The Last Mile - How Last-Mile Delivery is Evolving and How to Stay Ahead

It can be argued that the most important aspect of the delivery process is getting the product to its final destination. The process is complex and can involve multiple steps and strategies. The final stage in the delivery process is also referred to as “The Last-Mile”. In this USA Manufacturing Hour on Twitter, Host, Brett Kramer from FreightPOP, led a chat that discussed last-mile delivery. 


What is Last-mile Delivery?

The chat started off with participants discussing what last-mile delivery is.

Ruby Rusine from Social Success Marketing said, “Hmmmm... The final leg of the delivery process.”

Pavel Stepanov from VirtuDesk said, “Not sure what this is.”

Nigel Packer from Pelatis Online said, “The last mile in the journey from raw material mine to the retail outlet or customer. A product journey starts in a mine.”

Host, Kramer said, “Spot on!”

Rebecca Prox said the Digital Marketing Pro said, “Is it the last stretch of product delivery to the customer?”

Host, Kramer said, “That is correct!”

Host, Kramer said, “Last mile delivery is the final stage of the delivery process when a product moves from a distribution center or facility to its final destination, which is typically the customer's address. This step is crucial as it directly impacts customer satisfaction. The term "last mile" is not literal but signifies the last leg or final steps of the product's journey. It often poses the most logistical challenges due to factors like traffic congestion, remote locations, and delivery times, especially in e-commerce and home deliveries.”



Next participants discussed some common challenges that are faced in last-mile delivery and how we can overcome them.

Amy Anderson said, “An often unexpected challenge to last mile delivery of large products to home addresses is the reality of tight curves and large delivery vehicles.”

Rusine said, “Remote location, traffic congestion, delivery time, and unexpected situations?”

Kirsten Austin from DCSC Inc. said, “Porch Pirates?”

Prox said, “Traffic problems (land, air and sea) and weather issues seem to be the most common right now. How to overcome? Hm, not sure. These are mostly out of our control. But it's worth staying in communication with the customer ESPECIALLY at this point in the delivery.”

Rusine replied, “That's true, these issues can be unpredictable.”

Host, Kramer replied, “Communication is key, especially when it comes to things that are unpredictable and uncontrollable!”

Packer said, “Often in a built up area with high traffic levels. No record of the delivery at the gate. Missed delivery slots in 'Just in Time' (JIT) delivery systems. Nobody about to receive the delivery. No handling equipment to take the items of the lorry (Truck). Wrong paperwork.”

Host, Kramer replied, “Spot on, Nigel! All of this can be incredibly frustrating.”

Host, Kramer said, “Rising costs of fuel/labor, delays (traffic, weather), inefficient delivery routes, and outdated technology are just some of the challenges that shippers must overcome when getting deliveries where they need to go.”



The chat went on to discuss what zone-skipping is.

Prox said, “Without looking it up, I couldn't tell you the answer. here to learn!”

Rusine said, “From the words skip and zone... Does this talk about delivery zones?”

Host, Kramer said, “You are on to something!”

Packer said, “By having smaller storage hubs near the destination when dealing with big regular orders. A form of consignment stocking, where you have a storage facility inside the customers factory and they pay for the parts when they draw them from the facility.”delivery-man-van

Host Kramer replied, “Great answer, Nigel! You know your stuff!”

Packer responded, “Spent 6 years working in a production company who deemed it too expensive to hire a logistics manager Brett. It was a fast learning curve. I also picked up much more on many subjects. The two I avoided were finance and HR.”

Host, Kramer said, “Zone-skipping is a shipping strategy where parcels or freight loads destined for the same geographical area are consolidated and shipped together to a central hub within that area. The consolidated shipment then "skips" several postal zones, which can result in significant cost savings as carriers often determine their rates based on the number of zones crossed.”

He continues, “However, it's important to note that zone-skipping requires a high level of organization and management. Packages need to be accurately sorted based on their final destination zones to ensure they reach the correct locations. With the advancement in logistics technology, businesses now have the opportunity to implement this strategy effectively, using Transportation Management Systems (Like FreightPOP!) to identify and group shipments going to the same zone.”



Participants then discussed sustainability practices manufacturers can incorporate into their last mile delivery process.

Rusine said, “There should be, right? Would automating processes count? IDK what processes though... And maybe work with businesses with the same sustainability mindset”

Prox said, “Optimize routes, reduce carbon emissions, lengthen delivery times of certain products, choose "green" partners... to name a few.”

Host, Kramer replied, “Great answer, Rebecca!”

Packer said, “Consignment stocking, as mentioned in the last answer. Deliver Monthly rather than weekly or daily. The added costs of storage is offset by reduced transport.”

Host, Kramer said,

  1. Efficient Route Planning: Leveraging advanced software, manufacturers can plan the most efficient routes for delivery. This reduces the time vehicles spend on the road, leading to lower fuel consumption and emissions.
  2. Use of Electric Vehicles: Manufacturers can consider switching their delivery fleet to electric or hybrid vehicles. These alternatives are more environmentally friendly, reducing carbon emissions significantly.
  3. Sustainable Packaging: By using recyclable or biodegradable materials in their packaging, manufacturers can dramatically cut down on waste. Additionally, optimizing packaging to fit the product size can reduce the amount of space required for transportation, leading to more efficient deliveries.
  4. Recycling Programs: Implementing a system for customers to return or recycle packaging can contribute to sustainability efforts. This not only reduces waste but also encourages customers to participate in the manufacturer's sustainability initiatives.



Finally, participants discussed some technologies that are available to improve the efficiency of last mile delivery.

Rusine said, “For this, I'm going to wait for your answer and DCSC’s”

Prox said, “Not sure what technologies are available since that's not my niche.”

Austin said, “Aww, we are similar to @FreightPOP in that we developed a WMS, TMS and Shipping tool. Our solution works for clients using #Sage500. We're excited to partner with Brett and his team for people a better match for his product. People really need to look into this type of technology.”

Packer said, “Larger Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms will help to organise your manufacturing business from the supplier delivery, through production, to customer delivery. Choose the right platform for your business. If you need help speak to @DCSCInc or @FreightPOP“

Host, Kramer said,

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): These technologies can be used to analyze large amounts of data, predict demand, optimize routes, and manage inventory, leading to more efficient operations.
  2. Warehouse Automation: Automated systems in warehouses, such as robotic picking and packing, can speed up order fulfillment and reduce errors.
  3. Blockchain Technology: Blockchain technology can enhance transparency and traceability in the supply chain, ensuring accurate record-keeping and enhancing customer trust.





About #USAMfgHour

Anyone who champions U.S. manufacturing can join in on a new conversation each week on Twitter using the hashtag #USAMfgHour. The chat starts at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time/2 p.m. Eastern. Share positive blog posts, helpful articles, news, important information, accomplishments, events, and more with other manufacturers and supporters from throughout the country.

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