Delivery windows tell customers when to expect their orders. Setting an accurate delivery time window is an excellent way to build trust with...
How to Plan Better Delivery Schedules
If you want to cut the time it takes to plan delivery schedules, reduce wait times, and ensure on-time delivery, this post will help.
How much time do you spend per delivery?
Do you fulfil each order on time?
And how do you keep your operations on track?
Before you answer these questions, you might want to consult your delivery schedule.
Does it have all the answers?
Then this post is for you.
In it, you’ll see how to make better delivery schedules for every driver on every route.
And that can help you provide a better service to your customers every single day.
So if you want to cut the time it takes to plan schedules, reduce wait times, and make sure all of your deliveries are on time, these solutions can get you there.
Let’s get started.
What is delivery scheduling?
Scheduling is the act of planning deliveries for multiple locations, routes, and drivers so that you can achieve key tasks and fulfil every order in the time you have available.
On the one hand, it requires a logical approach to time management with a clear understanding of all the different factors that impact a delivery operation, such as:
- Other deliveries (mapping multiple delivery stops);
- Specified date and time (deadline to fulfill the order);
- Destination (distance to the drop-off location);
- Depot locations (distance to and from inventory sites);
- Geography (the landscape of the delivery area);
- Vehicle capabilities (capacity, speed, and fuel consumption);
- Driver availability (shifts, rest stops, and work breaks);
- Traffic congestion and speed limits;
- And many others.
On the other hand, it requires creativity to set priorities and make complex schedules that meet all these conditions without it affecting key objectives.
The importance of good delivery schedules
Technically, scheduling deliveries is as much of an art form, as it is a science.
When it’s done effectively, a good schedule can help you:
- Understand what your organization can realistically achieve within a specific time frame;
- Make sure there is enough time for a delivery planner to plan, execute, and evaluate all tasks vital to completing each delivery;
- Add contingency time in case something unexpected happens during the delivery lifecycle;
- Avoid taking on more orders than your operations can handle (when demand exceeds your capacity);
- Make sure there is enough time to attend to each customer and maintain quality of service (even when you’ve scheduled delivery by end of the day);
- Provide drivers and delivery agents with all the benefits according to their work agreements;
- Implement delivery tactics to grow your operations and achieve long-term objectives for the organization.
What many companies fail to understand is that time is a limited resource.
It’s the only one you can neither buy nor sell.
But it’s the one you waste or use ineffectively the most.
That’s why delivery schedules are so important.
They help you keep your operations on track as you achieve both short and long-term goals.
Here’s how you can improve them:
Identify the time available for completing each task
Even though most companies operate within fixed time windows, the time available to complete a delivery is never the same.
It can vary drastically from industry to industry.
And both are quite different from managing field service operations.
But it also varies a lot through different times of the week, month, or year.
For example, demand can spike around Christmas and dwindle during the summer holiday season.
A good schedule also depends on the rota, or how much staff you have on hand.
So, you will also have to factor in work breaks, shifts, time off, and absence when determining how much time is available to you.
But a good rota is more than just having access to enough people.
It’s also about having the right level of staff to fill key roles necessary for meeting the essential needs of your delivery service.
And for that, you have to strike the right balance to make sure the quality of your service doesn’t drop during peak delivery time while ensuring payroll doesn’t affect the budget during slower spells.
Additionally, you will have to factor in how much it takes to complete a delivery.
Of course, this number can vary.
But if you calculate the average time per delivery you can have a rough estimate of how many deliveries your drivers can complete per route.
Once you have all of this information, and you know how much time you have available per day, you can start scheduling deliveries.
Schedule tasks based on the priority of each order
No order is the same.
That’s because no customer is the same.
And if you want to create the best delivery schedule, you need to set the priority for every order.
Think of it like a doctor using triage to determine which patient to treat first.
The seriousness of the injury or illness tells the doctor which patients have high priority needs, and which patients can wait for treatment.
And this helps him to use his time efficiently so he can treat all of his patients.
The same logic applies when managing delivery schedules.
If you set the priority from highest to lowest for each order, you can plan better schedules because you know which deliveries come first.
To prioritize orders, take a look at your service offer.
You probably have a few different options besides the standard delivery. In most cases, the type of delivery will tell you which one to schedule first.
For example, this is one way to do it:
1. Same-day delivery (because it is the fastest)
2. International delivery (because it takes the longest to complete)
3. Standard delivery
4. 7-day free delivery (because you schedule them once per week)
On the other hand, if a specific customer has made an order or you have to deliver a more valuable product, then you can also use these factors to prioritize these deliveries in your schedule.
