By Shell on Nov. 17, 2021
According to the recent Inside Intelligence eMarketer 'Global Ecommerce Update 2021' report, e-commerce sales are expected to account for 19.5 per cent of total worldwide retail sales this year, up from just 13.6 per cent in 2019. That number is expected to hit 21.8 per cent by 2024.
That means, despite the challenges gripping the global shipping and logistics trades, more parcels are likely to be going out to customers this Christmas than ever before.
Julie Russell, director of Brisbane-based national logistics company Russell Transport, already has her eye on the horizon and is planning accordingly.
"We break it into two things, people and fleet," says Russell. "They're your biggest expenses on the P&L (profit & loss) and have the most variability depending on the work, so if you can understand those further out and have good plans in place, you'll be well placed to handle the peaks and troughs.”
If parcels are your company's stock and trade and you want to ensure your fleet is match-fit for Christmas, here are Russell's top five suggestions.
1. Get your staff ready
If you aren't already thinking about how your staff will cope with the increased activity, you need to start now.
"If you need to attract people to handle that peak, you want to attract them early on so you can do your training," says Russell. "You need to allow the time for people to be trained so they are able to do the tasks safely.
"Existing staff, they're going to be flat-chat, so you want to take advanced measures so they've had a break before that peak season.”
2. Get on top of servicing
Any kind of mechanical malady is going to cause delays that prevent your company from conducting vital business, so you need to take precautions to ensure all vehicles in your fleet are prepared for the workload.
If any have fallen behind on regular servicing, address it now. Even if your servicing is fully up to date, consider what work might fall during peak season and take pre-emptive action.
"You want to make sure any of the repair requests that have come through or something that is going to be due for service during that period is done pre-emptively," says Russell. "That way you're not caught out in the middle.”
3. Draw up contingency plans
Don't wait for a worst-case scenario to unfold before you start making plans for how to address it. Develop contingencies now for breakdowns, repairs, sudden staff absences and any other events that could stop your organisation from doing business.
"I like to have a list of approved suppliers," says Russell. "Who do we speak to in this instance or this instance, so if the instance is I need to get a repair done quickly I would have a list of who I know are on call or available through the peak period and we know we can call on them. Or, alternatively, where do I hire a vehicle from if I need to hire one, is it fit for the task and how would I onboard it?”
4. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Everyone in your organisation needs to be aware of the challenges ahead, whether they're a new hire or existing staff.
"If you have a conversation before you are about to be hit by the onslaught, at least people are aware and can start to plan, start pacing themselves through," says Russell. "You want people to perform at their best and be their safest when it is the most busy, because that's when those little gaps can be exposed.”
You'll also benefit from keeping an open line of communication with your customers.
"If they start saying the patterns or trends in the lead-up to Christmas is we're going to be operating at 150 per cent, that will affect your thought process on your contingency planning for your fleet and staff," says Russell.
5. Don't forget the small stuff
Beyond people and vehicles, you need to think about all the aspects of your business that keep your fleet running, even the details, and how they'll cope with the peak.
"For example, we produce delivery dockets and if we ran out of those at peak season the printer would be closed, so we need to make sure we've got the right stock supplied," says Russell. "Simple little things like that will keep you running.”