New Articles

7 Smart Policy Changes That Greatly Improve Supply Chain Operations

policy

7 Smart Policy Changes That Greatly Improve Supply Chain Operations

Supply chain optimization has become a priority for many organizations in the wake of widespread disruptions. Many discussions focus on new technologies and massive, disruptive
changes to revolutionize supply chains – but even small adjustments can make a difference.

While policy may not get the same amount of press, it’s just as important to supply chain optimization as technological transformation. Here are seven smart policy changes to greatly improve supply chain operations.

Requiring Visibility From Supply Chain Partners

Supply chain transparency is essential if organizations hope to become more resilient, yet most businesses lack it. Just 6% of companies report full visibility into their supply chains, and this is
largely due to their complex nature. If organizations want more transparent supply chains, they must maximize visibility from all partners and third parties, not just look internally.

If a supplier, logistics provider, or other partners can’t offer real-time visibility, they limit overall transparency. Supply chains must hold these businesses to higher standards to gain more insight into their operations. It’s also important to remember that this goes both ways.

Organizations must also share more with their partners. Enabling this level of transparency requires real-time technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and efficient communication channels. That will likely involve some initial disruption, but a cooperative movement from all involved parties will make it easier.

Narrowing Data’s Scope

One seemingly counterintuitive policy change many supply chains need to make is to narrow the scope of their data analytics. While organizations should gather and analyze data concerning demand signals and internal operations, many collect too much. Not all information is relevant or helpful, and when businesses try to analyze too much, it often slows or muddies the results.

Consensus demand forecasting typically takes four to five weeks to deliver results, by which time the data may be outdated. Supply chain organizations should instead focus on what’s most relevant to their specific needs. Narrowing data collection to focus on four or five data sets based on relevant KPIs will help deliver faster, more reliable analytics.

Narrowing the scope of data initiatives also reduces related costs and implementation-related disruptions. This restrained approach to digital transformation will consequently deliver a faster ROI.

Segmenting Strategies for Different Products

Similarly, supply chains should segment their strategies to meet the needs of various products. Many organizations struggle to balance efficiency and flexibility, partly because each strategy suits different products. Instead of grouping everything into a singular approach, supply chains should vary their policies to meet disparate needs.

High-value, low-volume products with high demand volatility are better suited to a more responsive supply chain strategy. These items benefit more from larger inventories and distributed sourcing to make adjustments easier. In contrast, high-volume, low-volatility products work better in a lean environment to maximize efficiency.

A 2021 survey revealed that 42% of supply chain managers are too lean, but 49% disagree. This divide arises because different strategies fit different product types. Consequently, supply chains should avoid applying a single method to all of their operations.

Implementing New Technologies Gradually

Just as supply chains should narrow the scope of their data, they should take a more gradual approach to technology. While technologies like IoT tracking and automation can yield substantial benefits, they’re often expensive and disruptive to implement. Supply chains can make the most of them by applying them slowly.

The key is to start with the areas that can yield the most significant improvements. Apply robotics to the most inefficient, repetitive workflows and IoT maintenance to the most common truck issues first. Starting with the weakest areas will produce faster ROIs, helping companies afford further improvements down the line.

Many tech articles and industry publications generate urgency around tech adoption, but supply chains should avoid that. While applying these technologies across the entire supply chain should be a long-term goal, doing so all at once is unsustainable.

Embracing Diversification

Supply chains should also move away from single dependencies. Diversification among suppliers, logistics providers, and other parties will help ensure resiliency across the supply chain. While this goes against long-held lean principles, recent disruptions prove how fragile these networks can be without diversification.

Reshoring and near-shoring should play a central role in these diversification policies. Even as COVID-related restrictions fade, 84% of supply chain organizations report delays in cross-border transportation. If supply chains can source materials or products closer to their destination, these obstacles are less concerning.

Diversification will take time. Like with technology, supply chains should approach this strategy slowly to maximize benefits while minimizing disruption.

Tackling Substance Abuse

Policy changes around the workforce often go overlooked, but they’re essential to supply chain optimization. One of the most pressing employee policy issues in this industry is substance
abuse. More than 20 million people in America struggle with addiction, costing the economy $400 billion annually.

Substance abuse is more common in jobs with long hours, high stress, and repetitive work, like many in supply chains. Employers should address these issues to improve worker health, attendance, and productivity.

In-cab breathalyzers can lock ignitions unless drivers pass a sobriety test, helping supply chains tackle substance abuse on the job. Warehouses and other facilities should also provide resources to help workers struggling with addiction, such as posting helplines or helping pay for wellness programs.

Catering to Worker Needs and Wants

Along similar lines, supply chains should focus on fostering a positive, engaged workforce. The nation faces a substantial labor shortage, with 11.3 million open jobs and fewer workers to fill those positions. Supply chain organizations must emphasize hiring and retention strategies to mitigate this challenge and remain productive.

Many workers leaving their roles do so because recent events have highlighted their unideal working conditions. If companies can listen to what the workforce needs and wants, then cater to those demands, then they can attract and retain more employees.

These policies may involve pay increases, better benefits, more flexible schedules, or career advancement opportunities. It’s also important to ensure workers know their employers value their voice. Businesses should create a system for workers to voice their concerns and address common suggestions.

Simple Policy Changes Can Make a Considerable Difference

Policy changes don’t have to be extreme to produce considerable improvements in the long run. If more supply chains make these adjustments, the industry will become more efficient, resilient, and profitable.

These seven changes are far from the only strategies supply chains can implement, but they’re an excellent starting point. Organizations should see how they can apply these in their
operations, then continue looking for opportunities to improve.

international

How Supply Chain Employees Can Simplify International Travel: 8 Tips

Travel is an unavoidable part of supply chain operations. Supply chains often reach across borders, involving parties in multiple countries, making international travel a necessity to cooperate with these global partners.

Travel spending is increasing for medium and small businesses as COVID-related restrictions loosen. Organizations beginning to think about these trips should simplify them to keep expenses and disruptions to a minimum. Here are eight tips for supply chain employees to ease international travel.

1. Reserve Travel, Lodging and Activities Early

One of the most important considerations for international travel is reserving things ahead of time. That applies to travel, lodging and anything employees want to eat or do at their destination.

The earlier companies can make reservations, the more options they’ll have. Businesses will have an easier time finding the most streamlined routes to their destinations. Planning has financial benefits, too. The best time to buy airline tickets is four months to three weeks before the departure date, as they tend to be cheapest during this period.

Employees that have reservations for dining and activities will find it easier to pack light. These plans remove uncertainty, helping travelers decide what they do and don’t need.

