What You Need to Succeed in Last Mile Logistics

Shipping trucks on a road

July 2, 2020


3 minutes

By Clark Wellman, Regional Sales Manager

We live in a world teeming with e-commerce deliveries — so why, then, does the last mile of logistics continue to dog retailers and carriers? Carriers have to contend with unidentifiable addresses, unexpected obstacles, and unclear instructions when trying to reach the customer.

As a result, final mile delivery issues consume more than a quarter of total shipping costs and waste billions annually. Once, that may have been the “cost of doing business.” But in today’s logistics environment, any delivery that’s less than perfect — on time, intact, convenient, and courteous — can spoil a brand’s good name.

Truck communicating with a household

It’s imperative that companies finally solve the last mile delivery problem and improve performance in a meaningful way. Here’s what you need:

1. A Connection With the Customer

Shipping volume is particularly high right now because of COVID-19, but hiring additional drivers to meet the demand might not be an option. However, using technology to link the customer and the carrier leads to improved operational visibility across the board. Linking the parties lets customers share routing information to make finding them easier or change their delivery location on the fly. Conversely, the carrier can send updates about the shipment — if something is early or late, for example — to alleviate frustrations.

Here’s a personal example: A few weeks ago, I ordered an item online and, a few days later, received a notification that my package was out for delivery. That afternoon, I looked outside my window and saw the delivery vehicle parked outside of my house, with the driver sitting inside. For the next few minutes, he sat in the truck — before leaving without even attempting to deliver my package.

I was confused as to why the item couldn’t be delivered, but when I checked my email, all it said was: “Delivery could not be made today; we’ll try again tomorrow.” How frustrating! Why couldn’t I communicate with the driver or the driver’s manager? More transparency and better collaboration could’ve benefited everyone invested in this shipment.

2. Last Mile Warehouse Options

Last mile warehouses make the length of the proverbial “last mile” as short as possible. They work like smaller distribution centers located closer to the customers they serve, which facilitates putting smaller shipments onto smaller trucks.

Even though these warehouses add another link in the supply chain, they lower the overall cost and length of delivery — which is essential now that many customers expect two-hour delivery on things like groceries. More warehouses strategically placed to minimize the time it takes to reach customers promise to alleviate many last mile delivery problems.

3. Robust Return Capabilities

The last mile runs in the opposite direction when customers return products, and if that process doesn’t run smoothly, 73% of shoppers say they’re less willing to purchase again. Instead of forcing customers to visit local shipping centers to return products, what if drivers already in their areas could pick up returns at their front doors? With better logistics solutions in place, shippers can adapt their delivery processes to make all aspects of last mile delivery simple and seamless.

4. Rolling Supply Centers

Similar to last mile warehouses, rolling supply centers work like mobile distribution centers that can travel to wherever demand exists. For example, if a Starbucks ran out of pastries after a rush, a rolling supply center could dispatch a van to quickly replenish the stock instead of trying to get an order from the central distribution center.

That process could even be automatic if technology linked the store to the pastry supplier and sent out a delivery notification when stocks started to run low. Particularly in densely populated urban areas, rolling supply centers vastly reduce the time necessary to place and receive an order.

It will take a while to build networks of last mile warehouses and fleets of rolling supply centers, but we can improve logistics collaboration in supply chains right now. By simply linking the shipper and the receiver on a shared platform, communication and coordination immediately improve, costs and delays decrease, and the last mile feels like a seamless part of the shipment. It’s easier than you think.

Ready to read more about last mile delivery? Download our “Last Mile Logistics” use case here.

Clark Wellman is the regional sales manager at Coolfire, a company dedicated to enhancing real-time event awareness, control, and response through collaboration software. Clark draws from his 20 years of experience working in transportation and logistics to help connect teams with a system for real-time collaboration.

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