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The impact of COVID-19 on the construction industry continues to be felt across the country. From project delays and cancellations to labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, construction companies have been grappling with operational and financial challenges as they weather the crisis.

Supply chain resilience remains a serious concern, threatening project timelines and profitability. Operating on already thin margins, contractors and suppliers in the commercial and industrial building supply arena are searching for opportunities to minimize operational expenses, hone efficiency and boost productivity without compromising the customer experience.

mastering last-mile complexity

The construction ecosystem is a complex web of highly variable interdependent activities operating within time, resource and budget constraints. Given the extremely dynamic nature of the business, managing the delivery of materials and equipment to the jobsite can be challenging—especially if contractors and suppliers are relying on manual, paper-based fleet management processes.

Suppliers must cope with short lead times on orders, often less than 24 hours, while prioritizing on-time delivery performance; managing same-day delivery and tight delivery windows; and accommodating unexpected changes in, for example, customer demands, inventory requirements, weather and road congestion. A wide range of delivery vehicles and off-loading equipment, region-specific requirements, and different materials with varying loading and unloading times further complicate the delivery process.

On the jobsite, work needs to be sequenced and coordinated with delivery of materials and the availability of crews. Contractors rely on suppliers for timely and accurate deliveries—and the ability to adapt and adjust to inevitable changes in scheduling and materials requirements—to keep crews operating efficiently.

technology changes the game

Recent pandemic-related guidance from Deloitte suggests that construction companies should use the crisis as a “catalyst to rethink how work is done and to accelerate adoption of digital capabilities.” Indeed, contractors and suppliers are recognizing that manual logistics processes are inefficient, error-prone and a significant barrier to delivering an outstanding customer experience. Supply chains bogged down by conventional paper- and clipboard-based practices are unable to keep pace with the highly dynamic nature of construction operations, further compromising the ability to weather the pandemic.

Adopting a digital approach to fleet management is the logical step for industry players focused on operational efficiency in the current climate. An automated last-mile solution that provides scheduling, delivery route planning and execution, proof-of-delivery, automated pre- and post-delivery notification services, and imaging functionality—in combination with vehicle telematics to monitor assets in the field—can completely transform delivery operations and reimagine the customer experience.

real-time route planning and scheduling

Shifting to real-time delivery route planning and dynamic appointment scheduling enables building materials suppliers to plan deliveries, schedule appointments, optimize routes, dispatch orders and communicate with drivers in a completely paperless environment. Eschewing manual paper-based processes for an automated fleet management solution helps suppliers boost delivery performance and drive down transportation costs by reducing truck turnaround time, improving on-time delivery rates and increasing fleet capacity utilization.

Leveraging automated fleet routing and scheduling puts suppliers in a much stronger position to drive realistic and reliable delivery schedules, increase the number of daily deliveries and ensure delivery windows are tightly coordinated with contractor requirements. Plus, suppliers can better manage customer orders for a diverse product mix by ensuring materials are loaded into vehicles of appropriate sizes and with appropriate capabilities.

By integrating intelligent route planning and dynamic appointment scheduling with a wide variety of enterprise systems (e.g., WMS, CRM, ERP, OMS, customer portals), suppliers can maximize efficiency and ensure a seamless customer experience by creating a streamlined end-to-end solution for the full order-to-cash workflow.

mobile technology boosts visibility

Using mobile technology, contractors have real-time visibility into the details and timing of jobsite deliveries, helping them keep projects on track and on budget. On the supplier side, real-time updates from GPS-tracked vehicles provide visibility into driver availability, the status of deliveries throughout the day and the ability to notify customers of delivery progress.

The need to socially distance to keep drivers and customers safe has effectively killed the use of paper-based proof-of-delivery (POD) processes. Using GPS-based mobile solutions with picture and barcode capture, building material suppliers can implement contactless POD that accurately records delivered items, identifies damages and manages returns. The result is fewer disputes, lower operating costs and faster cash collection.

Fleet productivity is a competitive weapon in the distribution-intensive building supply and construction industry. During these uncertain times, when cost-saving efficiencies are of paramount importance, adopting an advanced solution for planning and executing routes and managing delivery performance is a real game changer.

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