2. Read up on Regulations

Regulatory considerations are another important factor in international travel. Employees that don’t know what they’ll need to meet other countries’ travel requirements or laws will likely run
into complications. By contrast, understanding local regulations means they can prepare to meet them as efficiently as possible.
This applies to the return trip, as well. The U.S. may have stricter international travel restrictions than the destination, even for citizens. The last thing employers want is to get stuck at security
coming back from their trip. Businesses must stay on top of developing regulations in both locations to streamline travel.

3. Pack for Versatility

Packing light is an excellent way to simplify international travel. The less employees bring with them, the less time they’ll have to spend finding what they need as they unpack. Any security stops and baggage checks will also go by more quickly.

The key to packing light is to opt for versatility. Instead of bringing multiple clothing items for different occasions, employees should bring attire they could dress up or down to fit various scenarios. Travelers can apply the same principle to electronics, toiletries and other items.

Packing for versatility will also help prevent unnecessary expenses. Overweight baggage fees cost between $100 and $200 on average, so encouraging employees to pack light can save businesses a lot in the long run.

4. Choose the Right Bag

Employees should choose their luggage carefully. They want something large enough to hold everything they’ll need for their trip but small enough to enable easy handling. Security, weight and organizational features are other important considerations for international travel.

Generally speaking, hard-sided security bags are often the best option. These cases are virtually impervious to thieves, can withstand any jostling they experience during the trip and
won’t expand too widely as employees pack them. Employees should also look for colors that stand out to reduce any confusion at baggage claims, further streamlining their trip.

5. Consider Flying Private

It makes more sense for some companies to fly private than to book commercial flights. Since businesses can choose when to leave with a private plane, they don’t have to worry about delays or cancellations. Similarly, they can use smaller, less crowded airports that many larger aircraft can’t. Having more options can reduce travel time, especially when going through customs.

It may seem counterintuitive, but flying private can save travelers money, as well. Over time, it may be more affordable to buy a private plane outright than to pay for frequent business class tickets. This also enables more flexible schedules, potentially avoiding extra nights in hotels and the fees that come with them.

6. Stay Organized

Supply chain employees should be as organized as possible, regardless of how they fly. The less organized a bag is, the more time travelers may spend looking for what they need. That can make them rushed or late to meetings or hold them up at security checkpoints at the airport.

Employees can organize their baggage whichever way makes it easiest for them, but generally speaking, items they’ll need first or often should be the easiest to access. Along those lines, it may be better to carry passports, other forms of ID and tickets on-person instead of in a bag.

Workers should also be organized in their plans, having a set schedule to reduce decision-making delays.

7. Carry Cash

Many international travelers run into money issues, so supply chain businesses should prepare for these complications. Remember that 41% of banks use AI to detect transaction fraud.

Purchases in other countries may look suspicious to these algorithms, leading them to pause cards. Using travel cards or informing banks of plans ahead of time can help, but carrying cash
is a more reliable solution.

International travel brings too many complications for electronic transactions to be reliable. Cash is simple and free of these considerations, so employees should always travel with some.
International airports have money exchanges if they need to convert their money into a different currency.

8. Maintain Communication

Supply chain management should keep in regular contact with traveling employees. Unexpected disruptions or delays can arise, even with sufficient preparation. Quick, effective communication channels help workers adapt to these situations.

Traveling employees should contact their company at least daily, whether through phone, email or instant messaging platform. That way, all parties can stay on top of ongoing developments and respond faster to any news. Workers should also have a way to contact support immediately if they need to in an emergency.
Both parties should go over communication protocols and services before the trip. Having a predefined plan for who to contact in different situations will minimize confusion and delays if
something happens.

International Travel Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

International travel carries some unique considerations, but they don’t have to be disruptive. Proper planning ensures supply chain employees have minimal trouble traveling overseas.
These eight steps aren’t a definitive list of what businesses can do to simplify international travel, but they’re the most important. Companies and their workers that follow these guidelines will find international business trips can be quick, affordable and easy.

resignation

How Is “The Great Resignation” Affecting America’s Supply Chain?

“The Great Resignation” has created a significant labor shortage in the United States and across the world. Workers have quite their jobs en masse, seeking new positions with better benefits, higher pay and opportunities for remote work.

In 2021, 47.4 million workers in the U.S. left their jobs – a record number, including more than 11 million in industries such as logistics and retail. Businesses are struggling to keep their doors open with skeleton crews or closing them entirely because there aren’t enough employees to keep their company operational.

This change might seem like a boon for workers and a negative for business owners, but these mass resignations impact more than just a company’s ability to keep the doors open and the lights on. With that in mind, how is the Great Resignation affecting the American supply chain?

What Caused the Great Resignation?

Understanding the impact of the Great Resignation begins with understanding what caused so many people to quit their jobs and leave the workforce behind in the first place.

The reasoning varies from person to person, but a Pew Research Center survey found similarities between the cases. People who quit cited:

● Low pay (63%)
● No advancement opportunities (63%)
● Disrespect in the workplace (57%)
● Childcare issues (48%)
● No flexibility (45%)
● Poor benefits (43%)

Other variables include cases where employees were either over- or under-scheduled or those with employers who required them to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. These all sound like reasonably straightforward issues – things business owners could rectify if they chose to – but another challenge lies ahead.

Choose Two: Profit, Efficiency, Stability

Most modern businesses aren’t built on a sustainable model. Of the three points listed above, they most often choose profitability and efficiency, sacrificing stability when it comes to labor.

Employers, especially those that function off what would be considered “low-skilled” jobs aren’t concerned with keeping employees. Employee turnover for these entry-level positions saves them money and helps them pad their bottom lines because, if they replace their entire staff every couple of years, they don’t have to worry about raises.

With rising costs and economists estimating the average person will need to spend an extra $5,200 this year because of rising inflation, people can’t afford to languish in thankless jobs that don’t offer any options for advancement. Thus, the Great Resignation was born. The impacts of this movement are stretching a lot further than most people realize and it’s a lot broader than a “closed because of staffing issues” sign at local fast-food restaurants.

Immediate Impacts of the Great Resignation

It’s not just the end of the supply chain suffering because of the Great Resignation. Upwards of 20% of those who quit their jobs during 2021 left careers in the transportation, logistics, retail,
and wholesale industries.

It’s compounded other problems, such as the truck driver shortage that has impacted the trucking industry in recent years. The industry is currently short about 80,000 truck drivers. And as experienced drivers reach retirement age – with no new blood to replace them – that number will continue to climb. Autonomous electric trucks could help offset some of this shortage, but they aren’t ready for mass deployment.

These sectors have nearly 2 million job openings they can’t fill, impacting every aspect of the supply chain. 2021 saw an inflation rate of 7.0%, higher than it’s been in 39 years, which is driving up the costs of necessities like food.

Unfortunately, these impacts are predominantly only affecting the working class. Corporate pre-tax profits jumped by 25% year-over-year to a mind-blowing $2.81 trillion. When taxes get included, it jumps even higher – up 37% year over year, the most massive growth recorded since the Federal Reserve started tracking profits back in 1948.

