Brexit is upon us. And it’s creating some complexity. The whole of Britain needs to navigate a new way of operating.
Until that happens, however, there are hurdles to overcome. Long lines of trucks at ports. Freight forwarders rejecting freight bound for the UK. The threat of double tariffs on everyday items, making them suddenly unaffordable. Stock-outs of imported goods and excesses of unexpectedly banned exports. Companies moving their distribution centers overseas.
The nation’s supply chains are strained to breaking point after Britain became subject to new trade arrangements with the European Union on January 1. Delivery route optimization software might not be your top priority for battling Brexit madness, but it should be. That’s because it’s designed to help you quickly and efficiently flex to volatile distribution situations. Here’s how.
Sudden changes in demand… and supply
Many businesses chose to stockpile goods ahead of the January 1 changeover. Which meant the demand for deliveries skyrocketed and then crashed shortly thereafter. But soon those stockpiles will run out, and demand will spike again.
Even then, with all the delays and new rules affecting imports, things likely aren’t going to return to normal. The food supply chain has been significantly affected by Brexit chaos. Demand was already unpredictable because of sea-changes in consumer habits caused by the pandemic. That includes a huge shift to online shopping and home delivery that has put extra strain on the transport system as demand for bricks-and-mortar infrastructure shrinks. Consumption of everyday items such as milk and eggs used to be utterly predictable. Not any longer.
Supply is also uncertain. Trucks carrying parts and supplies are now held up at border crossings that did not exist pre-Brexit. At the same time, excess inventory of goods that would normally be exported is building up inside the country.
British fisherman are seeing their exports rot at the borders or at seaports. Truckers traveling to the Netherlands had their ham sandwiches, packed for lunch, confiscated by the Dutch because pork products can’t be imported from non-European nations. Now, stores in Britain can’t get many of the products they once easily imported and sold. At the same time, they are trying to shift unexpected excesses of items like mussels, oysters and scallops that suddenly can’t leave the country.
Unpredictable changes in both supply and demand can mean reallocating vehicles and drivers with very short notice to ensure you can meet parameters such as maximum capacity restrictions and temperature control requirements. But that’s immaterial to retailers. They are struggling to cope with the wild ride, too, and they want agile supply chain partners that can help them, not add to the problems.
If you don’t have the tools to respond quickly and methodically, frustrated customers may see if your competitors can provide a better option. Route optimization software allows you to easily take the peaks and troughs in delivery demands in your stride. The software automatically figures out what vehicles and drivers are available on any given day and maximizes the use of those valuable assets. It allows you to smoothly handle unanticipated volume spikes as they happen every day.
An even tighter squeeze on driver availability
One of the consequences of Brexit is that EU citizens can no longer automatically live and work in Britain—a serious blow to the more than 60,000 truck drivers from Eastern European countries.
The number of foreign nationals willing to drive trucks in the UK was already declining, according to UK-based truck driver employment agency, Mayday. After the Brexit vote in 2016, the value of the pound dropped, making wages less valuable when converted to other currencies to be sent home. Furthermore, other non-Brexit-related factors have made cross-border truck driving unattractive. Now, the situation is even worse.
The BBC reports UK truck drivers face fresh hassles including the need to obtain a new Kent Access Permit each time they travel through Kent to the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel, the major routes to the EU. They are also required to show evidence of a negative COVID test to enter France. Many drivers are seeking other jobs.
As a result, it is more imperative than ever that you make the most of the drivers you have by maximizing the time they’re on the road. Route optimization software not only plans routes that are the most efficient way of getting from A to B. It also treats your drivers and vehicles as assets that need to be deployed as fully and constantly as possible.
It’s also essential to ensure retention by keeping drivers happy. Route optimization software achieves this in multiple ways—providing the best route possible to drivers, automatically ensuring they stay within hours-of-service restrictions and taking into account personal driver factors, such as specific start or finish times.
Distribution strategies need to be more agile
There have been multiple news stories about companies pulling out of the UK entirely, or shifting their UK-based distribution centers elsewhere to make it easier to get goods to EU countries. That is leaving potential gaps in distribution facilities for goods within the UK.
Choosing the right DC for fulfillment of deliveries to different customers has always been one of the challenges of delivery routing, and it gets more difficult when those facilities are moving or closing.
Agility is a key characteristic of successful distribution businesses, and this is truer now than ever before. A big part of becoming agile is the software used to plan delivery routes and schedule drivers and vehicles. When coping with constant change, profit-draining inefficiencies creep into your route plans largely unnoticed and can severely hinder your ability to compete in these uncertain times.
Advanced route optimization software can proactively model the impact of proposed changes on service levels and cost before they are enacted. These modeling tools help you arrive quickly at the best possible ways of responding to changes in your distribution network. They also give clear indicators of the consequences of different possible strategies, such as offering customers different delivery schedules, or changing your drivers’ shift patterns. You can ask any number of what-if questions and get hard data about the impacts on service and costs.
Roll with the punches
All in all, Brexit is just the latest in an ongoing parade of events that make delivery operations more and more complex and fast-changing. The companies that take advantage of advance route optimization software will find they have a powerful weapon in the battle to fight the war they wage every day with unpredictable shifts in demand on their delivery networks. Aptean Routing & Scheduling is the tool you need.
Ready to adapt your operations and thrive? Find out how, now.
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