Delivery Efficiencies in an Imperfect World

July 1, 2012
Delivery efficiency systems must account for urgent customer needs

I hope you take the time to read our cover story this month on cutting delivery costs. While researching it and talking with quite a few rental companies, I became aware of certain contradictions that could, at times, complicate your best efforts.

The theme of maximizing delivery efficiency was referred to by most of the people I interviewed for the story. Rental companies are very aware of not wanting to waste fuel. They are carefully coordinating deliveries to avoid having trucks “crisscrossing” an area. The last thing you want to have is one truck making a delivery from the southwest region of a city to the northeast area, at the same time a truck is leaving a branch in the northeast part of the city and bringing a machine to the southwest. This is obviously a ridiculous waste of fuel.

Also, many rental companies are concerned about wasted space in a delivery vehicle. If a large tractor-trailer that can carry three or four machines is about to leave a rental center with one machine to make a delivery, that's a lot of wasted space and therefore wasted fuel. So it would make sense to combine that delivery with other machines or else have that unit be delivered by a smaller delivery vehicle that consumes less fuel.

As rental companies described how they are instituting these measures — and it's great to see that so much attention is being paid to such efficiencies in these cost-conscious times — a phrase I didn't hear spoken, but that nonetheless applies, is “in a perfect world,” which is, of course, not the world we're living in. What was expressed by only a few, but I'm sure applies to all, is that first and foremost the customer must be served. While rental companies are making great strides to avoid wasted movement on the part of their delivery trucks, they are also conscious that customers must not be kept waiting. And rental companies are also, increasingly, keeping track of the time it takes from the moment a customer calls and says “I need a skid-steer loader now” and the time it takes to get that machine delivered.

So with all the delivery efficiencies that rental companies are, to their credit, implementing, the reality is they can implement them the best they can, but as we all know, the day-to-day demands of the business world in the rental business are far from perfect. So however good and efficient your delivery system is, sometimes a call comes at 5 o'clock from a customer who needs a small mini-excavator and the only way you can get that machine to that customer as soon as he needs it — which might have been an hour ago — is to have your biggest tractor-trailer leave from the northeast corner of the city and drive it across town at rush hour to the southwest corner of the city because the only unit you have that fills the need is at the northeast branch, and the only delivery unit available is that big tractor-trailer. So what do you do? No matter how inefficient it is at that moment, you deliver it because the customer's needs come first.

The reality of the spontaneous nature of the rental business is what it is, but still, the better your system of coordinating your deliveries is, the better off your company will be. So I suggest you take some time and read these 20 tips. There's a good chance there's a tip or two that can help.

I hope you are making plans to attend the Lift & Access Showcase and Symposium, to be held in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 24 and 25. The event, which will be co-located with Ritchie Bros.' fall auction in Orlando, will give you an opportunity to really get up close with a wide variety of aerial equipment in addition to earthmoving equipment, light towers, generators, and a wide range of other equipment. There will be demos, opportunities to get hands on, and extensive walk-arounds featuring large boomlifts, telehandlers, skid-steer loaders and light towers. This event is one-of-a kind. It doesn't take the place of the Rental Show, ConExpo or any other industry event because there is nothing else quite like it. And in addition to attending the Showcase, you can check out the auction at the same time.

RER is co-sponsoring the event this year along with Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers and Lift & Access (Maximum Capacity Media), which founded the Showcase six years ago and started doing aerial equipment rodeos back in the mid-1990s.

For more information on exhibiting or attending, check out RER's website at