Looming Consequences

It’s difficult to project the long-term consequences the Great Resignation might have on supply chains, but trends are starting to emerge that paint a clearer picture.

Inflation is higher than it’s been in decades and it’s expected to keep climbing. Gas prices, for example, are solidly above $4 a gallon as of May 2022 and will remain there for some time. Part of this is due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, but that isn’t the only variable. Food prices will likely continue to rise. If labor shortages in the logistics sector continue, shortages – especially in rural areas or those considered “food deserts” – will become more frequent.
Many of those who left the workforce during the Great Resignation may not have the option to return. This isn’t due to a lack of opportunities but rather a lack of affordable childcare. More
women quit their jobs than men during 2021 and with many childcare facilities closing or implementing strict new rules to cope with the new COVID-19 variants, many are struggling to reenter the workforce.

Fixing the Problem

What can employers do to help avert a potential supply chain crisis caused by the Great Resignation? The answer is simple, but with the current state of employment in the United States, it’s not likely to be implemented quickly or easily.

Employers need to start offering higher pay – an actual living wage. With inflation, $15 an hour is not a living wage anywhere in the United States. In the least-expensive state in the country,
someone would have to work for 72 weeks at $15 an hour to cover basic family expenses.

Other requirements for attracting and retaining good employees might include:

● Competitive benefits.
● Flexible working arrangements, including remote or hybrid work where appropriate.
● Collaborative work environments.
● A focus on emotional intelligence.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means, and many of the problems are things that might fall on state or federal governments to fix, such as the federal minimum wage. Other solutions are things that employers may not have considered, such as making employee mental health a priority or fostering a culture of care. Offering better childcare options or benefits could also help to bring parents back into the workforce.

Building a Brighter Future

The Great Resignation will impact supply chains and life in general for some time to come. Until it’s resolved, consumers will face higher prices on consumables and more material shortages.

Instead of looking at it as an attack, employers and legislators need to consider it a wake-up call.

It is possible to fix these problems, but it won’t come easy. Building a brighter future is something everyone can and should work toward – together as equals.

drivers

Preparing for Motor Vehicle Accidents in the Supply Chain: 7 Strategies

Every supply chain needs to prepare for motor vehicle accidents. While large truck crashes are less common than those involving passenger cars, they still caused more than 4,000 deaths in 2019 alone. Even when they don’t cause death or injury, these incidents can lead to substantial delays and cause injuries to drivers.

Thankfully, supply chain managers can take many steps to prevent and mitigate road accidents.

Here are seven strategies for preparing for these incidents.

Preparing to Prevent Accidents

The most effective way to mitigate traffic accidents is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Supply chains can’t stop other drivers on the road from crashing, but they can minimize risks from their own vehicles and drivers. These steps are critical, as they simultaneously make roads safer and reduce delays.

These four strategies are among the most important and effective to prevent accidents from the beginning.

Perform Background Checks

The most common causes of traffic collisions are driver inattention, speeding and distractions, like fatigue and alcohol or drug impairment. All these factors share a common thread: driver behavior. Consequently, supply chain organizations can minimize their accident risk by hiring better drivers.

Businesses should perform thorough background checks on all driver candidates. Specific records to look for include prior accidents and traffic violations. Some of these, like speeding
tickets, may not be deal-breakers, but others, like intoxicated driving or multiple accidents, should disqualify applicants.

Supply chains can also use these records to inform retraining programs. If a driver has a few accidents in their history, managers can focus on the underlying causes during onboarding.

Keep up With Vehicle Maintenance

Driver behavior may be the most common cause of accidents, but supply chains should address others, too. Vehicle maintenance is another crucial consideration, as even seemingly insignificant maintenance factors can endanger drivers. Even windshield wipers can block people’s line of sight if not changed regularly.

Supply chains should adopt a proactive approach to maintenance, fixing common issues before they grow and endanger drivers. Operating on a set schedule is good, but using Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to enable predictive maintenance is better. These sensors alert workers when something will need care so they can fix it before it becomes a significant problem.

Use Vehicle Safety Devices

Several technologies today can also keep vehicles safer by providing more information to drivers and automating some processes. Blindside sensors, camera systems and automatic emergency braking are included in some newer cars, but they’re also available as separate systems. Supply chains can modify their trucks with these add-ons if they don’t feature them already.

Safety devices like these are no substitute for proper driver training, but they help account for momentary lapses in judgment. Even experienced drivers may get distracted or make mistakes, but these systems will help ensure these errors don’t become fatal. Automatic braking alone has reduced front impact crashes by 27% in some studies.

Monitor Driving Behavior With Telematics

Supply chains can also use new technologies to monitor driver behavior. Telematics systems can record and share data like speeds, braking, lane changes and other driver choices. Collecting and analyzing this information can help reduce insurance rates and reveal how drivers act on the road.

Businesses can reward drivers with excellent driving records to encourage safe behavior. Conversely, they can penalize risky behavior and tailor retraining sessions according to emerging safety trends. These steps will ensure drivers remain safe throughout their careers.

Preparing for Accident Response

Supply chain organizations should do all they can to prevent motor vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to believe that these measures will be 100% effective at stopping crashes. There are roughly 6 million car crashes in the U.S. every year, and many of these happen despite thorough safety steps.

Businesses can’t control how other drivers on the road might act or how the weather may develop. These indirect factors can cause accidents regardless of a company’s safety measures, so it’s also important to prepare to respond to them. Here are three ways how.

Equip Vehicles With Cameras

Insurance is one of the most important resources for mitigating crash costs, and cameras are one of the most helpful tools. Equipping all vehicles with dashboard and rear-view cameras provides evidence of what happened in an accident. Involved parties, police and claims adjusters can review these videos to inform their actions.

Camera feeds will help determine fault in an accident instead of pitting testimonies against one another. This reduces costs for companies when their drivers aren’t at fault and streamlines the
insurance claim process. Without that definitive evidence, claims could take months to settle.

Provide Resources for Drivers in Accidents

Supply chain companies must also have resources for their drivers involved in accidents. Most importantly, they must provide medical care. Keeping emergency kits in vehicles can help provide immediate care, and competitive health insurance can help drivers cover the costs of their ongoing needs.

Medical care should cover more than just tending to immediate injuries. It can take days or even weeks for some symptoms to present, and seemingly smaller factors can affect drivers’ daily
lives. Physical therapy resources can help them overcome these injuries, enabling quick, effective recovery.

Have a Reliable Communication System in Place

Studies show that longer response times show a strong correlation with mortality in motor vehicle accidents. Consequently, supply chain organizations must ensure reliable, efficient communication systems to report crashes.

