Delivery efficiency remains a top of mind concept for supply chain leaders. Within the final mile, efficiency takes on a new role and expectation. The final mile is traditionally marred by excess costs, poor visibility, and limited ability to intervene when problems arise. Meanwhile., demand for more last mile service has risen as 56% of shoppers visit brick-and-mortar stores to “first see, touch and feel products before buying them online. What’s more, roughly a third make this practice habit, reporting that they always or frequently go to stores to see or try out items before buying on the web. One in 10 shoppers say they always visit a store to see items they then buy online,” says Retail Dive. As a result, the race to maximize value in the final mile is on, and smart last mile tech, including these key transportation technologies, can go a long way to increase profitability and accommodate the rising demand.
The need to know the exact location of all orders in the last mile mode forms a cornerstone of understanding e-commerce shipping. The flow of information in the final mile is greatly improved through the use of smart last mile tech, reports Supply Chain Game Charger, such as telematics, which provide real-time information regarding shipment status, trucker estimated time of arrival (ETA), and much more. Moreover, the ability to see real-time information is readily available with major carriers, including UPS, and supply chain leaders without this capability need to step up now.
Depending on the specific industry, products and moving through the final mile can include pharmaceuticals, high-value technologies, electronics, clothing, jewelry, and virtually any other item. Unfortunately, these industries are also those that tend to have a higher risk due to theft, fraud, and unintentional damage. After all, a lost shipment of a life-saving vaccine could cost millions of dollars. Fortunately, the use of smart last mile tech, such as alarms, sensors, and smart tags, can provide more traceability into the chain of custody of such items and alert drivers and carriers of unauthorized access. Obviously, no one should have access to a last mile delivery van, but it could happen.
Aside from the obvious benefits of potential contactless options through automated alerts and keyless delivery features, comparable to Amazon Key, the introduction of smart technology in the final mile can directly improve worker safety. Drivers can be better prepared to handle unforeseen circumstances, such as leaving a package in an unsecure location, and other implications include smart systems that notify drivers when extra equipment will be needed to make a delivery the safest way possible. While heavy equipment might be reserved for white-label services in the last mile, some parcel shipments deriving from e-commerce teases the edge of safety in moving alone or requiring additional equipment. At the very least, an automated system that gives drivers informed of which deliveries will require a dolly or other equipment will help improve safety.
This is among the most iconic smart last mile tech innovations. Hybrid vehicles that combine both rechargeable engines and traditional gasoline engines can lower their fuel consumption costs. According to McKinsey & Company, “at every stage of development – from concept through testing to rollout – last-mile technology is making rapid gains. For example, autonomous vans were largely conceptual in 2016, and just two years later, we are expecting to see them road tested. While electric delivery vans (EV) were still in their pilot stages just a couple of years ago, today we are seeing their series production.”
As a result, carriers realize lower operating expenses, and those decrease costs are passed along to shippers in the form of better rates and fewer fuel surcharges.
Drone delivery might have seemed like a far-fetched idea in recent years, but over the last 18 months, more carriers and supply chain professionals have further explored the use of drones for last mile delivery. Drones are imminently going to impact the whole supply chain, and their biggest implication will revolve around the final mile. This form of smart last mile tech is the ultimate realization of efficient deliveries that are faster, cost less, and carry less risk than traditional approaches to the final mile. Drones could be dispatched from local order fulfillment centers in densely populated areas, or they could be dispatched from a single delivery van to cover more ground in rural areas.
The final piece of the smart last mile technology puzzle is simple. Shippers need an end-to-end transportation management system (TMS) that can handle all modes, lower costs wherever possible, scale to work with drones, and keep the data flowing. The Cerasis Rater has that capability.
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