Retailers, 3PLs, and manufacturers looking to meet customer delivery expectations while maintaining healthy order margins and controlling fulfillment costs are at the mercy of global supply chain disruptions and economic fluctuations that reverberate right down to the warehouse floor, shipping dock, and ultimately, the bottom line.

Many of the shippers who met the demand of the global pandemic ecommerce surge with ad hoc solutions that increased costs are now weathering a downturn in demand that makes them uncertain about investing too deeply. Cautionary tales abound of companies during a downturn struggling to keep up with increased operational costs taken on during the rise in demand during COVID. On one hand, they are balancing customer expectations with controlling costs, while on the other, they are facing labor shortages, wage increases, and knowledge loss from the “great resignation”.

To survive and thrive in this occasionally wildly fluctuating market, shippers need to institutionalize tribal knowledge and best practices into system knowledge with expanded carrier and/or mode choices to instantly make transportation cost and speed optimized mode that keep shipping costs down and customer happiness up. They also need to handle parcel volume increases through automation, business rules, and guided processes that increase efficiency and throughput without the need to add resources, space, or incurring extra shipping costs or risks. Finally, fulfillment needs to scale and mature through lower-investment, continuous improvement that delivers incremental ROI, without getting caught overextended during market changes.

Three real-world scenarios where shippers rapidly responded to market conditions

Manufacturer: A maker of power systems, storage, and tools addressed their changing retail footprint by placing inventory in high-demand locations as well as converting warehouses from B2B truck load shipments to B2C multi-modal and multi-carrier shipping. Ultimately, going from 100s of truck load shipments per month to distribution and resellers to 1000s of LTL and parcel shipments per month to downstream storefronts and end consumers.

3PL: A provider of transportation, warehousing, fulfillment, and logistics was able to responsibly add and scale ecommerce order fulfillment and cross-border consolidation to meet customer pandemic demand.

Retailer: A catalog and online seller of an eclectic mix of products can efficiently handle steady year-round order fulfillment while also easily scaling up during multi-fold sales peaks through holiday seasons.

Scalable and flexible final-mile delivery with multi-modal, multi-carrier management

Multi-modal and multi-carrier management is a key element of maturing final-mile delivery. It reduces shipping costs to improve order margins and increase profit. It allows shippers to quickly respond to market ebbs and flows without adding and overcommitting to costly resources and space. Most importantly, it helps power continuous final-mile improvements with lower, incremental investments to deliver faster speed-to-benefit and ROI.

Mike Graves is General Manager, Pierbridge, part of the WiseTech Global Group. Mike has 25 years of experience in leadership, technical sales, and solution architecture for logistics and supply chain software and technology. He leads the analysis, specifications, design, and development of Pierbridge’s Transtream enterprise parcel shipping software.