IoT technologies can detect a crash and immediately contact emergency response services. If companies’ trucks don’t have these features built-in, they can find standalone versions to implement in their vehicles. They should also adjust these devices to alert supply chain management.

When an accident occurs, supply chain managers should contact the driver to see if they’re OK and learn what they need. It’s also important to inform other drivers to reroute them if necessary
and inform other parties about possible delays.

Minimize Vehicle Accident Risks

Motor vehicle accidents are dangerous, and even when they’re not, they can cause substantial damage and disruption. Preparing for these events will help supply chains mitigate this impact.

These seven strategies will help companies prevent and respond to crashes. Supply chains that do that can protect their drivers and others on the road and minimize delays and operating costs. This risk reduction is crucial to supply chain success.

fleet demand

7 Ways Fleet Managers Can Leverage Data to Improve the Supply Chain

“Data is the new oil” is a common catchphrase among business leaders today. It’s more than a string of buzzwords, too, as digital data’s value continues to skyrocket and unlock new possibilities. Still, data won’t provide any value by itself. Companies have to know how to apply it.

Fleet managers have much to gain from data if they leverage it correctly. Here are seven of the most impactful ways they can use data to improve the supply chain.

1. Planning More Efficient Routes

Route optimization is perhaps the most recognizable use case for data in fleet management. UPS has famously saved 100 million miles per year through ORION, its data-based route planning platform. Systems like ORION analyze real-time data to find the most efficient path, saving time, fuel, and money.

Fleets can gather data from GPS networks, transit authorities, weather systems, and other cars on the road. Analytics platforms can then use this data to provide a more accurate, timely picture of traffic and road conditions. Those insights help these systems find the best path forward, even when that’s not necessarily the shortest route by distance.

Real-time data lets fleets account for road closures, inclement weather, and traffic. Drivers can then follow the most efficient routes possible every time, minimizing travel time and costs.

2. Predicting Inventory and Demand Shifts

Supply chains are infamously fragile, largely because they’re prone to disruption but lack the insight to predict these challenges. Fleet managers can counter that by using data analytics to recognize potential disruptions as they arise, informing quicker responses.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can find connections between complex and seemingly disparate data points that humans often miss. In supply chain management, these insights can reveal demand and inventory trends. Analytics algorithms can alert managers when a demand spike may be coming so they can adjust their ordering accordingly and prevent shortages.

Amazon uses an anticipatory shipping system that predicts when customers will want an item, pushing them into the delivery network before users even purchase them. Some bakeries use weather analytics to indicate shifting demand because of the weather. Insights like this can help supply chains become more resilient.

3. Enabling Predictive Maintenance

Maintenance is crucial for efficient fleet operation, and data can improve these processes, too. Internet of things (IoT) sensors can gather data on engine vibrations, temperatures, and other maintenance factors. They can then alert workers when the vehicle will need repair in a practice called predictive maintenance.

Predictive maintenance helps catch vehicle health concerns before they become more costly and dangerous. It also improves on traditional, schedule-based preventive care by eliminating unnecessary servicing.

Vehicles can drive up to 100,000 miles before some maintenance is necessary, but others may not. It all depends on the specific factors at hand, which predictive maintenance accounts for. These data-centric repair practices offer the optimal balance between costs and vehicle safety.

4. Tracking Driver Behavior

Drivers’ actions on the road can influence many other factors, from truck health to operating costs. Traditionally, fleet managers had to address these behavioral concerns through training and background checks before hiring, which doesn’t guarantee ongoing success. Using data from telematics systems enables a more effective approach.

Telematics solutions can let fleet managers track driver speeds, braking habits, seatbelt usage, cornering issues, and more. This data provides an up-to-date picture of driver behavior, helping managers recognize commendable performance and address unsafe driving. They can then tailor feedback to specific drivers to promote better driving habits.

One study found that 69% of fleet managers noticed an improvement in driving behavior after implementing telematics. As driving habits improve, so will cost efficiency and safety from fewer accidents and lower fuel consumption.

5. Managing Fuel Costs

Fuel is often one of the highest expenses for vehicle fleets and an effectively unavoidable one. While fleet managers may not be able to eliminate fuel costs outside of electric vehicles, they can minimize them through data analytics. Data from various sources can reveal paths to reduce fuel consumption and costs.

IoT and telematics tracking in trucks can reveal whether specific vehicles use more fuel than others. Fleet managers can then perform repairs to make them more fuel-efficient or replace
them with newer, more economical alternatives. Similarly, data over time can highlight which routes lead to the highest diesel consumption, informing future route planning.

Other data-centric improvements will help manage fuel costs as a secondary benefit. Route optimization, predictive maintenance, and driver habit correction will all result in lower fuel consumption, keeping expenses low.

6. Monitoring Shipment Quality

IoT devices can also help fleet managers monitor data about shipment quality. Many products may deteriorate in some conditions during transport, leading to waste. Data can reveal when
situations arise that may jeopardize shipments, informing immediate action to save them and prevent waste.

Lack of transparency leads to billions of dollars of pharmaceutical products shipping at improper temperatures or arriving past their shelf life from delays. IoT temperature trackers can provide real-time data about refrigerated shipments’ temperature, alerting drivers and managers when it gets too high. Companies can then adjust routes to deliver that shipment to a closer location where they can store it properly, avoiding waste.

These sensors can help protect food, plants, and other perishable shipments, too. Supply chains can effectively prevent product waste in transportation.

7. Improving Customer Service

All of these data use cases will also help fleet managers improve their customer relationships. Each of these applications will reduce operating expenses and improve efficiency, which translates into lower costs and wait times for clients. Fleet managers will build a more satisfied and loyal client base as a result.

Improved efficiency is particularly important for B2C (business to community) fleet operations. Studies show that 65% of U.S. consumers expect two- to three-day delivery speeds, but only
29% of companies have that as a goal. Fleet managers can meet these high expectations through data-based route optimization and inventory management.

B2B clients will also appreciate the improved speed, lower costs, and reduced waste. These savings will help them deliver more value to their customers, so they’ll be more likely to partner with fleets who can provide them.

Data Is an Indispensable Resource for Fleet Managers

Data can be one of a fleet manager’s most valuable assets if they know how to use it effectively. These seven use cases can help fleets become safer, more efficient, and less wasteful, despite ongoing supply chain challenges. As supply chain resiliency becomes increasingly crucial, fleet managers must capitalize on data’s potential.

How to Identify and Address Productivity Gaps Among Supply Chain Employees

How to Identify and Address Productivity Gaps Among Supply Chain Employees

Productivity has always been a leading concern for supply chain companies. As the industry grows increasingly competitive and faces mounting disruptions, it’s become an even more pressing concern.

A recent survey found that nine in ten supply chain leaders say they need to increase hiring to meet peak demand. Ongoing labor shortages can make that difficult, so organizations must also make the most of their current workforce. They need to maximize their productivity.

