Fantasy Planning

“The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is” C.S.Lewis.

As postings have been scarce here for some time it seems apt that I’m returning with some thoughts on time, and the management thereof. Time is a constant, it doesn’t speed up or slow down; seconds, minutes and hours always reliable, predictable, without variation. Strange then, that many treat time as though it is malleable, the rules flexible to fit.

You could say that the lack of posts here suggest (a) a weakness in my time management or (b) waning interest in posting here. Quite the contrary, I merely prioritised other areas of my work responsibilities. So I could have written something, but didn’t as I decided focussing on other matters was more important.

I’m personally fanatical about allowing myself enough travelling time. Always hours early for appointments. Is there any greater sin than a logistics professional arriving late for a meeting? Due to the fact that I view this as red line, I make sure that it never happens; at a cost to productive time of course.

In logistics, you will have no doubt heard every time related excuse in the book: The sub-contractors vehicle that is ‘just around the corner’ for 3 consecutive hours. The phantom traffic jam. The conveniently timed tacho-break. Occasionally true, more often than not the old clichés are used to cover for bad planning in the traffic office.

If your journey is 70 miles; 5 on 30mph roads and 65 on motorways you can be sure you won’t make it in an hour without breaking the law; even if on the day in question no other cars were on the road. If you have a piece of work that will take 24 unbroken hours to complete properly and accurately I’m not going to get the report the next morning. If I do, shortcuts will no doubt have rendered it meaningless.

Time is of course, of the essence, in transport planning. If you plan to set off 3 hours early to ensure on-time arrival at the delivery location, sailing past the motorway network unhindered; you pay your driver to watch a film whilst waiting for the booking time. You can then take that 3 hours off the other side of the shift, perhaps leading to no revenue generating backload, or a costly night out.

If you set off with no lee-way you have a stressed driver, running the risk of failing on the service levels promised to the customer. Have you allowed enough time to get loaded? Looked at the average queuing times at your customer’s facilities? Factored in the average road conditions at the time? Considered the effect of weather conditions on average travelling speed? Planning systems can of course factor in whatever parameters that you tell it to.

There is a phenomenon, rife in logistics that I like to call fantasy-planning. Often seen in the enthusiastic Analysts ability to use their optimisation software to fulfil a customer’s order book with a vastly reduced fleet and overall cost. They may well have allowed only 30 minutes at each drop and pickup, and travelled at 56mph on the M25 between 08:00-09:00 on a Friday rush hour, but what could possibly go wrong? Fleets size can be set at the wrong level, fantasy-savings fail and the fantasy-planner put it down to inefficient operations.

Alongside the financial ramifications of poor planning and use of time, the effect on drivers can be dangerous. Running to unreasonable schedules leads to stressed drivers and there is clear evidence that stressed drivers are far more likely to display aggressive, distracted driving behaviours; increasing the risks of road traffic accidents.

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