What is ‘last mile’ delivery and why is it so important?

‘Last mile’ is a term from the logistics industry that some of you may not be aware of. In this post we will explain what it is, and how it is vitally important to ensuring that the chain of operation is kept flowing. With the help of some statistics that have emerged as part of a recent study, we will show how this is a ‘must address’ situation for the courier and delivery industry, aswell as the wider logistics industry that this belongs to.

Definitions and terms.

It is probably prudent to start with the basics!

The logistics industry is an umbrella type term for the whole arena (which governs the process where deliveries happen from start to finish.) Couriers and delivery drivers are part of the logistics industry to varying degrees and most (including ourselves here at Rock Solid Deliveries) have our own business and operation within it.

If you thought about the term ‘last mile’ in the ordinary sense of the words, you would probably conclude that it is something to do with a journey coming to an end. This is exactly what last mile delivery is. It is about the end part of the delivery process – the one where the courier transports, is responsible for, and hands the item to the customer.  The customer is the key part of any business chain, so it is probably not a surprise to learn therefore why the logistics industry classes last mile delivery as so important.

Despite its importance however, last mile delivery is one of the most complicated and demanding parts of the process. Precision, speed and accuracy are the key to ensuring successful fulfilment. This places even greater demand on last mile delivery, to ensure it really does work for the customer and business alike. Last mile delivery is the shortest part of the logistical process overall, but it is often the one which encounters the most problems as explained above. This has the result of making it very inefficient, with a recent report stating that over 50% of supply chain costs are wasted during the last mile delivery section.

The problem is that the market is highly competitive. Customers expect better and faster delivery. Once when next day delivery was an attractive enough promotion, now many expect same day delivery, or even on-demand services which are designed to be quicker. By 2025 it is estimated that half of all retail sales will be through online mediums, so this demand and pressure is only going to increase.

What is the answer?   

As you might expect, there is no one solution or hard and fast rule when it comes to addressing this. In reality, to make last mile delivery better, a multiple approach needs to be targeted which carefully consider and remedy all the factors above. There is however one thing that can be agreed upon when it comes to answering this question:

Talent. Hiring the right people is key, to demonstrate the qualities that last mile delivery requires, and for these to be able to shine through. The courier and delivery industry generally has a low staff retention rate, and this is not helped by low hourly rates and unsocial working patterns in some cases.

Research has shown that schemes like apprenticeships, have worked well in other industries to address staff shortage in key areas, as well as build up knowledge, experience, and loyalty with the field. In logistics however, this has largely not been taken advantage of. The idea behind giving someone an opportunity, training them, and giving them incentives to stay and succeed is a very powerful one, both personally for them as individuals and for the positive effects it brings to the individual business (and collectively to the industry.)

Is it about time the logistics industry thought much more about talent to address its last mile delivery problems?

You’ve heard us speak about logistics in this post, but are you aware of (or looking for) reverse logistics couriers? Click the link to read more and find out how we can assist.

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