The future of last mile logistics - CILT(UK)
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The future of last mile logistics

10 August 2018/Categories: CILT, Industry News, Freight Forwarding, Logistics & Supply Chain

Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of last mile logistics. The ‘last mile’ is the final step of the delivery process that gets goods from the warehouse to the customers’ door. 

The rise in online shopping means customers are no longer willing to wait long periods of time for goods they order online. Standard shipping times are decreasing, and this means companies need to invest in new technology to speed up the last stage of the delivery process or risk losing out to competitors.

There are a number of new technologies currently being trialled. These range from drones to making use of the “gig economy”, and companies will need to work out which is most suited to the products and services they deliver. Packaging company Rajapack looked into how two very different companies are handling the growing demands they face during the last mile, see the report here

Below we’ve looked at some of the technologies that could soon make the leap from being a futuristic idea to being commonplace on our roads, or in the skies.

Autonomous ground vehicles – driving into the future?

Self-driving cars have been on our radar for a while. And now, they’re not only in Sci-Fi films and cartoons, they’re being trialled on our streets. Perhaps the next step from there was always going to be self-driving delivery vehicles or AGVs. There have already been trials of various types of AGVs in both the UK and the US although, currently, the robotic vehicles have to be accompanied by a human in case any problems arise. 

Delivery drones – parcels descending from the skies?

The technology is already here. At the moment a number of companies are working to hone their delivery drones to fit around the modern world. Some places are more suitable for drone delivery than others. For example, it’s much easier to deliver to a rural property surrounded by fields than to the 9th floor of a tower block. But, these are minor problems. Designated drone collection locations are just one solution. 
One of the more pressing issues is how to manage multiple drones soaring through the skies. Air traffic control systems will need to be set up to avoid any dangerous mid-air collisions, fortunately, NASA are already on the case.

Crowdsourcing technology 

The rise of crowdsourcing apps hasn’t just given people the freedom to create their own work hours, it’s also becoming a valuable tool for companies looking to meet short delivery windows – especially in urban areas. This can work particularly well for small to medium-sized companies who can have a veritable army of delivery people ready to go at a moment’s notice. 

Businesses are already using this technology to help achieve efficient delivery times, such as one-hour deliveries. This is most apparent in the food delivery sector where there are now a few companies that crowdsource their deliveries, UberEats and Deliveroo being perhaps two of the most well-known of these.

Improved tracking systems

These days not only do customers expect their goods to be delivered quickly, they expect full visibility along the way. Advances in the logistics stream mean shorter delivery times and this, in turn, has led to a rise in customer expectations. A great deal is being invested in modern tracking systems that let customers see exactly where their order is. The key to an effective tracking system is data, and this is one area that smart logistics managers are taking notice of.

If autonomous drones and self-driving delivery vehicles are becoming part of the delivery process, in the not-too-distant future, we may have forgotten all about the “last mile”. The more pressing questions will be centred around, speed, efficiency and the “last 30 feet”. 



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