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Jaidyn Farar

4 Logistics Lessons From Your Summer Road Trip

by Jaidyn Farar

"Road trip." For most people, those two words evoke a wave of nostalgia, complete with memories of cramming suitcases into the trunk, watching fields and forests flash by out the window, and cranking up the radio. 

A desert road stretching out into the distance

As you plan your 2024 summer road trip (or book plane tickets—that’s fine too), we invite you to join us as we review four logistics lessons we can learn from road trips. Grab your gas station snacks and settle in for the ride!

1. Plan ahead

While spontaneous decisions—like where to stop for dinner—make road trips more exciting, the best expeditions involve careful planning. You pick a destination, chart the ideal route, buy snacks, fill the car with gas, and pack up all your belongings. If you skip any of these steps, you could easily end up heading in the wrong direction, getting stranded on the side of the road, or realizing too late that you’ve forgotten your toothbrush.

Just as planning your road trip route is essential for a smooth journey, ecommerce businesses should strategically craft shipping strategies before ever sending out a package. When you put thought into your logistics operations, you’ll increase efficiency, lower costs, and improve the customer experience. 

  • Distribute your inventory. The location of your inventory plays a major role in shipping speed and cost. After analyzing customer demand and order patterns, choose strategic locations for each fulfillment center. Distribute inventory across warehouses based on regional demand forecasts and historical sales data.
  • Plan your picking and packing. Shipping success isn’t just about carriers—it largely depends on what happens in the distribution center. To fulfill orders quickly and minimize delays, choose a picking strategy that works for your warehouse size and shipping volume. Standardize packing methods so each product is packaged quickly and securely.
  • Choose the right carriers. For the greatest customer satisfaction, you need to work with reliable carriers. As you evaluate potential partners, consider factors such as shipping rates, delivery times, reliability, and coverage areas. You can also use shipping software to easily integrate with your desired carriers and find the best shipping method for each package.

2. Pack efficiently

When you take a road trip with multiple people, trunk space is at a premium. To help solve the problem, road trippers often pack light and use the space in their suitcases as efficiently as possible. But the real challenge is fitting everyone’s bags into the car, a process that often involves several minutes of stacking and shoving.

When shipping packages to customers, packing efficiently is vital. And like the road trip example, you have two things to consider: how each individual box is packed, and (if you ship freight) how your trucks are loaded. 

  • Packaging optimization. Optimizing your packaging reduces shipping costs, protects products from damage during transit, and supports sustainability efforts. Make sure to choose boxes and mailers that fit the product but don’t contain too much extra space, and consider automating the packing process with warehouse technology.
  • Load planning and palletization. When you’re shipping large volumes, implement a system that optimizes the arrangement of goods within shipping containers or trucks (or on pallets). Software like MagicLogic considers the dimensions and weight of goods and creates custom loading or palletization plans.

3. Embrace technology

Road trips are much more enjoyable with the right technology. Air conditioning keeps everybody cool, Bluetooth lets you share a playlist with the whole car, and the passengers’ phones keep them amused. 

Technology also improves logistics processes. Sure, it’s possible to accomplish many tasks manually. But when you automate using software and even robotics, you streamline processes, make them more efficient, and trigger a cascade of benefits for your business and customers. 

4. Expect the unexpected

Road trips often come with unexpected challenges like detours or weather delays, and you have to be ready to find alternative routes or make new plans. Likewise, ecommerce businesses should have contingency plans in place to address unforeseen logistics disruptions.

Plan for the following supply chain issues:

  • Weather events. Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters—winter storms, tornados, earthquakes, fires, and more—can lead to blocked roads, airport and port closures, and other transportation disruptions. Establish contingency plans, such as alternative transportation routes and backup suppliers, to ensure your operations can continue during these conditions.
  • Labor strikes. If a carrier faces labor disputes, you could find yourself up the creek without a paddle—and your customers will find themselves up the creek without a package. Develop strong relationships with multiple carriers to mitigate the impact of labor strikes.
  • Supplier delays. If your supplier faces issues, they may not be able to deliver inventory in time. Without the right levels of inventory, you won’t be able to meet customer demand. In addition to diversifying your supplier base, consider keeping safety stock on hand as a buffer against supplier delays.

Enjoy the ride!

As your business gets ready for the approaching peak season (it’s never too early to prepare), remember the four logistics lessons we learn from road trips. Your organization might hit some bumps in the road, but if you’ve planned ahead, packed the essentials—like the most reliable Shipping API on the market—and refined every order fulfillment process, you’ll be able to keep your customers satisfied.