logistics planning, logistics, planning
Logistics planning empowers your fleet from the corner office to the corner store

On November 14, 1957, while addressing the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference in Washington D.C., former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” The wisdom of this maxim rings true today, both broadly and in the very specific context of fleet logistics. Just look at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s left businesses throwing out all plans for the foreseeable future and relying on good planning instead. But for those who haven’t followed the timeless truth of Eisenhower’s proverb, they’re learning the hard way that these six common planning missteps present challenges for both dispatchers and fleet managers.

Failure to create goals

Failing to create realistic goals, whether they be daily or annual goals, will send shockwaves throughout an organization’s supply chain. Members down the line will have to focus, not on dispatch, delivery, or customer service, but on compensating for ad hoc activity that takes place early in the chain and has little lasting effect. From simple ticket allocation to fleetwide mileage optimization and load balancing, short-term and long-term goals add necessary meaning to logistics planning activities.

Failure to make data-driven decisions using key metrics

For years, the mantra in logistics planning was to evolve “one-number forecasting.” This method of planning seemed to be the epitome of simplicity, and while there is a certain elegance in simplicity, reducing a complicated dispatch and planning outfit to a single performance index can be limiting. Key metrics infused with drive time, driver location, distance, and transaction data provide the concrete details that inform your planning decisions without being overwhelming. Follow through with review and transparency. If questions arise, your processes and rationale are out in the open for everyone to see. Relevant data fortifies your planning with confidence and accuracy that you can take to the corner office and the corner store. Without objective, actionable data and the right metrics, you’re at a disadvantage.

Failure to involve employees with varying roles

While fleet managers and dispatchers often focus on numbers and models to develop the most accurate forecasts, drivers can testify to the accuracy of the forecasts first-hand. They are the people weaving through traffic, circumventing construction, and navigating through a network of one-way streets. Their role in planning occurs on the front lines. Executives can also bring a unique, strategic perspective to your planning activities, and they are ultimately the ones who will report the results of previous planning to all stakeholders. Get their heads off the chopping block by combining data with varied employee perspectives to inform your planning. This doesn’t require a full-staff pow-wow every morning before the first key is turned, but it may involve regularly-occurring planning meetings that include a broad cross-section of company employees.

Failure to plan for contingencies

It almost seems a contradiction to plan for the unplannable, but allotting an appropriate buffer in your forecasting for unexpected driving conditions, labor shortages, vehicle issues, inventory anomalies, etc., may prevent future headaches. The most detrimental result of padding the plan? No unplanned situations arise, and you deliver ahead of schedule, thereby delighting your customers. I’ve said it before, you may deliver on-schedule 99 times and it will go unnoticed. But show up late one time out of 100, and you’re going to hear about it, even if the cause of the delay was out of your control. Plan for contingencies and stay out of the doghouse.

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Failure to automate

Remember the old commercial that ingrained the line, “set it and forget it” in our collective memories? This kitchen axiom can extend to some unexpected places, including your fuel delivery fleet. By automating tracking and monitoring processes during your planning and forecasting initiatives, you essentially set it and forget it. Sheer convenience aside, automating processes during planning also ensures unbiased, objective results and minimizes vexing questions about route efficiency. Employing inventory management software during the planning process further mitigates uncertainty and provides the flexibility you need to implement the most optimized plan for your distribution bottom line.

Failure to incorporate the most appropriate technology

Automation is fun – but not when it doesn’t fit your fleet. Considerations such as fleet size, inventory type, human resources available, scalability, and flexibility all come into play in selecting the best technology for your fleet. Choose the wrong tech, and you will potentially complicate the planning process even more. Are you crossing state (or country) lines? Are you carrying hazardous equipment? Rural or urban? Highway or back roads? Wholesale or retail? Each of these considerations plays into the proper selection of automation, inventory management and planning software. Even if you have painstakingly narrowed down your software selection to the exact solution your fleet needs, implementation can sometimes throw a curve-ball. Whichever technology solutions you select for your fleet, ensure that the solution is comprehensive, including installation (if necessary) and service after the sale.

Taking your planning to the next level with goal-oriented, data-driven automation technology that has received explicit buy-in from all levels of your organization can help you avoid these critical planning pitfalls.

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