Boosting productivity begins with finding areas where it needs improvement. Here’s how supply chains can identify and address productivity gaps.

Identifying Productivity Gaps

It can be difficult to know where to begin with productivity optimization. Supply chain leaders may feel they’re already at their peak efficiency. Alternatively, they may notice room to improve but not understand what specifically to address.

Supply chain organizations can identify productivity gaps through a few different means. Going through these three processes and comparing the results can help uncover where the most critical areas to address are.

Benchmark Against Competitors

The first step in finding productivity gaps is comparing key performance indicators (KPIs) to competitors. Recent SEC guidance requires KPIs to come with disclosures like clear metric definitions and how a company calculates them. Companies can take that information to understand their competitors’ success and how they measure it.

Once supply chain organizations have these benchmarks, they can compare them to their own KPIs. It’s important to account for any discrepancies between the companies’ metrics and measuring techniques to provide the most accurate comparison.

Comparing KPIs can reveal where some productivity gaps may lie. Even if a company outperforms competitors overall, it may fall behind its benchmarks in one or two specific areas. Those areas could be home to productivity pain points. While these differences can arise from many places, any shortcoming warrants further investigation.

Compare Goals to Results

Next, supply chain leaders can look internally. A company may perform well compared to others in the industry, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Reviewing goals and how recent results compare to those targets can reveal more shortcomings.

The easiest way to perform this analysis is to compare current KPIs to past goals. Has the company met the targets they’ve set in the past? Are they on track to meet future goals? The categories that show the largest discrepancies between expectations and results are likely where the largest productivity gaps lie.

It’s important to break KPIs into specific categories to isolate problem areas. At the same time, businesses must also map the relationships between KPIs to see how they affect each other. One category’s performance may hinge on another’s, so it’s important to understand these relationships.

Survey Employees

Employees are an excellent but often overlooked resource for identifying productivity gaps. While workers may not have a complete picture of management processes, they understand their specific workflows intimately. This familiarity can give them insight into areas for improvement that management lacks.

Studies show that happy workers are 13% more productive, so the source of lackluster performance may lie in employee satisfaction. Regular surveys and interviews can help reveal which factors impact this satisfaction, both positively and negatively. Common themes between workers’ responses are likely key productivity blockers.

Similarly, employee surveys can ask about workflow improvements that workers think could help. It’s highly likely that at least one worker has noticed how part of a process slows their work down. If multiple employees talk about the same process hindering their productivity, it’s worth looking into.

Addressing Productivity Gaps

After identifying productivity gaps, supply chain organizations must work to fix them. The most effective strategy will depend on the specific gap in question, but these generally fall into a few distinct categories. Adjustments in training, work environments and technology can maximize productivity in virtually every area.

Emphasize Training

Productivity gaps often result from skills gaps. That could mean that employees lack technical knowledge and abilities to streamline their work, or it could apply to soft skills. In either case, more comprehensive training can help remove these productivity barriers.

Seemingly small adjustments can make a considerable difference here. For example, teaching warehouse employees proper lifting techniques and the importance of using them can prevent burnout from repetitive stress. Employees will then be able to work longer before getting tired, maximizing their productivity.

Similar methods can work with office staff, too. Employees should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of looking at a computer screen. This will reduce eye strain, preventing the loss of productivity and focus that comes with it. Teaching office employees tips like this can help them consistently perform their best.

Address the Work Environment and Culture

A distracting work environment is another common cause of productivity loss in supply chains. Softer but more consistent lighting and comfortable working temperatures can minimize environmental distractions that hinder productivity. Similarly, white-noise machines can drown out distracting noise in office settings.

Workplace culture plays a substantial role in this area, too. One of the most important things to address in this regard is communication. Employees and managers must consistently communicate so everyone knows what others expect of them and people learn of changes or issues faster. Holding regular meetings and using instant messaging platforms can help.

Making sure the workplace is engaging and empowering is another crucial step. Listen to employees to learn what they need or would appreciate to feel more respected and engaged. When workers feel satisfied in their work environment, they’ll be more productive.

Capitalize on Technology

If workplaces face more concrete productivity challenges, technology may be the answer. Automation is one of the best tools for improving productivity, as it minimizes repetitive, non-value-adding tasks, letting employees accomplish more and remain engaged.

Some of the most valuable automation applications in warehouses are picking and material moving. Walking accounts for more than 50% of picking time, so these workflows are ripe for automation. Robots can easily handle many of these processes, and human workers can then focus on other, less inefficient tasks.

Automation can benefit office workers, too. Robotic process automation (RPA) can handle repetitive tasks like scheduling, data entry and file organization to give employees more time to perform more value-adding work. Programs that consolidate multiple processes to reduce clicking between windows are also helpful.

Optimizing Productivity Starts With Finding Gaps

Supply chains today must be agile, but to achieve that, they must address shortcomings within their operations. Recognizing where they can improve is the first step to becoming more productive.

When supply chain leaders understand and follow these steps, they can make the most of their workforce. They can then accomplish more work in less time, outperforming their competitors and ensuring future success.

trucking myth

Creating an Employee Care Package for Trucking Employees

Trucking professionals are indispensable global workforce members. Goods wouldn’t reach their destinations without them, leaving consumers everywhere seeing nothing but empty shelves at their favorite stores.

However, sometimes, these hard-working people who spend much of their time on the road can forget how much they’re needed and appreciated. That reality opens an excellent opportunity for their employers to make care packages for their team members. Here are some great gifts to consider for anyone in the trucking industry.

Seat Cushions

Being a professional truck driver means spending a lot of time seated. More specifically, federal trucking limits in the United States stipulate that a person can drive for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours before going into a mandated 10-hour off-duty period.

Being in the same position for so many hours at a time can cause a person to develop pressure points. However, specialized seat cushions can help drivers stay comfortable while they’re behind the wheel. Some seat cushions for truckers provide extra lumbar support. That makes them ideal for people who already deal with back discomfort or want to avoid developing it as a consequence of the job. However, others don’t have built-in backrests.

Many options also exist concerning what provides the necessary support to the user. Some are inflatable, but there are also memory foam and gel-filled possibilities. Choosing the outer material for the cushion is also important. Buyers should keep comfort and user-friendliness in mind by considering things like whether the fabric is extra soft, has moisture-wicking capabilities or a washable cover.

Anti-Sleep Alert Products

Even drivers who do everything they can to stay well-rested will inevitably have some instances where they start to feel sleepy. Unfortunately, if a person experiencing that doesn’t act in time, the sleepiness could result in disastrous consequences.

Data from the U.S.National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated there were 697 fatalities caused by crashes associated with drowsy driving in 2019. Avoiding such accidents starts with encouraging drivers to take rest breaks when they start to feel tired. However, people don’t always know how tired they are until they begin nodding off.

