Whether you’re an eCommerce store or run a major B2B delivery operation, delivery scheduling is one of the most important aspects of your business. Offering efficient delivery service is vital for business growth and customer satisfaction. Good delivery scheduling helps you stay organized and manage your orders and deliveries better.

The problem is that the scheduling process can come with significant challenges. There are many factors to consider when putting together your delivery schedule. This can cause complications and difficulties.

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of scheduling deliveries. We will also share four tips that your organization can use to make scheduling easier.

What is delivery scheduling?

Delivery scheduling is the process of planning your business’ deliveries in advance. To run smooth operations, you need to make sure that you have a coherent plan for your deliveries.

You can’t just load up a delivery vehicle and head out without a plan and schedule in place. Skipping this step in your delivery process results in wasted time and money. It can also lead to risky driving from drivers trying to deliver on time, as well as late deliveries and dissatisfied customers.

A good delivery scheduling process factors in your supply chain operations and customer demand. By doing this, you can deal with issues quickly, preventing any delays. This helps improve the overall efficiency of your operations and it makes sure that your deliveries remain profitable. Effective delivery scheduling also plays a big role in customer satisfaction.

How does delivery scheduling work?

Delivery scheduling involves assigning orders to delivery routes and mapping out the sequence for each delivery. To do this, you must have clear inventory and order visibility. That way, you know all about your incoming and outgoing orders and you know the location of each order at all times. Delivery schedules work together with order and inventory management.

Next, you calculate the distance to each delivery destination and try to find the best route for your driver. The aim is to reduce the distance traveled between delivery drops by making sure your drivers take the smartest routes. Thus, the best route is the shortest, safest, and fastest one.

Achieving this requires route optimization. Optimized scheduling considers all constraints or challenges and addresses them. It also ensures that the delivery schedule makes the best use of available business resources.

The last step in your scheduling is the arranging of delivery stops into a single-driver trip. Assign the orders to suitable vehicles with account for the package size, weight, and other dimensions. You also have to allocate these trips to a suitable driver that you can trust to make good delivery.

This optimized scheduling process requires flexibility as routes and circumstances can change at the last minute. However, including a scheduling strategy in your delivery planning prepares you to respond better to unexpected challenges. It can result in efficient deliveries that improve your customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

Delivery scheduling

Scheduling deliveries in bigger vs smaller organizations

When planning a delivery schedule, the more routes and drops you have, the more complicated it becomes. With this in mind, delivery planning becomes harder as your business expands. This is especially true if you schedule deliveries manually, as there will be more stops and orders to fit into the delivery schedule.

However, the process behind scheduling deliveries remains the same. It doesn’t matter how many delivery orders you have, the planning process will still follow the same procedure. It doesn’t matter if your delivery route has 4 drops or 40 drops. You will still need to calculate all the same constraints to optimize the route.

You can do this manually or you can use a digital delivery route planner. However, manual scheduling is a time- and resource-consuming process that leaves room for human error and delays. You would need specialist knowledge to adequately plan delivery routes manually. Even with tons of experience, you have to account for human error.

The best thing to do for your delivery scheduling is to invest in brilliant delivery software. The right route planning software does all the work for you. Plus, it can better adjust to larger scales of operation with no additional work. This makes scheduling deliveries at any scale a fast and easy process.

Challenges of scheduling deliveries

When managing your delivery schedule, there are a lot of moving parts that are difficult to stay on top of. Here are some of the main operational challenges involved in scheduling deliveries.

Lack of processes

One of the biggest issues that businesses face with their delivery schedule is that they don’t have a clear system in place. Instead of following strict processes, many organizations take the attitude of “we’ll deliver it when we can”. This approach can cause all kinds of problems.

Not having proper processes and systems in place can lead to various operational issues. It can delay deliveries or result in no-show deliveries. This has a major effect on customers and your brand reputation. Today, consumer demands around deliveries are at an all-time high. Having solid processes in place will help to keep up with consumer demands and stay customer-centric.

Lack of flexibility

No matter how well-organized your delivery schedule is, issues can always come up. This includes things like cancellations, product recalls, or last-minute orders. In particular, if your business offers same-day delivery, then unexpected shifts become a common occurrence.

In situations like these, you must adjust your planned delivery schedules and routes. This can be a challenge for delivery managers who spend significant time and effort optimizing those delivery routes.

Surprise delays

Unlike last-minute orders, some delays remain out of your control. Several unplanned delays can affect delivery time. This includes external factors like road closures, weather, serious traffic, or roadworks.

