Gone are the days of a huge lorry turning up outside your home with a single purchase. These days one of the extra 1.2 million vans that have been added to the roads of Britain in the past 10 years is likely to do the job instead. Lighter, more flexible and mixing cargo from several suppliers the vans are much cheaper and more efficient.For low cost and robust items the cheapest method of moving parcels and single pallets is the hub a spoke method. That basically works by collecting cargo in the afternoon in a fleet of small local vehicles and consolidating them on to fully laden articulated vehicles to a central hub. There are literally hundreds of them within 40 miles of Northampton. Every night there is an army of fork lift trucks loading, unloading and sorting the consignments to send the articulated vehicles home with a new load before dawn. The same fleet of small local vehicles then make deliveries through the morning before beginning to collect another load that repeats the process. It is a method very similar to that developed and used by the Post Office for letters for decades.
Track and trace issues, delays, damages, even complete losses are common in the cheap and cheerful system. If you sell cherished goods like antique furniture, fragile goods like flat screen TV’s, awkward stuff like baths, easily damaged chip-board, or things that would spoil if marked like beds or sofas then overnight is almost certainly not the best method.Logistics, a term first coined by the US military, is all about moving stuff to be in the right place at the right time. The big retailers, with their focus on customer service and operating efficiency have driven up standards. Because logistics is both low margin and capital intensive, the retailers don’t do it themselves. They keep storage and distribution off balance sheet by outsourcing the activity to specialist logistics service providers. Preferring to use information systems and buying power to manage the supply chain.The big logistics services businesses had focused on bulk movements and heavy equipment until the 2008 credit crunch hit revenues and margins leaving the complex home delivery problem all but ignored. With reduced traffic, lost turnover and relentless pressure on margins they are beginning to at least participate in the home delivery and parcels sectors. Despite the new attention, numerically the sole traders and small operators dominate. Poor systems, older vehicles, ill-trained staff all characterise the industry.The big retailers have grappled with home delivery and many have made the service store centric and, starved of outsourced expertise, are more likely to operate this customer facing part of logistics themselves. There is an emerging new breed of ‘White Glove’ distribution operators. They have invested in information technology to manage the packages, plan the transport routes and give visibility to their clients (mostly retailers) and the end customer of progress. The vehicles tend to be new and reliable and the drivers are trained to handle the goods being carried.
The White Glove distribution operators will normally move the goods in one movement avoiding the several opportunities for carelessness, loss and damage that the hub system is prone to. Options, depending on shape and weight, are given for one or two man services that include delivery to room of choice (which might be up an awkward stair case), unpacking, and removal of packaging, assembly and installation services. The big difference is professionalism, care and attention to detail. After all, if the person collecting and delivering has to spend some little while with the end customer they really are likely to take more care than someone who just slings it off a lorry in a yard.To find good suppliers search for, White Glove delivery, home delivery, two man home deliveries and check out their systems for online visibility, stock control and route planning. Check also for driver training with handling, use of fresh gloves and fresh overshoes to protect your customer’s carpets