The Importance of Being Nimble in Your Transportation Network

Dedicated Transportation, Supply Chain
June 7, 2013

How to Adapt to Changes in Demand, Staffing and Service Requirements without Missing a Beat.

Dedicated FleetIf you’re an animal on the plains of Africa or Mongolia, speed and agility aren’t just “nice-to-have’s.” A lead of just a few yards can mean the difference between another day grazing on the savanna and becoming someone else’s breakfast.

Countless corollaries to this scenario play out in the business world every day. Organizations that are alert to their surroundings and can react to unexpected challenges and manage change are the ones that thrive. Nimble businesses are Lean, flexible, and can ramp up or down quickly. They know that change is always right around the corner and can respond in real time, any time.

Consider the daily realities of managing a transportation and distribution network. It’s no secret that the current driver shortage, estimated at upwards of 25,000 drivers, is approaching crisis proportions. Good drivers are hard to find and harder to keep. That shortage, at a five-year high for small truckload fleets and expected to swell to 239,000 by 2022, can impact your ability to serve customers.

But that’s not the only threat lurking in the business jungle. Imagine that your top three drivers suddenly leave you for a competitor. Meanwhile, a recent marketing campaign is generating overwhelming response, driving runaway demand for your products. Volume is skyrocketing and you don’t have the fleet capacity or drivers to handle it. Compounding the problem, your company’s been acquired. There’s a change in management, your customer base has doubled and you now have to support several new locations and routes – during peak season.

Is your company nimble enough to keep pace with fluctuations in demand, staffing and service requirements? What if you lose key personnel? Are record-keeping or compliance requirements becoming too much to handle?

Here are 10 ways to make sure you’re nimble enough to thrive in the wilds of today’s fast-changing business environment:

  1. Track historical peaks and valleys in demand so that you can anticipate when volumes will rise and fall and ramp up or down to keep pace.
  2. Institute driver training programs that teach your drivers how to load, pack, deliver and unload complex, fragile or other non-conventional goods and materials and help you reduce product damage claims
  3. Establish incentive and reward programs to attract and retain good drivers
  4. Secure the specialized vehicles, equipment and product handling skills you need to handle special customer requirements.
  5. Optimize capacity so that you can handle fluctuations in demand. This may mean a combination of asset-based and third-party transportation.
  6. Engage the necessary resources to help with route design/optimization, transportation planning, risk management, and compliance.
  7. Explore new technologies that help you improve uptime and visibility.
  8. Forge alliances with preferred carriers so that you can get the capacity you need to accommodate demand spikes or seasonal/cyclical peaks.
  9. Consider shifting fleet responsibility from a private fleet or common carriers to a trusted partner with dedicated resources and a proven record.
  10. Explore offloading driver shortage worries like recruiting, training and retention to a dedicated fleet, especially as the pool of drivers shrinks.

These are just a few ways you can make your organization swifter and more nimble. What other practices have you found that help you flex to meet changing demand, staffing and service requirements without disrupting quality or customer service?

Written by Steve W. Martin, Vice President of Ryder Dedicated™ East Steve W. Martin is Vice President of Ryder Dedicated™ for the Eastern portion of the United States. As part of Ryder’s Supply Chain leadership team, Mr. Martin oversees the development of new engineering capabilities to meet the growing demand for strategic modeling and analysis. He has led the inclusion of Lean Six Sigma and process standards across Ryder and has established a talent management strategy to ensure continued education and development of Ryder’s knowledge based workers. In addition to his leadership duties, Mr. Martin is a core member of Ryder’s Corporate Compliance Steering Committee and Ryder’s Red Cross Partnership team. 

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