Hub and Spoke Explained

When it comes to parcel shipping, anything that makes route networking easier to manage is welcomed, obviously. Hub and Spoke – as opposed to point-to-point transportation – is particularly popular with transport companies, not only in the UK, but worldwide.

Think of a bicycle wheel. It’s basically a central hub and connected spokes. A Hub and Spoke transportation system works like that, and its unparalleled simplicity makes it unquestionably effective. Route all of your deliveries through one hub (or several across the country), and benefit from consolidating all activity. Goods pass through a centralised control area, meaning that turnaround times can be increased.

Fewer empty drives, and an increase in the grouping of goods
All carriers do their utmost to ensure that under-capacity is minimised, or even wholly avoided; and adopting an effective Hub and Spoke approach to shipping and routing plays a key role in helping them to do that. As well as enhanced capacities (through lorries using the hub as a reloading point), carriers can benefit from there being no empty drives occurring – or there being fewer of these, at least – and goods can be grouped when handed over to distributors serving different UK regions.

Lower cost, higher efficiency
Removing much of the complexity from shipping (using Hub and Spoke) is bound to result in reduced costs. And with less fuel used, that’s good for the environment. Money can be saved on staffing costs, too, with only a nucleus team being required – distribution logistics all being taken care of in a more simplified and efficient manner in one area, rather than several.

But does all this make switching to Hub and Spoke a no brainer? Could it be true that there’s definitely occasions where a point-to-point direct transportation approach is a better option?

Flexibility must be built in
Over-dependency on any system is always to be avoided. As is taking a system for granted – simply assuming that it’s built to cope with any slight variation of routing. Sometimes a small and seemingly insignificant change on a route can have an indirect impact upon other spokes. If the system isn’t set up with suitable flexibility, delays can occur, costing everyone involved money. Unnecessary spend can also occur when a consignment must unavoidably pass through the hub first, before continuing its journey. A consignment passing through a hub just for the sake of adhering to the system, and therefore meaning a longer drive to its final destination (aka ‘node’), is madness, surely? Why insist upon a package first passing through York when the two journey nodes are Milton Keynes and Reading?