Why Benchmark Your Fleet? Let Me Count the Ways

By Ali Kamil, Wise Systems Co-Founder

My last post, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.” Service, efficiency and good data, explored the importance of having accurate and detailed baseline data about your fleet, including: miles/day, average service time per delivery, number of deliveries per day per driver, your team’s on-time percentage, and individual drivers’ performance.

Without comprehensive foundational data, planners base routes on a few data points and a tremendous amount of intuition and educated guesswork, missing opportunities to maximize customer service and the bottom line. Here are just of the few unintended consequences of this approach.

  • Delays cascade across drivers’ days -- Inaccurate assessments of service time, the total delivery time at a customer site, can create multiple issues across a route. Total delivery time might include time to park, unload and stock product, and get customer signatures. Assuming too short of a service time may make the driver late to subsequent stops in the route, while assuming too long of a delivery time underutilizes driver and truck capacity.

  • Customer friction -- Incorrect or broad time windows often compromise customer service. For example, despite the fact that the specified window may be 9:00 a.m. -- 2:00 p.m., arriving at a restaurant for delivery at 12:30pm isn’t ideal. Staff are much more focused on serving their lunch customers than receiving a delivery, leading to longer service times and unhappy delivery recipients. Also, delivery trucks take away precious parking spots from lunch customers, potentially reducing business for the delivery recipient.

  • Productivity decreases for dispatchers and drivers -- When the schedule is compromised, there are typically multiple calls between drivers and dispatchers, as well as dispatchers and customers, to coordinate last minute adjustments. These calls are frustrating, stressful, and highly inefficient as dispatchers are forced to make real-time decisions without real-time data to back up their intuition. This stressful daily pattern saps productivity of drivers and dispatchers and leads to frustrated customers, drivers, and dispatchers. It is not surprising that the attrition rate for dispatchers and drivers is so high across the industry.

In contrast, with comprehensive data in-hand, planners and teams can create plans based on a precise understanding of actual time windows for each customer and optimal number of stops for each driver, improving on-time deliveries and customer satisfaction.

Below are a few examples of how comprehensive data can improve your operations:

  • Improved fleet utilization

  • Reducing truck and labor costs

  • Making inexperienced drivers more productive by providing them active metrics and guidance based on prior driver-experiences

  • Aligning drivers’ skills to routes

  • Understanding which customers consistently take more time than estimated and why?

  • Minimizing last-minute complications and day-of issues that compromise dispatcher and driver productivity, and causing stress

  • Continuously monitoring and adjusting using real-time metrics to improve fleet performance

With accurate baseline data, fleet managers can set performance goals, document them, and properly reward progress towards them. Having baselines is particularly important when evaluating solutions or strategic changes that promise to improve those metrics. After all, how can you evaluate improvement(s) if you don’t know your starting point?