The past few years have seen some dramatic changes in parcel shipping methods. Most of those changes have been driven by impatience, manifested in what the industry calls “the shortening of the supply chain.” It is an interesting phrase, summing up a wide variety of customer attitudes and business strategies.
To the consumer, shortening the supply chain means an unwillingness to accept the term “out of stock” or delays in order processing, and a reluctance to endure lengthy delivery times.
To the seller, who must somehow meet these higher customer expectations, a shorter supply chain means reducing inventory turns, “crossdocking” as much product as possible and having complete inventory on hand at all times. Since the inception of the “dot-com” era, merchants have promised 24-hour product delivery, in-stock inventories, and on-line order tracking. This level of service is not only the norm, it is now the minimum acceptable offering.
Keeping both the consumer and the seller happy is the responsibility of the parcel shippers, who now must perform at unprecedented service levels and at constantly reduced costs....