Over 87 billion parcels are shipped worldwide every year.

Without any sort of plan or schedule, it would be impossible to manage the supply chain and for retailers to keep a balanced inventory across their warehouses. 

Without shipping scheduling, you create an inefficient logistics process and lose potential revenue at several levels.

In this article, we’ll cover what shipping scheduling is, common challenges you’ll face, how you can use software to your advantage, and the primary benefits it brings to the table.

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What is Shipping Scheduling?

Shipping scheduling is a way to plan out your business’ shipments and deliveries in advance based on your supply chain and customer demand. 

It is a common practice for large and small businesses to improve efficiency and give your partners and customers peace of mind.

5 Main Operational Challenges With Shipping Scheduling 

Managing your business’ outbound logistics involves a lot of moving parts — planning, scheduling, working with third parties, ensuring deliveries get where they need to at the right time and to the right place…

All of this results in a few costly operational problems for both shipping managers and clients alike.

1. Lack of proper processes

Many small businesses don’t have a proper process on scheduling shipments. Instead, they rely on the outdated  “get it out when we can” type of process. 

In 2020 though, that’s not enough. Your customers have never been more demanding, and your competitors have never been more competitive.

Process efficiency can make or break a company, especially in complex areas like logistics. 

But implementing a congruent process that covers every stage from receiving to delivery is a momentous challenge even for large corporations.

2. Adapting to last-minute orders, cancellations, and product recalls

When last-minute orders come up, especially if they require 2-day or next-day shipping (which 80% of consumers want in 2020) how will you get them out in time? 

What if you have to replace an entire shipment of products?

Eldum rétt, a meal-kit delivery service, faced every company’s worst nightmare when they discovered a supplier’s mistake after they had already delivered all the products

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But thanks to OptimoRoute, they could retrace their drivers’ steps, prepare replacement products, and quickly mobilize the entire delivery fleet. 

All products were replaced within a day.

They were able to avoid disaster, and keep their customers happy.

3. Maintaining speed at every stage of fulfillment

As a shipper or delivery service, efficiency is everything.

If you have un-optimized fulfillment, by the time your delivery drivers get their hands on the package, it may already be too late to deliver it on time to your customers.

If you don’t coordinate with your suppliers, or packaging takes too long, or you drop the ball at any stage, your package will be late, and your customers won’t be happy.

4. Handling unplanned delays

What happens if there is traffic on your driver’s route? What if there’s a car crash? What if there’s construction? 

A single delay can disrupt your entire shipping schedule, especially with scheduled pickup time windows to meet.

With OptimoRoute, you can dynamically replan the routes of all drivers on-the-fly to respond to delays or cancellations. And live ETAs will inform your customers of the potential delays.

5. Unable to coordinate reverse logistics pickups

Reverse logistics is an essential part of the supply chain for many businesses that rely on reusing packaging, like a brewery that supplies kegs to local bars and restaurants.

If you don’t have a dynamic shipping schedule, you won’t be able to coordinate with clients to enable your drivers to make pickups at the same time as drop-offs..

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Backward vs. Forward Scheduling

When you plan your shipments’ schedule, you have two options: forward or backward.

Forward scheduling is when you plan the necessary tasks and stages from the first point your raw materials become available:

Backward scheduling is when you plan the production backwards based on the due delivery date:

For example, a brewery could either supply every bar when it has produced enough kegs to complete deliveries ASAP, or make sure that it has enough kegs to complete scheduled deliveries on time.

Read more about the specifics of forward and backward scheduling in our guide.

What to Look for in Shipping Scheduling Software

If you’re currently relying on a manual process, it might be tempting to just pick up any software that will help. 

But choosing a scheduling solution is a crucial business decision, and shouldn’t be made lightly.

You should look for the following features in a shipping scheduling solution: 

Route optimization

Can your shipping scheduler optimize routes while your drivers are out on a delivery, and make changes in real-time?

With route optimization from OptimoRoute, you can automatically plan efficient routes for your drivers for weeks at a time while taking into account dozens of different factors (delivery and pickup time windows, vehicle capacities, traffic, and more).

Fulfillment optimization

Can your shipping scheduler work to optimize your fulfillment process? 

OptimoRoute’s advanced features help optimize every step of the fulfillment process and minimize failed deliveries and other issues.

Real ETA estimates & automated notifications

Does your shipping scheduler give you accurate ETAs for dropoff or pickup? Does it send automated notifications to ensure pickups go as smoothly as possible?

OptimoRoute uses live GPS locations to calculate real shipping ETAs and automatically notifies your clients by email or SMS.

Mobile accessibility

Can your drivers and staff access your shipping scheduling software on the go? 

With OptimoRoute’s mobile app for iPhone and Android, drivers can easily follow the route, confirm address information, and get last-second updates on the road.

Robust integrations

Does your software solution integrate with your other business tools?

Through OptimoRoute’s API, we can integrate with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other essential systems you rely on to run your business.

Real-time tracking of vehicle locations

Does your solution help you keep track of your delivery fleet in real time?

With OptimoRoute, both your dispatchers and clients awaiting delivery can quickly check the location of your delivery drivers.

Benefits of an Efficient Shipment Schedule

Putting in place a more efficient delivery and shipment schedule will have far-reaching effects on your shipping operations and your business in general.

Below, we highlight a few of the key benefits of better scheduling.

Faster shipments and more completed deliveries with existing fleet

Customers get their shipments as fast as possible, even with the possibility of a slowdown somewhere along the way.

By planning efficiently, you can maximize the number of deliveries without increasing the number of vehicles or drivers. Hardie’s Fresh Foods improved delivery capacity by 14% while reducing driver-related costs by 12% with OptimoRoute.

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Gas and time savings

You save on gas and time by delivering to more addresses and following the most efficient route possible. 

By implementing OptimoRoute’s shipping scheduling and route optimization tools, Gallagher Pools saved over 8,000 miles in mileage and 24 driving hours a month for each driver 

Less driver stress

With OptimoRoute, drivers get manageable workloads, accurate shipment pickup times, optimized routes, and pre-planned break times. As a result, their stress levels are much lower.

Fewer failed deliveries and pickups

Our software will create a detailed schedule that also adjusts for variables like check-in times and helps keep failed deliveries and pickups to an absolute minimum. 

Final thoughts

Whether you use a manual process or outdated scheduling software, an inefficient shipping scheduling process means an inefficient workforce.

With OptimoRoute, not only do you get access to useful weekly shipment scheduling features, but you also get all the benefits of a full-fledged route optimization solution. 

Your dispatchers or warehouse managers can quickly plan deliveries by simply importing upcoming orders — OptimoRoute will map the most efficient routes and schedules automatically.

Our software also adjusts for time windows, breaks, vehicle capacities, and drive workloads to optimize efficiency. 

If you want to learn more about how OptimoRoute can help your business, book a personalized demo.