I recently met a man who told me about the way his company had adopted a really innovative way of managing proof of delivery (POD) and updating delivery databases at the same time. It appealed to me because of its simplicity and its low cost of investment. I come across lots of good ideas in my job but this one stands out.
I have one of those phone/personal data assistant (PDA) devices that have a screen you can write on and handle email. Using nothing more complex than that phone, its stylus and a link to a database, a driver can call at a delivery point, make the delivery, call up the necessary screen for the customer to sign and leave the site for his next delivery.
The customer's signature is passed on immediately to the driver's head office system and, at the same time, updates the central delivery database. If the phone is out of signal at that moment, the phone stores the information until the signal becomes available and then automatically sends the data. They told me the costs of the phone and call costs are so low that they got a very quick commercial payback and needed no specialist resources other than the link to their central system.
If, as many companies do, you invoice on POD, you could have that POD in (virtual) real-time. If you invoice on despatch and get lots of credit note requests for wrong or missing product, you could, by delaying an average of half a day, improve that situation overnight and maybe reduce the number of staff employed in the accounts department to sort out credit demands from customers.
The technology to enable real-time POD has been around for years and used by many of the global third-party logistics (3PLs) companies. This application opens up the market to the smaller players by using common technology and 'fully sunk' investment in a really innovative way. The UK transport market is full of such companies and they all struggle to make profits in a market in which demand is still exceeded by supply. If they can get their act together in this area they can almost certainly afford to stay up with the game. For those of you who buy transport, a little pressure on your medium-sized 3PLs might not go amiss!
Tim Knowles is Director, ProActive http://www.proactive21.com