Market dynamics evolve from a change in both supply and demand. As customer expectations change, innovation changes the way that businesses meet these expectations and vice versa.

Whereas 20 years ago, customers may have ordered goods from a catalog and waited weeks for delivery, today that same order is placed online, and the product can arrive to the customer in as little as 30 minutes from some enterprising businesses.

This shift has meant changes for the janitorial and sanitation (Jan-San) industry that services commercial facilities, from restaurants to manufacturing sites, with cleaning products and equipment used to impact the health and safety of occupants and guests. Organizations that do not innovate to meet these demands continue to lose market share until they either shutter their doors or are sold. For suppliers who thrive in today’s market, next-day delivery is commonplace and widely expected by customers.

Product Availability

To accommodate next-day delivery, a supplier must have inventory. As the time from order entry to delivery has diminished, so has the margin for error involved in stocking the correct merchandise in the proper quantities.

Suppliers in the Jan-San industry have two main sources of products for distribution to their customers. Products can be procured from both domestic and global manufacturers and products can be procured from wholesalers who bundle product lines together for shipment to distributors, who then sell it to end-user customers.

When product is inventoried in large distribution warehouses it is important to properly catalog the location of items and schedule inventory counts to ensure accuracy. This ensures that merchandise can be picked, packed, and delivered the next day.

If product is purchased from wholesalers in the supply chain who also deliver next-day, then extremely efficient Jan-San distribution companies can utilize cross-docking strategies to turn that product around within hours or even minutes to complete the next-day delivery promise to the customer-site.

A combination of both types of supply is often advantageous for a Jan-San distributor allowing for the greatest variety of merchandise to be delivered to a customer next-day.

Order Creation

If a customer expects next-day delivery, it cannot be overlooked that the order needs to be processed quickly so that it can be picked, packed, routed, and loaded for delivery.

Smartphones, computers, and tablets make online ordering easy for customers and expedite the entire process for distributors as the customer’s order can be directly processed all the way through merchandise picking. By removing waste from the process, Jan-San distributors are more likely to satisfy their customer requests for next-day delivery.

Service Territories

Though next-day delivery is often expected, it’s not always feasible due to geography. When deliveries are made with company fleet vehicles, distance and time must be factored into the decision of when to deliver to a customer. Clarifying expectations with customers before orders are entered and deliveries are scheduled is always preferable.

In situations where geographic distance limits the ability to service a customer next-day with business fleet vehicles, it may be advisable to work with a third-party shipper to meet customer demands. For small shipments, distributors can work with UPS, FedEx, USPS, or another small parcel carrier. For larger shipments, it is advisable to ship LTL and FTL with freight carriers either contracted directly or through a logistics company that has established relationships with major freight carriers.

Automated Routing Software

For many years, organizations that shipped merchandise relied on people to manually review delivery locations and create trucking routes. As computing power increased, so did access to software that could create routes. The earliest routing software platforms were expensive and difficult to implement. For very large distribution organizations, the costs were justified by the return over time, but for smaller companies, the improvements from automated delivery routing remained elusive.

Today, with improved cloud computing, software as a service, or SaaS, options vastly reduce the implementation time and costs so that even small organizations with a single fleet vehicle can harness data and realize routing improvements as well as track driver behavior. By identifying ideal delivery loads and stop orders, reducing drive time, and minimizing fuel expenditures, Jan-San distributors can serve more customers next-day through increases in operational efficiency.

Excellent People and Processes

To build the foundation for a strong next-day delivery program, there must be a repeatable process in place. The individuals who ensure customer satisfaction from order entry to finance to delivery should be effectively trained to follow procedures. As important as automation has become in the Jan-San distribution model, there will always be a place for honest, trustworthy people to meet customer expectations.

Whether a business leads or follows, it is important to offer something that customers want. Next-day delivery service, once rare, is now commonplace. With the right product offering, strong logistical efficiencies, proper automation, and great people, Jan-San distributors can meet next-day delivery demands in the market.

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Lance Dicker is Director of Operations and Procurement at Action Unlimited Resources, New Castle, DE.