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7 Minute Read

The Top 5 Building Products & Supplies Delivery Challenges


For a lot of building and construction material suppliers, dealing with volatility is just table stakes. A year ago, when the cost of lumber was sky high, businesses across the entire sector had to find ways to adapt. Today, construction is booming in some parts of the country and stagnant in many others, and businesses need to be able to pivot on a dime from focusing on one area of the country to another as the landscape shifts. And this is before we start talking about government regulations, union rules, and all the other factors that go into keeping projects moving.

building products & supplies logistics softwareSimply put, this kind of volatility can easily devolve into chaos—both at the job site and in the back offices of suppliers who are trying to keep up with ever-changing customer needs. Without the ability to plan and execute deliveries efficiently, maintain full visibility into each delivery from end to end, and keep customers in the loop throughout the process, it’s hard to pull off the delicate balancing act of efficient building material delivery operations.  

1. Responding to Last-Minute Delivery Requests

One of the most significant challenges that building material suppliers are likely to face is simply the extremely time-sensitive nature of many of the orders that are placed by their clients. Things change quickly at your average jobsite, and the result is that many orders are placed with next-day or same-day turnaround times. 

When your routes for the day are already set, this can be hard to accommodate without losing out on efficiency. You never want to run your trucks at significantly less than their carrying capacity, but sometimes, without the right tools in place, it’s your only option for keeping customers happy. If you don’t have route optimization capabilities that enable you to adjust your routes without losing efficiency, you may simply have to eyeball the changes and hope for the best. 

Luckily, this is a challenge that all but disappears when you have building products & supplies logistics software equipped with the right routing tools. You just need a platform that can generate and adjust routes quickly (i.e. in a matter of seconds or minutes) while accounting for time windows, capacity limitations, and other factors without losing out on efficiency or accuracy. 

2. Coordinating with Busy Jobsite Schedules

Sometimes it’s not just a matter of getting the delivery to the jobsite fast—it’s about getting it there at the right time. For instance, if you’re delivering roofing materials, your client might want to time the delivery so it shows up at roughly the same time the roofers do. If the order shows up too early, it’ll take up valuable space and there might not even be someone who can confirm that you’ve delivered the right thing. If it shows up too late, the team that’s waiting for the delivery winds up sitting on their hands wasting valuable time. 

Overcoming this challenge is a matter not just of being able to turn orders into efficient delivery schedules and routes quickly, but of accurately predicting delivery ETAs with a high level of precision. Again, building material delivery organizations have to perform a delicate balancing act: To successfully pinpoint arrival times, you need to account for likely traffic patterns, driver speed/skill, loading and unloading times across the entire route, time spent on site and more. Then, you need to be able to leverage those estimates as you incorporate specific time window requests into your route plans. 

When you offer customers the ability to self-schedule their deliveries (which can go a long way towards strengthening your brand and improving customer satisfaction), the complexity ratchets up even a little bit further. Now, you have to dynamically manage your delivery capacity at the same time that you’re scheduling orders. However, if you can get this right, you can delight customers by effectively enabling them to keep their jobs on track—all while ensuring that you’re utilizing your own delivery capacity efficiently. 

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3. Managing Returns Without Excess Wastage

Depending on what specific area you’re in, there’s a good chance that over-ordering of raw materials is a pretty common practice. It can be difficult to estimate exactly how much, say, siding or paneling a job is going to require, so your clients might order a little more than they need and return the unused portion. 

In theory, there’s no reason this has to be a huge stumbling block for delivery organizations—but in practice, it often leads to wastage. Potentially huge quantities of unused product makes its way back to warehouses and distribution centers every day, and much of it winds up going to waste rather than being reused or resold. 

Obviously, this can have a big impact on your bottom line if you’re a building material distributor. Not only are you potentially leaving perfectly saleable goods unsold, you’re potentially using up significant and costly warehouse space to deal with it. 

At the end of the day, this challenge really comes down to visibility. When you can’t easily see why a particular pallet was returned, you can’t necessarily do much with it. On the one hand, the product might be perfectly fine and ready to be resold—on the other, it might have been damaged or defective. If you can find building products & supplies logistics software that enables you to more easily associate returned items with particular orders and their return reasons, you can decrease this area of waste and even potentially save money by reducing your inventory footprint. 

4. Ensuring Clear Delivery Documentation with the Right Building Products & Supplies Logistics Software

We said above that managing return items without too much waste is largely a matter of visibility—but that’s not the only building material delivery challenge where visibility plays a huge role. In point of fact, documenting the entire delivery process from end to end is one of the most important hurdles for modern delivery organizations to grapple with. 

There are a myriad of reasons for this:

  • Orders are often placed and received by different people, which can lead to confusion and disputes.
  • Jobsite theft is always a possibility, which means it’s crucial to have clear, photographic proof of delivery for every completed delivery.
  • Attempts to boost delivery efficiency, shrink your inventory footprint, or achieve other goals all depend on access to thorough delivery data from past delivery runs.

And, obviously, overcoming some of the challenges above also requires clear documentation. To overcome that hurdle and make complete, digital audit trails a reality for your deliveries, you need to start by empowering your drivers to easily capture proof of delivery with their mobile devices. This digital PoD should include pictures, signatures, and notes, and it should be timestamped and geostamped. From there, the PoD should be automatically associated with the relevant order and stored along with a schedule of the truck’s movements along its route and the driver’s status updates throughout the trip. On the scale of individual routes, this helps you resolve exceptions more quickly—but on the level of your entire operation, it gives you the strategic visibility and intelligence to continue increasing efficiency over time.  

5. Delivering to Sites That Lack Addresses

A lot has to go right to make for a successful delivery in the building supplies industry. You have to show up at the right time, with the right product. You have to keep your customers in the loop and make sure you’re working to meet their needs. And you have to deliver to the right place. 

This last part is easier said than done in some cases. Why? Because construction sites often lack verified addresses. Where a retailer delivering to someone’s home can generally just plug an address into their  route optimization solution and be fairly confident that the truck will be directed to the right place, you don’t always have the same luxury when you’re delivering to the third house in the southernmost row of a massive subdivision. 

Luckily, this is another problem that the right building products & supplies logistics software can more or less solve for you. By leveraging AI and machine learning to resolve ambiguous addresses and make sure your drivers are actually headed to the right place. If you can combine that certainty about location accuracy with ETA accuracy, robust customer communications, and total visibility before, during, and after your delivery runs, you can successfully navigate the many building material delivery challenges that face businesses today. 


DispatchTrack offers the most powerful end-to-end suite of tools for last mile logistics operators. Dispatchers, drivers, customers and clients can access our app on any device to schedule, track, modify and verify your deliveries.

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