Data Shows Facilities Struggling to Keep up with Spike in Shipments

This study shows a significant increase in facility-related delays as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spur abnormally large shipment volumes.

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The supply chain has faced unprecedented pressure in recent weeks as retailers grapple with huge spikes in demand for food and packaged goods. Despite spot shortages that continue to crop up due to panic buying, the U.S. supply chain, in particular, has proven itself capable of meeting surging demand for food, beverage and consumer packaged goods products. 

However, latest analysis from FourKites indicates that facilities are struggling to efficiently process the surge in shipment volumes, resulting in long delays for truckers and other front-line workers at facilities in the United States and Europe. 

FourKites monitors dozens of conditions that affect transit times over millions of loads. When a shipment is late, FourKites analyzes all of the associated transit data to identify and stack rank various reasons a load may have been delayed. These are data-driven, diagnostic measures that provide much-needed insight into the operational and environmental conditions that cause a load to be late. A load can have multiple reasons for being late, of course, and analyzing these helps us hone in on the condition(s) that drove the biggest delay in shipment time. FourKites is tracking over 10 primary drivers for shipment delays, among them controllable reasons like pickup, external factors like weather, traffic and facility congestion, or macro factors like border congestion. 

In analyzing data over the course of February and March, FourKites’ study shows a significant increase in facility-related delays as the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spur abnormally large shipment volumes.

More specifically:

  • Extended dwell time delays jumped significantly. Compared to February, March witnessed a 24% increase in late loads due to “extended dwell times.” This refers to the time spent waiting at facilities for pickups and at intermediate stops, which has repercussions both up and down the supply chain. 
  • Re-entry delays jumped even more. Often, drivers show up on time to their destination. But, when a facility is overloaded with simultaneous deliveries, drivers are turned away and sent to a designated wait area. Once things clear up, drivers return to the facility to be unloaded. In March, drivers were turned away 36% more frequently than in February. So even though many loads are showing up on time, busy facilities can’t unload them fast enough, resulting in meaningful delays.
  • Impractical appointment scheduling is on the rise. Shippers’ best efforts at planning are falling short, with unachievable appointment times up 18% in March compared to February. In other words, providing guidance on scheduled appointment times – while critical to efficient operations in normal times – is proving futile at a time when facilities are instead focusing on execution and taking shipments on a first-come, first-served basis.

This analysis also corroborates that goods are moving faster in transit than they were a month ago. Average shipment times ran 2% faster in the United States and Europe in March – likely a reflection of decreased traffic on the roads, as well as the recently enacted emergency waiver governing trucking hours of service (HOS) regulations. But the slight improvement in transit times isn’t enough to make up for the significant delays drivers face once they arrive at overburdened facilities.