That’s why people should consider adding an anti-sleep alarm to a care package for trucking team members. These small and lightweight accessories attach to various parts of the body, including the hands, behind the ear and the neck. They detect signs that people are getting tired, then emit audible warnings.

After hearing them, drivers would realize it’s time to pull over and take steps that’ll help them become more alert. However, feeling permitted to stop when necessary has a lot to do with the company culture. If a driver feels they will receive negative repercussions for resting when they truly need a break, some may try to push themselves too far.

Branded Coffee Mugs

When truck drivers need perking up during a long shift, coffee is usually one of the most accessible ways to get it. That’s why a coffee mug is a thoughtful item for a trucking care package. Statistics show that 62% of adults in the United States drink coffee daily.

However, the people giving these products to team members should go beyond picking a standard type sold in many online and physical stores. It’s ideal if the mug’s design features the employer’s name, logo, contact details and other specifics. Having an accessory like that helps a person take pride in where they work while appreciating the practicality of the present.

A branded coffee mug could also be an excellent recruitment tool. Truck drivers typically make from $50,000-$100,000 annually depending on experience and the nature of their duties. Those that your team member encounters at truck stops, hotels or otherwise along a route may be interested in working for a new company for various reasons.

A branded coffee mug is a smart way to promote a trucking company to others. It could all happen naturally while the recipient drinks their cup of joe while on a break. It’s also a good gift for people who aren’t coffee drinkers. After all, a person could use it for tea or even water. Staying hydrated is an essential part of remaining healthy while on the road.

Organizational Gifts

A truck is the driver’s home while they’re on the road. A clean desk can help office workers stay productive, and the same is true for a person who spends their time behind the wheel for work. Many professional truckers get creative with their methods. For example, Velcro strips are handy for attaching hard products, like boxes, to flat surfaces. However, there are also plenty of purposeful gifts that can help a trucker achieve an organizational level that helps them feel more comfortable and less stressed.

Many of them help people make the most of available space, such as by featuring designs that let storage containers hang over the back of a seat. A hanging toiletry bag is also a useful gift to include in a trucking care package, especially since so many professionals spend days on the road at a time. People choosing these gifts should also think about whether the budget might allow for getting an organizer monogrammed or adding another type of personalization.

It’s not always easy to know which challenges people encounter most while trying to get their trucks organized. Similarly, it may not be feasible to buy different products for each care package recipient depending on their needs. An alternative is to take a survey and find out what kinds of products would help recipients best stay organized. Then, purchase the items of most benefit to the largest number of truckers at the company.

12-Volt Coolers

Trying to have fast-food for every meal as a trucker likely isn’t sustainable from a financial point of view, and it’s not an ideal option for long-term health. That’s why many truckers prepare meals before going out on the road. After that, they need somewhere to keep them until it’s time to eat.

That’s why a 12-volt cooler is another fantastic addition to a care package for trucking professionals. Then, people can keep food cold without ice by plugging these gadgets into the truck’s cigarette lighter.

Some coolers even have settings that allow people to keep food hot, too. Others have extra-long cords that give people more flexibility in where they place the cooler inside the truck.

As people browse for coolers to give truckers, they’ll get the best results by trying to envision themselves in the position of the recipients. Some of the administrative members at a trucking company may never spend the hours driving per day that the professional drivers do. However, imagining the features or design choices that users would find most valuable will increase the chances that recipients genuinely love their coolers and use them during all their trips.

Delight Trucking Professionals With These Ideas

The suggestions here will get people off to a good start as they shop for items to put into a trucking employee care package. When these professionals get reminders of how they’re valued members of the workforce, they’re more likely to have higher morale, which could cause associated benefits, such as better productivity and safer driving.

supply chain MHI

How to Identify and Address Productivity Gaps Among Supply Chain Employees

Productivity has always been a leading concern for supply chain companies. As the industry grows increasingly competitive and faces mounting disruptions, it’s become an even more pressing concern.

A recent survey found that nine in ten supply chain leaders say they need to increase hiring to meet peak demand. Ongoing labor shortages can make that difficult, so organizations must also make the most of their current workforce. They need to maximize their productivity.

Boosting productivity begins with finding areas where it needs improvement. Here’s how supply chains can identify and address productivity gaps.


 

Identifying Productivity Gaps

It can be difficult to know where to begin with productivity optimization. Supply chain leaders may feel they’re already at their peak efficiency. Alternatively, they may notice room to improve but not understand what specifically to address.

Supply chain organizations can identify productivity gaps through a few different means. Going through these three processes and comparing the results can help uncover where the most critical areas to address are.

Benchmark Against Competitors

The first step in finding productivity gaps is comparing key performance indicators (KPIs) to competitors. Recent SEC guidance requires KPIs to come with disclosures like clear metric definitions and how a company calculates them. Companies can take that information to understand their competitors’ success and how they measure it.

Once supply chain organizations have these benchmarks, they can compare them to their own KPIs. It’s important to account for any discrepancies between the companies’ metrics and measuring techniques to provide the most accurate comparison.

Comparing KPIs can reveal where some productivity gaps may lie. Even if a company outperforms competitors overall, it may fall behind its benchmarks in one or two specific areas. Those areas could be home to productivity pain points. While these differences can arise from many places, any shortcoming warrants further investigation.

Compare Goals to Results

Next, supply chain leaders can look internally. A company may perform well compared to others in the industry, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. Reviewing goals and how recent results compare to those targets can reveal more shortcomings.

The easiest way to perform this analysis is to compare current KPIs to past goals. Has the company met the targets they’ve set in the past? Are they on track to meet future goals? The categories that show the largest discrepancies between expectations and results are likely where the largest productivity gaps lie.

It’s important to break KPIs into specific categories to isolate problem areas. At the same time, businesses must also map the relationships between KPIs to see how they affect each other. One category’s performance may hinge on another’s, so it’s important to understand these relationships.

Survey Employees

Employees are an excellent but often overlooked resource for identifying productivity gaps. While workers may not have a complete picture of management processes, they understand their specific workflows intimately. This familiarity can give them insight into areas for improvement that management lacks.

Studies show that happy workers are 13% more productive, so the source of lackluster performance may lie in employee satisfaction. Regular surveys and interviews can help reveal which factors impact this satisfaction, both positively and negatively. Common themes between workers’ responses are likely key productivity blockers.

Similarly, employee surveys can ask about workflow improvements that workers think could help. It’s highly likely that at least one worker has noticed how part of a process slows their work down. If multiple employees talk about the same process hindering their productivity, it’s worth looking into.

Addressing Productivity Gaps

After identifying productivity gaps, supply chain organizations must work to fix them. The most effective strategy will depend on the specific gap in question, but these generally fall into a few distinct categories. Adjustments in training, work environments and technology can maximize productivity in virtually every area.

