Go the extra mile for last-mile deliveries

May 19, 2022

We're all used to hearing about the pressures on post-pandemic logistics. Purchasing online is de rigueur; people are looking for the fastest, most convenient way to get what they want. If you can trim deliveries down by hours or days, your competitive edge becomes ever sharper.

Last-mile processing – the final leg of the journey, when you send packages out to doorsteps – is critical for success. But since customers don't want to foot the bill for delivery, the expense must be borne by retailers and logistics operations. This is significant. Insider Intelligence reveals that 53% of shipping costs are tied up in last-mile deliveries. "As such," writer Shelagh Dolan explains, "it's become the first place they're looking to implement new technologies and drive process improvements."

Your warehouses can make or break these ambitions. With plenty of foresight, you'll shave delivery times down, or at least position yourself perfectly for a delivery team to take over and offer customers what they're craving.

Improve your throughput
If you're able to count and load more goods every day, you'll maximize transport efficiency. There's a chance your throughput (the number of orders divided by the time taken to pack, label and ship them) is too low. Raise it without incurring extraneous costs; that's a major mark in your favor for last-mile commitments.

Automated tools, conveyor belts and a Warehouse Management System are your best bets for seamless processing. But your buildings also have a role to play. Cramped, crumbling structures aren't beneficial to quick loads. You may want to reinvest in new warehouses, wider entrances, higher ceilings, bigger loading bays or updated electrics for swifter work.

Consider more accessible locations
Some logistics centers are off the beaten path. In fact, they're actively hostile – for example – to half a dozen pickups a day. Your warehouses are better served by bridges, freeways, ring roads and multiple entry points. Drivers not only want to load as quickly as possible, but their routes are often mapped to nearby drop-offs, saving fuel and customer impatience. An idling delivery truck guzzles 0.84 gallons an hour. You must be easy to reach to hit target.

Therefore, put accessibility and centrality at the top of your list for future warehouse purchases. A processing center for last-mile jobs should be close to large urban areas. Struggling to afford in-demand spaces? Perhaps selling more remote locations and reinvesting is the answer.

Look into non-professional couriers
Flexibility is key to the last-mile equation. You have to know that a driver is available for what may be a very tight delivery window; ditto for the customer, who should be at home waiting. And although tracked deliveries by professional, in-house teams are the gold standard, you might want to bring local couriers on board too.

These drivers may have more freedom. You can call on them for sudden bulk orders, or to drop off on routes you're unfamiliar with. The relationship yields more rewards if the customer and driver are in direct contact until the parcel arrives. That way, you avoid one or several missed deliveries.