The Mayor of London recently set the date for London’s new ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ); a protected area in which most vehicles will need to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge. From 8 April 2019, the most polluting cars, vans, and motorbikes will have to pay £12.50 to drive through central London, while buses, coaches and HGVs will pay £100.
City Hall hopes the move, which is subject to a consultation, will result in a 50% drop in emissions by 2020. However, for businesses based in the capital, ULEZ could represent a significant expense, particularly for those firms tasked with managing a high volume of deliveries to and from their premises. Leading business organisation London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has even warned that it could risk putting firms, especially SMEs, out of business. It’s clear that, when adopted, the legislation will certainly place firms under further pressure to adapt business processes.
New ways of working
The ULEZ legislation is obviously London specific but there are challenges ahead for many businesses around delivery logistics and changing work patterns which are set to have significant implications. Various business pressures such as the cost of permanent office space and the trend towards more fluid and flexible working models have resulted in businesses moving to shared sites where several businesses occupy one premises. With reports suggesting that just 45-50% of desks are used at any given time, there is a growing focus on optimising space – making every square foot count and eliminating redundant ‘ghost desks’ or areas that are under-utilised. But while this model undoubtedly provides a more cost-effective footprint, it also means a disruption to delivery practices.
It is unlikely that these space-conscious shared facilities will have dedicated loading bays or even dedicated post-rooms. Without these purpose-built facilities, the handling of goods in and out of the organisation becomes much more problematic – particularly with legislation such as ULEZ potentially adding cost to each pick-up and drop-off.
The power of partnerships
Businesses are therefore facing a dilemma. The volume and frequency of deliveries in and out of the building doesn’t change, but the facility to efficiently handle those deliveries has been compromised, costing valuable time and money. The answer for forward-thinking firms has been to partner with third-party delivery experts in order to maintain delivery efficiency and integrity.
Of course, cost-savings will always be a top priority for any business, and will become particularly relevant for London-based firms in light of the proposed ULEZ. The best partners will understand the correct, most cost-efficient delivery model for the specific volume, type and destination of mail. But outsourcing mail management is more than simply a cost-saving exercise. Expert partners also provide value in other ways, acting as consultants across the entire mail operation. They are able to provide solutions that are cost-effective but which also empower management staff with the knowledge to drive strategic business improvements.
Outsourcing the mailroom
One pioneering solution is to make use of the delivery provider’s own warehouse premises, which are typically situated outside of city centres and away from congestion/low-emission zones. The warehouse becomes an additional hub for the company concerned, with dedicated space and resource for accepting deliveries, storage and onward delivery of goods to and from the city centre offices and other addresses as needed.
The delivery provider also manages daily shuttles to and from the customer’s premises, delivering into the building and taking all outbound work away. Delivery runs are consolidated, stopping the constant flow of vehicles and couriers in and out of the company’s central premises.
All inbound mail can be collected from Royal Mail each morning, sorted off site and delivered in tracked courier bags, sorted by department ready to run to agreed drop off points within the building. All outbound mail, overnight and international couriers and returns are managed by the delivery partner, with courier bookings made by the client coming directly to the delivery partner. Back at the provider’s warehouse, a dedicated clerk manages the storage and onward delivery of goods on behalf of the customer.
In today’s digitally connected world it can be easy to overlook the role played by physical mail in business. The convenience and immediacy of email and instant messaging drive massive usage growth across these channels. Yet the fact remains that physical mail and package deliveries are the lifeblood of businesses. The growing popularity of flexible working and unique challenges such as ULEZ demand that businesses reassess their delivery model and find solutions that fit. Many businesses will not have the bandwidth or specific expertise in-house to enable them to adequately assess the delivery landscape and re-engineer workflows. Instead, working with expert partners can result in dynamic solutions such as the offsite warehouse hub model which not only satisfies changing business demands, but also adds value.