The Best Laid Plans of Fleet Management

In his famous poem entitled “To a Mouse,” Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Actually, he wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley,” but unless you are well-versed in Scottish, that version simply lacks a certain compelling ring, doesn’t it? Whichever version resonates most with you, it’s clear that Burns does not place a high premium on data-based planning.

I find myself taking issue with Mr. Burns, not over his ability to turn out a lovely poem, but over his pessimism about the value of planning. Clearly, Burns was not a supply chain contributor, administrator, or participant. Had he been, John Steinbeck’s novella about two migrant workers seeking employment in California during the Great Depression would have a decidedly different title.

While a solid, data-based planning solution is particularly important in the realm of supply chain management, it is many times a regretful afterthought. Planning is a “good intention” that paves the way to…the worst alternate routes you’ve ever traveled. You know it’s valuable. You know it’s a good idea. But how many times have you arrived at the control center and more-or-less “winged it,” only to end the day thinking, “If only I had planned this better”? It’s no secret that fleet managers, dispatchers, and field workers can benefit greatly from starting the day, week, or month with a solid transportation and distribution plan, but have you considered the many various ways in which your fleet and your bottom line could be impacted with sound planning?

You use fewer vehicles

Not only does route optimization and planning allow you to utilize the vehicles currently in your fleet more effectively, but wise planning also enables you to maximize usage of your higher quality, more reliable, more fuel-efficient vehicles, which decreases the number of vehicles you have on the road, which saves you money at the pump and in the shop.

You optimize your distribution of resources

Closely related to fleet size reduction, data-based planning that is founded on accurate information allows you to evenly balance workloads in order to create equal delivery across sales territories. Additionally, it allows you to send the right vehicle to each stop. This could mean lower gas bills, fewer maintenance costs, and fewer tows.

You are ready for seasonal or event-related spikes

Is your delivery schedule impacted heavily by annual events such as Christmas or Mother’s Day? Or perhaps it is tied to weekly events such as Taco Tuesday or weekend adult beverage delivery? Whatever the case may be, fleets that run on cyclical delivery schedules can benefit immensely from data-based planning – one of those benefits being the avoidance of depleted inventory (and consequently, depleted profits). Avoid inventory scarcity by planning according to your observed sales and delivery cycle, even if that cycle looks more like a circular saw blade than a pretty round circle.

You increase delivery capacity

Have you been eyeing a potential client for some time, wishing you could add him or her to your list of clientele but fearing that you simply don’t have the capacity? With data-based planning, you know exactly where you stand with regard to delivery capacity, and in many cases, you are able to find ways to shoehorn in new business. Pine no longer. Integrate new customers quickly and with confidence using your efficient, new, data-based dispatch plan.

You take the thinking/guesswork out of it

Do you run around with your hair on fire all day long, wondering where your trucks are, wondering if they’re going to make it to your clients in time? By devising a plan and automating your delivery schedule, you effectively remove guesswork (and the resulting stress) from the equation altogether.

You save gas

With a strong, data-based plan, you find the shortest path from A to B, and you use the best resources to make the trip. This one’s a no-brainer. A logical, efficient planning solution saves you gas, which saves you money.

Manage delivery anomalies

As you know, until there’s a problem, your company’s consistent, on-time delivery will probably go unnoticed. You can deliver on time 100 times in a row without so much as an eyebrow raise or a word otherwise, but that 101st time, when an unexpected delivery delay arises, you can bet that delivery time will suddenly become very front-of-mind for your customers. Sure this can happen even with proper planning in place – but it will be much less frequent and more manageable when dispatch anomalies do arise.

You make your customers happy

At this point in your relationship with your customers, you’ve worked out a price point that works well for both of you; therefore, on-time delivery is now your primary “channel of happiness.” Stay out of the doghouse and deliver happiness. Even if it goes unnoticed, it’s far better than the alternative.

Better monitor your fleet

When you know where to expect to see your fleet, you can keep a closer eye on your vehicles. Conversely, dispatching deliveries without data-based planning sends them off your mental radar, and potentially off your dispatch radar.

Improve flexibility

Scheduled deliveries and flexibility may seem to be mutually exclusive, but implementing a solid, data-based plan actually increases flexibility. A good plan allows you to know where your trucks are and where they’re going, so if you have a truck heading down 56th and you could possibly score a “bonus” delivery on 59th, you have the knowledge, and consequently, the flexibility, to squeeze in the extra drop-off. Without a solid plan, it could be a gamble.

 

Commit now to a data-based planning solution

No doubt, you’re personally familiar with one, two, or all of these principles. So what’s the holdup? “Our firm is too small to warrant a data-based planning solution.” “I know this town like the back of my hand, and so do my drivers.” It’s time to do away with the excuses and save your company money. Devise and implement a data-based dispatch and delivery plan this week. Put it off no longer. And if you’re not sure where to start, TouchStar can help you, with solutions designed to fit your biggest planning challenges. Learn more about TS Easy Planning, and TS FleetWatch, and find a data-based planning solution that works best for your fleet.

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