Logistics may not be the most glamorous part of running a business but it is hugely important: so how can you make sure you pick a partner that makes everything run smoothly?
For many companies, logistics is key. Whether a business is looking to forge success in retail, e-commerce, manufacturing or technology, the ability to turn around orders on time is essential.
Business owners rely on their logistics partners to ensure that goods are dispatched and component parts supplied to relevant sites for packaging and assembly.
SMEs must be sure to work with a company that is able to meet their needs. Specifically, logistics companies should be equipped to grow with their clients.
While a company’s delivery needs may only be local to begin with, successful firms may look to expand nationwide or overseas, as well as significantly increase delivery volumes. In order to find the right logistics partner, businesses need to find a logistics partner that can grow with the business.
Forecasting delivery volumes and anticipating external variables such as the weather and road conditions can often be a challenge. It is vital that a firm’s selected logistics provider is able to adapt to these circumstances, both to maintain service levels and allow the business to fully exploit the sales opportunities available during peak periods.
First of all, suppliers should be asked to provide an account of how they will meet extra demand during peak periods as well as services at regular times. Top tier logistics providers will have access to road traffic information through which they are able to communicate with and divert drivers via a control centre to avoid potential problems. Systems such as these are vital if next day delivery agreements are to be upheld.
A personal service
Small businesses need assurance that their goods are in safe hands. Personal relationships with delivery drivers and account managers are the key to a successful partnership.
The operatives that deliver a firm’s product to the end user or client may naturally be perceived as an extension of the company itself. Therefore, it is vital that service standards remain high, as SMEs must demonstrate superior customer care in order to gain market share from competitors.
HGV drivers often transport extremely valuable cargo, so potential logistics providers must be prepared to implement the required safety measures to keep their staff and the firm’s assets protected from theft or harm.
Diligent logistics firms will brief drivers on the correct security protocols and discourage full trailers stopping in isolated areas. For firms looking to arrange the transportation of particularly high worth goods, GPRS tracking systems can be installed on shipments to provide added confidence.
Businesses that are committed to reducing their carbon footprint should also evaluate the environmental impact of suppliers. Firms should partner with a logistics company that provides training to staff in emission reduction through speed and acceleration management as well as efficient gear-shift techniques.
The business should also work with suppliers to devise novel packaging solutions to increase the load capacity of each vehicle.
Ideally, businesses should also look for a provider that is Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) accredited. This will provide peace of mind that the company’s fleet meets standards based on lawfulness, safety, efficiency and environmental protection.
SMEs are often resource-light and it is, therefore, essential that firms can trust their logistics provider to deliver products to customers efficiently and on time. By removing some of the administrative burden involved in the delivery process, a valued supplier should allow companies greater resource to devote to other key business tasks.
This capability is instrumental in facilitating the ability for SMEs to grow and win new contracts. Essentially, the work that a logistics provider carries out should take place in the background, with the needs of SME customers being met and to agreed standards.
Selecting the correct logistics partner is an important decision for businesses. In order to agree upon a favourable contract and engage with the most suitable supplier, firms must be prepared to closely analyse their business needs and evaluate the ability of potential partners to fulfil these requirements. Only when these aspects have been addressed can a judgement be made.
Daniel Vines is Sales Director at logistics specialist TNT
Further reading: Everyday ways to minimise your environmental impact