Emphasize Training

Productivity gaps often result from skills gaps. That could mean that employees lack technical knowledge and abilities to streamline their work, or it could apply to soft skills. In either case, more comprehensive training can help remove these productivity barriers.

Seemingly small adjustments can make a considerable difference here. For example, teaching warehouse employees proper lifting techniques and the importance of using them can prevent burnout from repetitive stress. Employees will then be able to work longer before getting tired, maximizing their productivity.

Similar methods can work with office staff, too. Employees should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of looking at a computer screen. This will reduce eye strain, preventing the loss of productivity and focus that comes with it. Teaching office employees tips like this can help them consistently perform their best.

Address the Work Environment and Culture

A distracting work environment is another common cause of productivity loss in supply chains. Softer but more consistent lighting and comfortable working temperatures can minimize environmental distractions that hinder productivity. Similarly, white-noise machines can drown out distracting noise in office settings.

Workplace culture plays a substantial role in this area, too. One of the most important things to address in this regard is communication. Employees and managers must consistently communicate so everyone knows what others expect of them and people learn of changes or issues faster. Holding regular meetings and using instant messaging platforms can help.

Making sure the workplace is engaging and empowering is another crucial step. Listen to employees to learn what they need or would appreciate to feel more respected and engaged. When workers feel satisfied in their work environment, they’ll be more productive.

Capitalize on Technology

If workplaces face more concrete productivity challenges, technology may be the answer. Automation is one of the best tools for improving productivity, as it minimizes repetitive, non-value-adding tasks, letting employees accomplish more and remain engaged.

Some of the most valuable automation applications in warehouses are picking and material moving. Walking accounts for more than 50% of picking time, so these workflows are ripe for automation. Robots can easily handle many of these processes, and human workers can then focus on other, less inefficient tasks.

Automation can benefit office workers, too. Robotic process automation (RPA) can handle repetitive tasks like scheduling, data entry and file organization to give employees more time to perform more value-adding work. Programs that consolidate multiple processes to reduce clicking between windows are also helpful.

Optimizing Productivity Starts With Finding Gaps

Supply chains today must be agile, but to achieve that, they must address shortcomings within their operations. Recognizing where they can improve is the first step to becoming more productive.

When supply chain leaders understand and follow these steps, they can make the most of their workforce. They can then accomplish more work in less time, outperforming their competitors and ensuring future success.

truck

8 Commonly Overlooked Maintenance Tasks in Modern Truck Fleets

Maintenance is a crucial part of managing any fleet. Professionals know this going into the industry, and regular repair schedules are a standard part of most fleets’ operations, but many may not be thorough enough.

While most fleet managers understand the importance of changing their oil and rotating their tires, other maintenance tasks go overlooked. Here are eight commonly overlooked processes that should have a spot in every maintenance checklist.

1. Checking Brake Pads

Checking brake pads to ensure they have proper thickness is a standard part of many maintenance checks. However, commercial fleets often don’t check them frequently enough.

Since long-haul trucks are 20 to 30 times heavier than average passenger vehicles, they require far more force to stop. As a result, their brake pads wear out faster than even large consumer vehicles, requiring more frequent replacements. Many brake pads can also be difficult to see on a vehicle with multiple axles, so it’s easy to skim over this process.

Commercial fleet repair professionals frequently see truck brakes worn down to the brake caliper. Considering how much costlier caliper replacements are compared to brake pads, fleets should check their brakes more often.

2. Battery Testing

Another maintenance task that often goes overlooked in commercial fleets is battery testing. While most maintenance stops include checking to ensure electronic components are working correctly, they don’t check the battery itself. This is insufficient, as there are often no external warning signs of battery life draining until it’s entirely dead.

While truck batteries last several years, long-haul shipments can take their toll on this equipment faster than some may expect. For example, vibrations break down internal battery components, so traveling over miles of roads in poor condition will deteriorate batteries. To avoid any unplanned downtime, every maintenance check should involve testing batteries and, if necessary, replacing them.

3. Considering Idle Time

Any fleet manager or driver knows the importance of changing their trucks’ oil. However, many fleets may take too long to check and change their oil because they don’t consider truck idling time.

While newer vehicles can go 7,500 to 10,000 miles between oil changes, driving isn’t the only thing that works the engine. Spending a significant amount of time idling, as most commercial trucks do, also wears out the engine and its oil. Despite this degradation, many fleets overlook it because they go by what the odometer says, which doesn’t account for idling.

To account for idle time, fleets should change their oil more frequently than they would normally. Frequent checks can help determine when oil changes should happen. Internet of things (IoT) sensors can provide even more insight, alerting drivers and managers when to change their oil.

4. Preventing Corrosion on Underride Guards

Another maintenance task that’s easy to overlook is checking for rust on underride prevention guards. Since these parts don’t actively affect a truck’s performance, they often don’t come to mind when inspecting components for corrosion. Despite that, enough corrosion could make them weak, ultimately not preventing underride accidents if a crash occurs.

Workers should always inspect underride guards closely to ensure they’re not corroding, including looking at their underside and back. If there’s some rust, workers can use a biodegradable, non-acid-based rust remover. Acid removers can be expensive and cause disposal problems, so it’s best to avoid them.

5. Refrigerated Trailer Maintenance

Fleets that use refrigerated trailers should also be careful not to overlook their refrigeration systems. If these trailers start to fail, they could lead to spoiled products, costing companies thousands and costing fleets their reputations. This maintenance can also be easy to forget about since refrigerated trailers carry unique concerns that may not be immediately apparent.

Moisture can break down insulating materials faster than normal, so teams must check for leaks and moisture inside the trailer. Similarly, they should look for any punctures or tears in the walls and ensure the trailer doors seal properly. IoT temperature sensors can help inform these inspections, alerting workers of irregular fluctuations or rising internal temperatures.

6. Testing Collision Sensors

Many newer trucks come with sensors to detect potential collisions and keep drivers aware of their surroundings. Things like automatic braking and lane departure warning have significantly reduced collisions, so they’re becoming increasingly popular. As drivers rely more heavily on these systems, fleets must ensure they work properly.

The sensors themselves are the most important part to check with these systems. If they get dirty, misaligned or broken, they may not detect what they’re supposed to accurately, potentially leading to crashes. Consequently, every maintenance stop should include checking these sensors to ensure they’re safe.

Cleaning sensors and cameras will help them achieve maximum accuracy. Workers can also pull diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) from the truck’s onboard computer to see if there are any issues.

7. Looking for Leaks in Fluid Hoses

Most maintenance stops involve checking all of a vehicle’s fluids. Part of that inspection that may go overlooked is checking the fluid hoses, not just the reservoirs. A truck may have plenty of coolant, wiper fluid, oil or other fluids, but a dipstick test may not reveal smaller leaks in the hoses that could cause problems down the line.