Improve communication with your customers
When it comes to scheduling deliveries, there is no such thing as too much communication.
On the one hand, talking to customers helps them to know what’s going on with their orders.
It makes them feel more involved in the delivery process, which helps you keep things on track.
So, it’s not enough to send a confirmation email after checkout.
Customer service has to follow up at least a few more times.
Sending order and delivery notifications keep customers in the loop about the date and expected time of arrival (ETA) of their orders.
This allows you to clarify the drop-off information before finalizing the schedule.
A solid scheduling plan also enables you to plan more accurately, especially when creating complex schedules across multiple locations.
But you need to take it a step further.
For example, send a tracking link to customers and let them know when the delivery is on its way via text message.
Technically, the more recent the information, the more accurate it is.
Customers are less likely to miss the drop-off if they have access to precise ETAs.
In return, you raise the rate of fulfillment.
Customers can plan their day around the arrival of their orders.
And that means shorter delivery windows, less wait time, and fewer returns.
All of which has a positive effect on the timeliness of your delivery teams, and helps them to stick to the schedule across the entire delivery route.
Analyze performance and results
Time is the resource companies waste the most.
But like other valuable assets, it’s critical to measure and evaluate how you spend it to know how to use it more efficiently.
That’s where scheduling helps.
Technically, a delivery schedule is a roadmap to how your operation uses time.
At the same time, this determines the effectiveness of your delivery schedules.
For example, if a driver completes all assignments according to his schedule with time on the clock, there is room to increase his workload and maximize the use of his time.
On the other hand, if a driver is regularly missing his delivery windows, then there is a problem that’s causing him to waste time.
Or the schedule doesn’t allocate enough contingency time.
Either way, getting the schedule right is absolutely critical.
That’s why evaluating the schedule step by step is the only way to overcome some of the biggest delivery challenges.
But there is a catch.
Because you have to create schedules on a day to day basis, it is easy to evaluate them but difficult to optimize.
For that, you will have to measure key metrics in delivery logistics, like time per delivery, on-time delivery, or transit time to distance.
But to calculate KPIs accurately, you need to have complete visibility over the entire operation to track and monitor performance and record results.
And without integrating a software solution, this is almost unimaginable.
Use software to plan better delivery schedules
There’s plenty to think about when managing a delivery.
The delivery schedule is only one cog in a much larger engine.
But it does have to run effectively. Otherwise, your entire delivery can give out.
That’s why more and more companies across different industries use tools like delivery management software to handle their scheduling.
Businesses that invest in this kind of delivery schedule software experience a boost in productivity.
It also helps to save time, money, and other resources that go straight into strengthening the bottom line.
Technically, these tools make it easier to manage operations by allowing you to:
- Keep records of all deliveries and customers in one place
- Instant and full access to data relevant for delivery planning
- Automatically assign tasks to the nearest driver or delivery agent
- Reduce the learning curve and training time thanks to an intuitive interface
- Organize, coordinate and communicate with drivers and field agents remotely
- Track and monitor drivers and agents in the field in real-time
- Provide delivery tracking links to customers
- Collect feedback and service ratings from customers
- Collect reports and electronic proof of delivery from drivers
- Send SMS and email notifications to customers about the delivery status and ETAs
- Analyze performance data to optimize operations and make data-driven decisions
At the same time, CEOs and operations managers use these tools to empower employees.
With more efficient use of their time, teams feel less stress to complete even high-pressure tasks.
In fact, effectively managing their time and workload makes them more engaged on the job.
And when your staff is more engaged, it’s easier for them to meet the requirements of their roles, and even outperform them.
As a result, happier teams can increase the quality of the service that they provide to your customers.
In return, high service quality is one of the best ways to boost customer experience and satisfaction.
And better delivery will motivate more people to order more products or more services from your company, which has another positive impact on your margins.
A good schedule is all about getting the right people to do the right task at the right place and at the right time.
Doing this effectively enables your business to be more productive and deliver better service to your customers. So, remember:
1. Calculate the time you have available to perform each delivery;
2. Schedule deliveries based on order priority;
3. Communicate more with your customers and workforce;
4. Analyze results to optimize performance and reduce waste;
5. And use software to effectively plan more efficient schedules.
Now, it’s your turn to tell us what you think.
How can better schedules improve your delivery?
Have you considered using software to automate operations?
If you have, but you’re just not sure what kind of tools your business needs, that’s okay.
We can help.
We have everything you need to start improving your delivery.