All I want for Christmas…

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…is a bit of patience but it seems that these days, folk aren’t prepared to wait for anything.

I took delivery the other week of a rather hefty stove, it was a kerbside drop so entailed a bit of hoicking from a few burly mates into its final destination.

While the driver pallet-lifted it to the kerb he asked if he was likely to get a ticket stopping outside my house. I said it was unlikely but he had apparently already had one that morning! So, not only had the fine cancelled any chance of him earning that day, but he had also missed his allocated delivery slots and so still had two undelivered pallets on his wagon.

I felt for the guy as I recalled reading some data recently from delivery experience company Sorted that suggested that £1.01 billion worth of Black Friday deliveries this year were likely to fail, either arriving too late or after allocated delivery slots. Indeed, its research claimed that two fifths of UK shoppers wouldn’t wait more than 24 hours for a delivery, implying that even ‘next day’ fulfilment was no longer immediate enough for shoppers.

When did we get so impatient and need such instantaneous gratification? Was it the microwave and fast food that let the genie out of the bottle?

Certainly Millenials, or Generation Y, have grown up not having to wait for anything, from streaming movies to apps helping them find a date within metres of where they’re standing. But it got me thinking, is this just a generational thing or are we all becoming less patient, and what are the implications for service providers like us?

We work at the coalface of keeping the supply chain moving. Barcode printer downtime is to be avoided at all costs as it affects productivity, as do failed scanners, handheld computers and tablets. Certainly, our focus has always been on helping customers pre-empt downtime by maintaining their devices through managed contracts.

Undoubtedly, technology like Zebra’s is proving a real whizz at helping in that process. The internet of things (IoT) can give us and customers complete visibility of assets, allowing us to proactively maintain and accurately predict when batteries might fail or printheads need replacing.

Such predictive or preventative maintenance is definitely the way forward but what happens if a machine goes down unexpectedly and can’t be fixed in situ or remotely? Most printer suppliers offer attractive all-inclusive service packages which, to be cost-effective, have to be return to base (RTB) solutions. This is where your device is sent away for repair and could be away for up to a fortnight.

In this culture of instant gratification where 24-hour delivery is deemed too long, how do enterprises manage an extended interruption in service like that? They don’t, of course. Rather than wait for up to two weeks for their repaired printer to be returned, they usually have pool stock waiting in the wings to take over where the faulty machine left off.

In this day and age when firms can’t afford the ‘luxury’ of on-site engineers, it’s questionable how many of them count the true cost of actually procuring the necessary skills to configure the replacement device. And with fewer engineers on the road, getting the necessary skills on-site may be as challenging as trying to secure a same-day doctor’s appointment!

I’ve come to the conclusion that we at Datatrade are becoming a bit of a rare breed in that we’re one of the few service organisations left with engineers on the road. With some of our contracts, especially in the food and drink sector, where time is critical for perishable goods, we’re providing break fixes as fast as within four hours. At what point will four hours be the ‘normal’ response time window for delivery? Time to start working on that ‘beam me up Scotty’ transporter methinks!

Pete Laplanche

Out in warehouses and back offices, barcode printers remain the unsung heroes of the supply chain. Board director of Datatrade, Peter Laplanche, has spent 30 years communicating the importance of these mission critical devices, from early matrix printers to the latest mobiles. The brave new world of omni-channel requires even greater visibility and agility in track and trace, and label barcoding is…

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