This article first appeared in Transport Topics on July 9, 2020.
A task force was launched that brings together manufacturers, supply chain partners and retailers to develop standards for reducing human contact when moving freight from Class 8 vehicles to last-mile drop-offs.
The Consumer Brands Association on June 29 launched the Contactless Delivery Task Force to create protocols to ensure delivery processes are safer and more efficient.
“Everyone is very concerned about how do we keep our employees safe, how do we keep things moving efficiently in a high demand environment,” Tom Madrecki, vice president of supply chains at the Consumer Brands Association, told Transport Topics on July 7. “But that issue of safety continues to percolate and continues to be very relevant.”
The task force will specifically study and create contactless pickup and delivery protocols with the aim of being more efficient and reducing employee risk. It has been growing since its launch and now includes 25 consumer packaged goods companies and retailers.
“We’re really looking at how do we reduce human interaction so that we can continue to facilitate the movement of goods and services,” Madrecki said. “A lot of companies raised the need for contactless deliveries mechanisms or tools.”
The task force was born from the impact and lessons of the coronavirus. The ongoing pandemic challenged consumer packaged goods companies to keep their supply chains moving efficiently while reducing contact to ensure employee safety.
Land O’Lakes is one such company and is now a partner on the task force.
“While a major disruptor, COVID-19 now gives us the opportunity to partner across our industry and develop the processes and procedures that will define the consumer packaged goods space for years to come,” Yone Dewberry, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer at Land O’Lakes, said in a statement. “Health, safety and efficiency have always been our priorities, but now we’re forced to look for new and innovative ways of incorporating technology even further.”
The coronavirus has been driving the need to limit in-person interactions beyond the task force. DHL Express, for instance, has been working to balance social distancing and meeting the needs of customers.
“Technology has played a key role in maintaining our business and implementing processes that allow for social distancing and minimize person-to-person contact,” Pamela Duque, communications manager at DHL, told TT. “We’re also holding virtual meetings and webinars with our customers and employees, and have implemented remote payment via our On Demand Delivery platform, through which customers can also choose their delivery options. Until further notice, we have waived the requirement for a recipient signature when delivering parcels.”
DHL Supply Chain ranks No. 3 on the Transport Topics Top 50 list of the largest logistics companies in North America.
The task force has looked at digitization as a path forward. Partner companies found electronic delivery verification was a natural solution to keeping their supply chains moving efficiently. The task force is first looking at electronic bills of lading (eBOL) processes but plans to branch out.
“We specifically looked at that as the first bite of the apple when it comes to contactless deliveries and how do we remove paperwork and the physical process from deliveries,” Madrecki said. “But there are clearly other applications.”
Madrecki noted the standards the task force is looking at involve the physical side of the delivery process as well as the more technical side such as information and data sharing. To that end, the task force also includes technology companies such as Accenture, Coyote Logistics and Vector.
“As shippers continue to build more efficient and resilient supply chains, the eBOL fills in a gap that many clients have been asking for,” Henry Blum, senior manager at Accenture, said in a statement. “The touchless BOL will result in entry error reduction, increased visibility to OS&Ds, drive lower transportation costs and benefit their green footprint.”
Madrecki noted the underlining mechanisms that would enable a company to have an eBOL solution are very similar to the mechanisms that would allow them to have other solutions in different types of environments. It’s all an electronic transfer of information.
“If we can work in a concerted way to provide a workable standard for that, then there are clearly other applications to other parts of the delivery ecosystem,” Madrecki said. “It can definitely open up into a lot of different directions.”