2020 has been quite a year. All industries have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the household goods moving and storage industry is no different. Every aspect of outside life has changed, from simply going to the grocery store, dining out, and travel to what Aires does for a living – relocating your employees. How can we turn the challenges faced into an opportunity in the moving industry?
In many ways the industry has been approaching a tipping-point. For years we have been discussing the various challenges that exist in the moving industry. Driver and labor shortages, small shipments, lump sum packages, capacity issues, and high discounting. All of this still exists, but now movers also have PPE requirements, and the world has travel bans and immigration restrictions among other concerns. Companies in the moving industry that have found ways to adapt to change will survive the pandemic and thrive in the future. Those choosing to maintain business as usual will struggle. Below we will address the current state of traditional challenges as we move into the new year.
One major challenge the industry faces are small shipments. The van lines were built on large shipments filling their trucks to be efficient and profitable. This has dramatically changed in recent years. Generally speaking, the generation of people that are typically involved with a corporate move are now focused on life experiences and not necessarily hanging onto possessions. Urban revitalization and living inside the city limits mean less space required to fill a residence. Furniture and household contents are not designed to last a lifetime, so goods are often discarded or sold prior to a move. These factors have changed what the inside of a household goods truck looks like.
Ten years ago, a household goods truck would have two shipments inside the trailer. Today, an average of five shipments can now fit inside that same truck. Smaller shipments have led to pick-up and delivery challenges because more days are needed. At full capacity, small shipments were not a priority and took weeks to deliver in some cases. But with the rise of quick-delivery online services, consumers expect delivery date certainty, and the traditional van line/agent model has had difficulty adapting to this requirement.
To adapt, the leaders in the moving industry are creating solutions that offer alternative methods of transportation for small shipments. Aires helps manage this process. Multimodal solutions – such as using Less than Truckload (LTL) freight carriers, rail cars, and containerization options – will allow companies more options. Although there will always be the traditional household goods shipments, domestic shipments will ultimately look more like an international shipment in the years to come. The transferee may be expecting a more traditional moving service, but the end result will be more time-certainty on their shipment and a better experience.
Capacity has not been an issue in 2020. Although an uptick in volume has taken place in Q4, overall volume has been down anywhere from 30-50% based on the company. As the industry gets back to traditional volumes, multimodal and logistics-based move management solutions will be the new way to best handle household goods moving. It will potentially provide relief to the driver shortage as well.
Technology advancements in the moving industry have been a significant factor and have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Investment in technology is creating more business efficiency and a better consumer experience. Data security/privacy, virtual in-home surveys, electronic inventories, and customer communication have all been game-changers in how movers have addressed the COVID-19 era.
The in-home survey process previously required a visit from the mover to a residence by a household goods surveyor to calculate how much weight is being shipped, what packing material is needed, and what is needed to navigate the location. The process evolved rapidly to accommodate pandemic restrictions. With COVID-19, virtually all household goods shipments are now being surveyed using a mobile device app. This no-touch process is not only safer and more convenient for the relocating family but has also proven to be just as accurate when estimating move cost.
Movers have seen operational efficiency with the advent of electronic log devices, electronic inventories, warehouse inventory management, and shipment tracking/alerts. The technology now being used allows for better collection of data/information, providing efficiency and new solutions for movers. This visibility enhances the employee experience and creates a more predictable outcome for success.
As you look forward to 2021 and attempt to determine what the future of work will look like in your organization, know that the household goods moving industry is working to provide new and different solutions to industry challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply accelerated the need to change. Time will tell what the “new normal” will be, but there is much to be bullish about as the industry changes and grows.
For a more in-depth discussion of these topics, please check out Aires’ recent podcast on this subject.