Delivery in Japan: Beating a Culture of Overwork with Last-Mile Excellence

Delivery in Japan

Japan’s work ethic is something of a legend. The country built its economy after World War II in a short span of 20 years and has earned the reputation for being hard-working, with loyal employees who silently focus on their tasks and take very few breaks between work. The concepts of ganbaru, which literally translates to ‘stand firm’, and gaman, which means ‘enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity’, are entwined with the country’s outlook towards work and drive 67.35 million people to bring excellence to their jobs daily.

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. In spite of Japan’s Labour Standards Act, which states the statutory working hours to be eight hours per day and 40 hours per week, it is not unusual for Japanese employees to work overtime.

Rising expectations

When it comes to last-mile logistics, the way this outlook plays into Japan’s delivery agents’ work is concerning. As the coronavirus waves continue, online delivery remains popular and the pressure on delivery agents to execute timely deliveries grows steadily. Add to this the fact that the nation has high expectations from customer service and hospitality, so consumers notice even the slightest delays in delivery.

The recent news of Japanese delivery drivers forming a union, claiming overwork, is not surprising then. The workers who make deliveries in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, said in a press conference in Tokyo that they had been overworked to the point of exhaustion. The union was formed by a 50-year-old delivery executive who was fatigued from making deliveries, only to meet with an accident.

Japan’s labor shortage and a hyper-aging population

The shrinking population is a long-standing issue in Japan—one that clouds over the country’s economy and can impact its recovery. The pandemic also resulted in a sharp decline in the number of foreign workers and that has added to the shortage. According to a McKinsey report, even with automation and expanding labor-force participation, Japan is likely to face a shortage of 1.5 million workers by the year 2030.

Labor demand trend

Japan is also the world’s oldest country with a hyper-aging population. 25% of its people are 65 years or older and this number is said to increase to 36% by the year 2040. As a result, industry analysts have also predicted that by 2030, there will be a 35% gap between demand for delivery and the size of the logistics labor force. This means that one-third of cargo in Japan would go undelivered. Human resource is not the only challenge for corporations. In light of Japan’s labor shortage, if seniors continue working, then a safe and comfortable environment must be ensured.

Japanese population by age group

Automating the future

The pressure on last-mile delivery businesses is immense and better technology and efficiency levers are the need of the hour. The great news is that Japan’s automation potential is immense. According to this McKinsey report, more than half of work time in Japan is spent on repetitive activities, two-thirds of which can be automated.

If you’re a business in Japan committed to growth, enhancing your digital capabilities will help drive change from the top. This means learning about the implications of digitalization, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for your business. Automating your supply chains will smooth out and quicken last-mile processes and help you meet the demand for speedy deliveries.

Sustained growth in the last mile with Locus

Locus’ Dispatch Management Platform (DMP) helps organizations drive real-world efficiency and grow across all fulfillment channels. It automates key fulfillment stages, from the time the order is placed to the time of delivery and acts as the single source of truth for all orders, channels, and on-ground units: so that nothing is lost in translation.

Dispatch Management Software’s advanced algorithms allow you to dispatch orders of any scale, keeping in mind real-world constraints. An intelligent parcel sorting system helps drivers get on the road faster and make deliveries on time so that no extra hours are spent on the road. Precise geo-coordinates make sure route plans are accurate. The DMP’s geocoding feature is particularly beneficial for aging drivers on the road who are more prone to accidents.

Not only does Locus DMP help you maintain a bird’s eye view of supply chain processes, but it also makes each delivery better than the last. As e-commerce and e-grocery industries grow in Japan, the hardworking Japanese workforce that powers this growth cannot be neglected. By automating their operations, Japanese employers can ensure their workers get more deliveries made in a standard working shift, which can prevent overwork and burnout as well as retrain them to deliver more value in other areas.

Looking to make your delivery experience simple and more efficient? Try a demo with Locus!

delivery constraintsDelivery FulfilmentLast Mile Deliverylast-mile delivery challengesLogistics Automation