Optimize fleet operations through smarter supply chain disaster management

Author: Gary Hilson

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have revealed new and unexpected ways in which supply chains can be disrupted. To fully disaster-proof the supply chain against an unpredictable future, businesses must look at how evolving approaches to fleet operations can enable nimbler reactions. Leveraging technology to increase connectivity and gathering of real-time data can inform smart, rapid decision-making.

Managers must take a comprehensive look at their fleets to maximize efficiency, maintain vehicles, track performance and ensure safety. The right fleet management solution can help you with tools to manage your vehicles and workforce, and to make reliable, data-driven decisions to navigate the disruptions in the supply chain.

Navigating known supply chain barriers

The pandemic has fleet managers on their toes, managing disruptions that have historically been caused by adverse weather, natural disasters and political unrest. Major disruptions usually lead to shortages of goods, at least in specific regions, and physical barriers, such as border closures and route changes, that hamper normal fleet operations. But these disruptions are usually resolved in short order. What's different during the lockdown is that supply chain disaster management has persisted in recent months, and the disruptions are less predictable.

Fleet managers, dispatchers and drivers are working longer hours to offset supply chain disruptions and nationwide demands for delivery services. Some states continue to enforce stay-at-home rules, but most fleets are considered essential for keeping supply chains moving—meaning that managers must be equipped to keep up with a reality that changes dramatically day by day.

If you're trying to keep a large fleet of vehicles on the road, the lockdown has disrupted routine yet essential activities, such as regular vehicle maintenance and engine diagnostics. It's also made it harder to monitor and manage vehicle performance and efficiency. Meanwhile, near real-time vehicle tracking becomes more challenging, as regular schedules no longer apply.

Mapping unknown territory

The global health pandemic has magnified challenges that are usually temporary and manageable with the right emergency planning.

Restrictions across geographical areas fluctuate wildly. Natural disasters, dangerous weather and other short-term disruptions make small portions of supply chain staff unavailable for periods of time, and the pandemic has also impacted the available workforce.

It's practically impossible to predict where things are going and how the happenings will affect ongoing fleet operations. That makes tracking costs and monitoring driver safety performance—which are still required, even under exceptional circumstances—even more difficult. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered that there are barriers to optimal operations that many supply chain disaster management plans don't fully address.

The challenge for many organizations is that maintaining safety and efficiency requires access to technology and skills beyond standard fleet management. Addressing that challenge requires amounts of time, money and focus that are hard to come by, even in the best of times. If you want to bolster your supply chain to better prepare for the unexpected, while continuing to safeguard against the usual suspects, there's a lot of value in finding a fleet management solution that can help streamline day-to-day operations for your fleet.

Find a good navigator to ride shotgun

Keeping fleet operations safe and efficient, especially when your supply chain disaster management skills are in high gear, means having the most accurate map of the terrain ahead of you.

To fully disaster-proof the supply chain, leverage technology to increase connectivity and the gathering of real-time data, which can inform smart, rapid decision-making. Evolving your approach to fleet management can make your organization nimbler, but you can't do it without help.

The right fleet management partner can help fleet management businesses be better prepared by working with you to evaluate your current supply chain disaster management strategies. Advanced fleet management software that uses GPS provides a detailed, near-real time map, so you can keep supply chains moving even when the landscape is continuously shifting. Not only is it possible to track vehicles in the field and improve fleet operations, but you can improve productivity and encourage safer driving by combining scheduling, dispatching and fleet-tracking.

Safe and efficient fleet management always needs a detailed dashboard to see the road ahead. With a horizon prone to sudden changes for the foreseeable future, that dashboard must deliver the oversight you need to make reliable, data-driven decisions about your vehicles and workforce.

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