The holiday season is quickly approaching, and that means it’s only a matter of time before Santa’s sleigh is filled up with presents from online orders and cross-country relatives. FedEx is anticipating an increase in holiday shipments of 8.8 percent, and UPS is anticipating an 11 percent increase over 2013. Will UPS and FedEx be prepared to meet their delivery dates in 2014, or will we see the industry crumble once again under the load?
Last year, Cyber Monday saw a 20.6 percent jump in online retail sales – a new record, according to the IBM 2013 Holiday Benchmark Reports. And in the final weekend before Christmas, online sales were up 37 percent over the previous year. The massive amount of orders and data snowballed until networks couldn’t manage the resources. As a result, the shipping industry was hit with a snowstorm of a problem.
The number of orders, coupled with weeks of bad weather hindering delivery services, made it so packages were not delivered by their promised dates. Companies like FedEx, Amazon, and UPS tried to remedy the problem. UPS brought in additional workers on Christmas night to sort through packages for Thursday and Friday deliveries, and FedEx rushed some packages so customers could pick up items at local FedEx Express centers on Christmas Day. Despite this, many people were left disappointed when packages didn’t show. While bad weather was a factor in the delivery delay, UPS acknowledged in a statement the real problem was that the network was overloaded. The system couldn’t manage the resources necessary to ensure timely delivery, and as a result, real people felt the burden in real-time.
So how can the delivery industry better manage their resources vis-à-vis growing demand, while readjusting to real-time disruptions like bad weather and icy roads?
Real-time operations optimization technology helps many industries manage their resources in an ever-changing environment. On-demand aviation industry is an example where the technology is already helping companies increase efficiency and reduce costs. Aviation companies like charter airline JetSuite use this technology to manage airplane fleets and staff in an industry with constant real-time change requirements and unpredictable disruptions (like bad weather and mechanical failures). The solution enabled the airline to manage their potential revenue and maximize resources, while at the same time lowering fuel costs and waste, and providing superior customer service, all in real-time.
If the shipping industry had introduced real-time operations optimization technology, the delays of last year’s shipping debacle could have been minimized. Delivery companies would have been able to optimize the massive number of orders received and utilized their resources more efficiently. FedEx, for instance, handled more than 275 million shipments between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but how many of those shipments were truly optimized, taking into account all elements of their operation to include resources, demand, cost structure, labor rules and more?
As consumers continue to see the ease of online shopping, the demand for shipping only continues to grow. Ongoing disruptions, such as bad weather or mechanical breakdowns, are unavoidable, especially during busy seasons. To ensure a successful and happy holiday delivery season, companies should focus on technology that allows the system to react in real-time to whatever comes its way. A more efficient allocation of resources allows shipping companies to better manage their delivery service, keep their customers happy, and avoid being deemed the “Grinch” of the holiday season.