Fluid checks should go beyond measuring levels with a dipstick. Even if these tests reveal a reservoir is full, maintenance workers should check under the truck to see if any hoses have leaks. If they do, they should replace them immediately, as even a small leak could cause substantial problems after a long drive.

8. Downloading Software Updates

Today’s trucks are technological marvels featuring a wide array of digital technologies. Since this abundance of technology is a relatively new trend, many fleets forget that proper maintenance now includes some IT considerations. More specifically, fleets must ensure all of their trucks’ onboard software is up-to-date.

Some devices may have an option to automatically download updates, which fleets should enable. If that’s not available, drivers should regularly check for updates and download them as soon as they’re available. If one driver notices a new update, they should inform the whole fleet to everyone can ensure their trucks feature the latest software.

Since 86% of commercial fleets today use telematics, they should apply this to these devices as well. Any IoT devices need regular software updates to stay safe from cybercrime and reach optimal performance.

Don’t Overlook These Maintenance Steps

Maintenance is one of the most important parts of running a fleet. While these eight steps are not the only parts of a sufficient maintenance stop, many fleet managers overlook them, leading to unnecessarily high costs and risks. Incorporating these tasks into maintenance schedules will keep fleets efficient and safe.

truck

Preparing to De-winterize Your Truck Fleet: 8 Important Steps

Experienced fleet owners understand the importance of winterizing trucks when cold weather comes around. However, de-winterization often doesn’t get the same amount of press. Despite being a crucial step, many fleets may overlook de-winterization or rush the process.

Maintaining efficiency and minimizing maintenance costs means adapting to all weather conditions, not just the cold. Here are eight important steps to de-winterize a truck fleet.

1. Inspect for Damage

The first step in the de-winterization process is to check for any damage that might’ve occurred in the winter. As ice accumulates and then melts, it could seep into a truck’s metal parts and cause rust. De-icing chemicals on the road have a similar effect, causing $15.4 billion in rust damage over the last five years.

As the weather starts to warm, fleets should inspect their vehicles for damage like rust, chipping paint, and excess wear. Many of these hazards can be small and easily overlookable when they’re not paid attention to, but they’ll lead to more significant damage. Looking for and addressing winter damage early can help prevent larger, costlier breakdowns.

2. Check Tire Pressure and Treads

As fleets inspect their trucks, they should also address the tires. Tires will lose a significant amount of air pressure in colder weather as the air condenses. As the weather starts to warm, this could lead to severely underinflated tires or uneven inflation.

Fleets will likely have to inflate their tires more frequently as the weather changes than they would normally. Anticipating this shift can help fleets adapt their maintenance schedules to prevent uneven wear from underinflated tires.

While workers inspect truck tires, they should also pay attention to the treads. The rubber could’ve hardened in the cold, leading it to wear down faster or even crack. If fleets don’t check for this damage and replace any worn-out or cracked tires, it could cause serious accidents.

3. Look for Animals and Nests

One part of de-winterization that can easily go overlooked is checking undercarriages and engines for animals. As temperatures drop, small animals sometimes shelter in vehicles to stay warm. If they stay hidden, they could cause serious damage to a truck and may get seriously injured in the moving parts.

Fleets should inspect truck engines, wheel wells, and undercarriages for evidence of animals. If they find any, workers can get rid of them by making loud noises on the truck to scare them away or enticing them out with food. These checks should happen regularly throughout the winter, especially if some vehicles lie dormant, but they’re a critical part of de-winterization, too.

4. Change Oil and Check Other Fluids

A more obvious but still crucial de-winterization step is checking and changing the trucks’ fluids. Lighter fluids don’t thicken as easily, so many fleets switch to lighter oils in the winter. While most drivers know to make this switch, it’s important to change back to a heavier oil as the weather warms

If trucks used 0W-20 in the winter, they could switch to 5W-20 as winter ends to ensure proper lubrication. This switch shouldn’t add any time to regular maintenance schedules since fleets should already perform regular oil changes.

This step applies to other fluids, too. Fleets should check their wiper fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and – if any trucks have automatic transmissions – transmission fluid. Even if fleets don’t need to change them, they may need to replenish them.

5. Wash the Exterior

Washing fleet vehicles may seem unimportant at first, as their utility is far more important than their appearance. However, washing should be a standard part of de-winterizing fleets, not to get rid of dirt but salt and de-icing chemicals.

Since more than 70% of roads in the U.S. are in snowy regions, salt and other de-icers have likely accumulated through the winter. These materials can corrode metal parts if they sit on the vehicle for too long. Fleets can avoid breakdowns and high maintenance costs simply by washing these materials off their trucks.

Some fleets may even want to wax their trucks. While this step isn’t necessary, it can protect the trucks’ paint and prevent early corrosion.

6. Align and Balance the Wheels

As trucks stop for de-winterizing maintenance, fleets should align and balance their wheels. Fleets likely already include wheel alignments and balancing in their regular maintenance schedules, but it should be a part of de-winterization regardless.

Water that seeps into cracks in the road freezes and expands in the winter, creating more cracks and potholes. As a result, road conditions during the colder months tend to take a larger toll on truck wheels. Aligning and rebalancing them as the weather starts to warm will help avoid damage from these poor conditions, minimizing ongoing maintenance costs.

7. Check the Batteries

Another part of the truck to inspect is the battery. Batteries produce less current at low temperatures, so they have to work harder to deliver the same power in the cold. Consequently, they’ll wear out faster in the winter, so fleets should check to see if they need to change them as winter ends.

De-winterization checklists should include a battery voltage test. This will reveal if a truck’s battery has depleted faster than expected, and fleets can adjust their maintenance schedules accordingly. If batteries have seen substantial damage or drainage, it’s best to replace them ahead of time to avoid complications down the line.

8. Replace the Wiper Blades

Finally, fleets should replace all trucks’ wiper blades as the winter subsides. The rubber on these parts becomes hard in the cold, causing them to wear down and crack faster. Replacing them before heavy rains start will ensure this damage doesn’t cause more significant issues.

Even if wiper blades seem fine, it’s best to replace them during de-winterization downtime. That way, no cracks or other damage invisible to the naked eye threaten the wipers’ integrity down the line. It may also be a good idea to supply drivers with an extra pair of wiper blades in case they encounter any issues while driving.

De-winterization Is as Important as Winterization

De-winterization may not see as much conversation as winterization, but it’s just as important. If fleets overlook these maintenance steps, lingering issues from the winter or improper preparation could create larger issues. They could endanger drivers or lead to more expensive repairs in the future.

Every fleet must include de-winterization as part of its maintenance schedule. These eight steps aren’t the only things that these processes can cover, but they provide a baseline. Without these considerations, de-winterization will be insufficient.