding, birthday or Mother’s Day) has been missed.
This level of inconsistency not only affects productivity and profitability – especially at peak periods – but also undermines the quality of customer experience. The question surely has to be: are there ways of automating aspects of these processes to minimize inconsistencies and improve overall performance and productivity?
By introducing tools to automate critical processes such as route planning, organizations can overcome the risks associated with less skilled and transient staff and create a far more consistent and high performing business. It is only by achieving high levels of consistency throughout every stage of the process that organizations will attain the confidence required to introduce the added value services increasingly demanded by the market – from location tracking to guaranteed shorter delivery slots.