The technology hype cycle has created a vision for last-mile delivery tactics led by airborne drones, self-driving cars and similar solutions that feel almost like science fiction. While these technologies are in the marketplace, businesses that wait for them to emerge are missing out on much more accessible - and potentially impactful - strategies that are already widely available.
Data-driven technologies are still the foundation of many last-mile delivery innovations, but instead of pilot projects with drones, many merchants are exploring more applicable and even low-tech solutions, ranging from localized locker hubs to gig-based regional delivery drivers that can supplement traditional carriers. These types of tactics are transforming how companies manage the last mile.
A Quick Look at Last-mile Delivery
Improving last-mile delivery has become a Holy Grail of sorts in the distribution and fulfillment sector. Costs are typically high and many aspects of operation end up outside the direct control of the brand. As such, organizations can put a great deal of effort into making small improvements. A Supply Chain Management Review report that incorporated expertise from Benoit Montreuil, a department chair at the Georgia Tech Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, explained that there are a variety of strategic options available to businesses when it comes to getting goods to customers. Lockers are currently emerging as a primary tactic among leading U.S. logistics firms, but in-store pickup and shifting ground delivery methods are also gaining momentum.
These are simple solutions from a technology perspective, at least at the end-user level. However, they do rely heavily on integrating data across the entire system. As brands explore options for last-mile delivery and look to adopt on-site lockers or similar systems, they must also consider how their warehouse tactics will be affected. Here are three of the primary issues that come to mind:
1. Demand for Localized Warehouses Will Rise
"Moving the warehouse closer to the customer is one of the easiest ways to simplify delivery."
Moving the warehouse closer to the customer is one of the easiest ways to simplify delivery. Supply Chain Dive reported that Amazon is leading a growing trend toward the deployment of warehouses in urban areas. By placing the warehouse in such close proximity to customers, organizations can quickly process orders, grab the item off the shelf, scan it for delivery, pass it on to a courier and get it out to a customer.
While this sounds nice, inventory management can become incredibly complex when organizations try to keep pace with operations across multiple geographically diverse facilities. Mobile data collection and integration with enterprise resource planning systems can ease this concern by creating a centralized data ecosystem that interconnects all locations.
2. Organizations Will Need Data Transparency
We just mentioned transparency in terms of managing multiple facilities, but the need for visibility isn't exclusive to such tactics. If you are going to have delivery drivers from across multiple traditional carriers and local courier services delivering packages, you need a data setup that lets them all report in on deliveries with a simple barcode scan.
Barcode labeling solutions can make this process easier by letting warehouse users apply appropriate barcodes relative to the asset and carrier, setting a strong base for end-to-end data visibility.
3. Business Silos Will Need to Disappear
With delivery becoming so fluid and flexible, organizations must create an operational climate where various business units can easily access data relevant to the end-to-end customer experience. This can often be accomplished with a combination of sensors, end-user applications and mobile data collection systems coming together to feed central ERP platforms.
As businesses work to eliminate operational silos, adopting Scrum methodologies can help. Scrum, a management strategy that got its start in the software development world, focuses on creating operational flexibility by connecting diverse teams on small-scale, manageable projects. This philosophy, when applied to the supply chain, can go a long way in improving visibility and coordination in last-mile delivery.
RFgen is among the industry leaders in helping businesses adjust their entire supply chain around modern demands. Our mobile data collection and ERP integration solutions are key tools in establishing the kind of transparency needed to support contemporary last-mile delivery tactics.