Zero-Touch Service Logistics: Keeping the Service Supply Chain Moving

Jul 15, 2020 • FeaturesLast MileBT Final MileParts Pricing and Logistics

BT Final Mile Client Account Director, Mark West, reflects on the importance of zero-touch final mile logistics solutions in a post pandemic world...

The importance of being able to get the right parts to the engineer at the right time has

always been a significant challenge for field service organisations. However, as we move from a period of lockdown into a period of continued uncertainty around social distancing, there are additional challenges to last-mile parts delivery that we may never have considered only a few months ago.

Many traditional PUDO (pick up drop off) points that were regularly utilised by field service engineers in local stores around the country are, for the time being at least, no longer viable. For those that remain, the requirements of social distancing mean significant additional delays in accessing the parts stored behind a counter.


New Challenges for Final Mile Service Logistics

Even many of the traditional locations for lockerbox  solutions, especially those at supermarkets, for instance, are currently inaccessible as the areas in which they are placed become part of the long snaking queues as space becomes a premium in this current socially distanced world.


"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the field service sector worse than anything we have ever had to face before..."


Overcoming this challenge has been a critical task for many UK field service organisations, and we have been hugely proud here at BT to play our part in helping keep the service supply chain flowing. Especially in this most critical of periods as we all pull together to try to move towards economic recovery.

Let’s make no bones about this. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the field service sector worse than anything we have ever had to face before. A lot of engineers were furloughed.  Drops in volume of fifty per cent became a common scenario. There were a lot of experiences where companies with European warehouses were moving a lot of freight in ahead of the UK lockdown, but then they couldn’t get access to the stock. This resulted in a significant lack of stock within the UK which of course further impacted engineers being able to do their jobs.

The advantage that we were able to bring to our customers who were utilising our locker-based solutions was that our premises are unattended, our technology allows us to produce a safe environment which doesn’t require human intervention.

Additionally, as we have utilised our existing infrastructure and sites for the lockers, our locations are fully secure, with excellent road connections and provide twenty-four seven access. So we have had quite a few companies who have come to us that we had been speaking with across the last four to six months, who suddenly found their need was far more urgent.


Proud to Play Our Part During the Pandemic

Fortunately, we were able to help, which has allowed these companies to keep their parts supply chain moving even during these most testing of times.

When we look at the position that many suppliers were in, they didn’t want, or even couldn’t have people coming into their branches, so they were closing these down. However, they could still deliver themselves, with their drivers into a locker solution allowing them to provide the goods needed within a zero-touch environment.


"We are proud that we were able to play our role in supporting critical organisations that were fundamental to nationwide effort to overcome the challenges of Covid-19..."


This allows for minimal impact from the actual handling involved, and then the engineer can

collect the parts at their convenience.

Looking back at the peak of the lockdown crisis, we are proud that we were able to play our role in supporting critical organisations that were fundamental to nationwide effort to overcome the challenges of Covid-19. Throughout the lockdown, we are running at 100% operational. We’ve got clients in the health care industry who service lifesaving equipment that needed to be repaired.

We also have clients in telecommunications and infrastructure that were vital cogs in the process of fighting the pandemic. Even some companies that you might not at first glance think are critical such as printing companies or laundry companies.

Still, these companies all have contracts within the NHS directly and have been essential to keeping everything moving.

Now, as we move into the recovery period, many of these companies who will be essential to keeping the helping us kick-start the economic recovery. There will be significant amounts of the lost capacity to be recovered for all service companies.

In addition to this, history shows us that in times of economic downturn, there is always increased pressure on service and maintenance agreements as the focus moves away from substantial investment in new assets onto maintaining existing assets.

Perhaps the most significant pressure to be felt as we move into this next phase of recovery will on the service supply chain. We need to readjust to a global supply chain that had mostly been turned off overnight; it will take time to get everything fully back up to speed.

However, as our customers have found even at the height of the crisis, the last-mile element of the service supply chain logistics is one part of the equation that fortunately can be relatively easily overcome and with over 1,800 intelligent locker sites available across the UK, we are there to help the field service sector as we move into the recovery.


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