These conditions are more difficult to pre-empt and address than internal order changes. Delivery drivers need to adapt quickly to changes or delays, while still taking the most optimal route possible. This could involve revising an entire delivery schedule, which can be a stressful and time-consuming process. However, delivery software and route optimization features can update routes immediately.

Tight timeframes

The most important thing for any delivery operation is efficiency. Deliveries need to be as quick as possible, and they need to flow at a continuous pace. Delivery managers are always working against the clock, and deliveries must arrive at the scheduled time.

This means that you must coordinate every single step and process in the delivery schedule. Drivers need to pick up deliveries seamlessly and use the best route to get to their destinations. You also need to ensure that there are minimal to no delays between processes. This is one of the main reasons why optimized delivery scheduling is so important.

Coordinating pickups

For many organizations that offer deliveries, it’s not a simple process of dropping off orders. Often, they also have to plan for collections and reverse logistics. This includes things like collecting goods that the customer was not satisfied with or collecting packaging from existing customers to reuse.

This adds an additional element to the delivery schedule and requires you to manage collections and drop-offs. This adds another layer to your scheduling. Both customer interactions must be coordinated perfectly to fit into the driver's existing schedule. You also need to account for the storage of returned goods.

How to improve delivery scheduling

Scheduling deliveries may have its challenges, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to improve. Here are some of the best things that delivery managers can do to improve their delivery scheduling.

Use the right software

All delivery organizations need to use multi-stop route planners.

This is the most essential tip for efficient delivery scheduling because the software will take care of all the complicated processes for you. The software can automatically plan and schedule routes for you. Instead of sitting down and manually adding in each delivery stop, this will save time and effort.

Beyond the initial route scheduling, using software also allows you to remain flexible. If any last-minute delays or surprises arise, the software will be able to reschedule the route for you automatically. This means drivers always have updated delivery routes, and managers won’t have to rush to respond by creating alternative routes at the last moment.

Route planning software will also help to improve communication. If you add or remove any new stops, the route will update automatically. The system keeps the delivery driver updated, and there is no need for phone calls and manual communication (which can also be a major challenge with delivery scheduling).

Optimize your routes

The software can plan and map out the delivery routes. You can also use it to optimize your routes. With the right route optimization tool, logistics managers can create efficient and effective delivery schedules.

These route optimization tools can assign the most suitable orders to the right vehicles, and plan out a delivery schedule that maximizes time. These schedules are automatically planned to ensure minimal driving between each stop. It takes various factors into account, such as the size and limitations of each vehicle, to plan out the best possible routes.

Optimizing routes like this saves loads of time and cuts down on unnecessary driving. This means your business can enjoy significant fuel savings, as well as fulfill customers’ orders as quickly as possible.

Make sure your routing tool is mobile-friendly

Mobile-friendly solutions make sure that the driver can easily access the correct, optimized route at all times. By using a mobile-friendly route planning app, drivers can view the up-to-date route plan, and receive notifications of any changes in real-time.

This makes it significantly easier to communicate with drivers and adjust the route whenever necessary.

Track your vehicles

Staying up to date with the whereabouts of your vehicles is an important part of improving your delivery schedule. Delivery scheduling takes place before the trips, but it’s still important to know where your vehicles are and to track their progress. This will help you adjust your routes, and understand how your scheduled routes perform. Tracking your vehicles also plays a big role in improving communications.

How delivery schedules improve business operations

A well-planned delivery schedule will completely transform the way your business operates. Here are some of the primary advantages of scheduling deliveries.

  • Scheduled deliveries save logistics managers loads of time.

  • Scheduled deliveries ensure that your drivers aren’t taking on more deliveries than they can manage.

  • Well-planned deliveries result in faster, more efficient deliveries.

  • Scheduled deliveries can reduce fuel costs.

  • Scheduled deliveries help improve customer satisfaction.

  • Well-planned deliveries make it easier to respond to last-minute changes and adjustments.

  • Delivery schedules can make it easier to scale your deliveries as your business grows.

  • Planning deliveries in advance helps you to offer accurate ETAs.

Conclusion

Scheduling deliveries efficiently will make a vast difference to your operations and bottom line. Scheduled deliveries allow you to deliver faster and eliminate any potential delays. This helps keep customers happy. It allows your business to handle a lot of deliveries efficiently, and it can help to boost the profitability of your business.

Delivery managers need to be using the right delivery scheduling tools if they want to stay on the ball. In today’s world of high customer demands, getting this process right could be the secret to your business’s success.