A Last mile carrier is critical when it comes to crafting an unique and wonderful delivery experience. A myriad of efforts goes into making a delivery perfect. By perfect we mean deliveries that are profitable, on time and delightful. But all that effort, be it ensuring efficient warehousing, managing inventory, understanding customer behavior, planning routes and scaling operations, goes in vain if the carrier does not execute the last leg of delivery efficiently. So, why is that? Let us tell you here.
In order to understand the concept of a last mile provider or carrier, let us first take a step back and understand what is final mile delivery. It can be defined as the final leg of supply chain management; the part where a shipment moves from the warehouse or the fulfillment center and finally reaches its ultimate destination. A final mile carrier, or more popularly known as last mile carriers, on those lines, is the company that facilitates this process with their logistics services. Examples of such carriers include freight companies like DHL, Blue Dart, FedX and UPS. Such logistics or shipping companies are used by large corporations and small businesses alike to get their product to reach the end consumer quickly and efficiently.
Given the advancement in technology, with everything available at the tips of a consumer, the demand for end-to-end transportation tracking is only valid. Consumers want to know when their order ships from the warehouse and when it is dispatched. Final mile tracking is also important because it offers so much clarity to the consumers and the last mile delivery companies alike. If the consumer knows that an order is out, they can then confirm their presence, and accordingly, an order can be attempted for delivery or otherwise- saving time for both, the consumer as well as the delivery service provider.
Complying to the said consumer behavior, giants in the industry including UPS and FedX offer precise order tracking--a more refined final mile tracking option to their consumers.
Having said that, there still remain some major challenges with regards to last mile tracking
Poor visibility of transportation operations have been plaguing the supply chain and logistics industry for decades. Hence, it is among the top strategic priorities of companies worldwide. A report by Supply Chain Market Research revealed that 69% of businesses don’t have complete visibility of their supply chains. It’s dangerous as without end-to-end real-time visibility of ground level operations it’s difficult if not impossible to reduce costs, gain control of fleet operations, boost logistics productivity and enhance customer satisfaction.
Legacy infrastructure and traditional freight-forwarding practices have been weighing down logistics operations for decades. A decade back, enterprises were limited by the technology available. Manual dependencies were critical to execution of the supply chain operations. But there is only so much a human brain can analyze. Seamless execution of supply chain and logistics operations depends on a plethora of internal and external factors. Processing these factors manually without the aid of intelligent IT-systems results in a series of inefficiencies like poor logistics visibility, increasing transportation risks, unnecessary overhead costs, poor customer experience, poor productivity and more. With customers becoming more demanding, enterprises need to revamp their existing IT-architecture so as to ensure capabilities that manage customer expectations in real-time, improve productivity, optimize costs and more.
Logistics is defined as an industry that has multiple moving parts, hence includes a multiple stakeholders. Here is a quick look at the stakeholders that are usually involved. Manufacturer, retailers or eCommerce providers, warehouse managers, 3PL or delivery providers, drivers and customers. It’s a simplistic look at the stakeholders involved. It can get far more complex. The challenge is how do enterprises keep all these stakeholders on the same page? How can they ensure that the right information is passed on to the right people at the right time? How can they drive prompt decision making to mitigate delays in response to exceptions and emergencies? Traditional methods of calling and going through spreadsheets is not effective. These methods are not scalable and are prone to information loss.
Automation is the way ahead in logistics. By failing to upgrade operations and by continuing to depend on manual processes as against time-saving, technology-oriented solutions, companies lose out on various opportunities. For example, if you do not depend on a driver to activate his location and instead have software in place that automatically activates once the truck is out for delivery, step 1 to tracking packages can be facilitated. Then to deliver on fast fulfilment expectations, brands need to eliminate manual processes of allocation and scheduling jobs. There is an ample scope to optimize delivery operations through automation.
In similar lines with the previous point, depending on humans to manually devise spreadsheets and maps to a destination might not be a very viable plan. A person might devise an excellent route manually but think about the opportunity cost of the time that went behind creating the route? Traditional routing practice as against automated routing practices also come to a standstill when last minute route blockages or changes in customer’s location need to be accommodated. Software-based routing does not only solve this but could also integrate last mile delivery tracking.
Deliveries involve human beings and human beings involve irregularities. If such problems are not communicated to the involved parties in a quick and efficient manner, finding a resolution might become challenging, hampering the overall flow of processes, including tracking.
Having laid out some of the most common challenges, the next big question arises- how to overcome the roadblock and improve last mile delivery tracking?
While there are certain ways discussed ahead to optimize final or last mile vehicle tracking and to make it a lot more efficient, the one-word answer to this problem is digitalization. Including means of technology and automation to tracking services not only reduces the burden on human labor but also makes the flow much more organized.
End-to-end or E2E real-time visibility in the supply chain involves tracking of all the processes associated with a supply chain through data logging and running analytics thereof. This process needs to start right at the stage of product procurement and go all the way until the product is finally delivered. Some major benefits of E2E real time visibility include improved customer experience, cost identification, and control, efficient risk mitigation, better planning of implementation of capabilities, lesser errors, improved error reporting, and an overall data analysis opportunity.
You might create the best routes for your delivery personnel; but what happens to those routes when unpredictable on-road interruptions take place? Real-time dynamic routing can help carriers to create optimized real-time routes to take care of the unaccounted on-road conditions like road blockage or traffic congestion. This not only ensures the timely delivery of goods but also to manage the schedule of fleets throughout the day. Dynamic routing, besides, only becomes so much easier when implemented with the help of automated routing technology.
The visibility here in question is that of the fleet. By enabling visibility of your fleet, you empower yourself with holistic real-time visibility of the supply chain. As you gain predictive visibility and control over your fleet, you can predict last-minute contingencies, thereby helping you improve the bottom-line considerably.
By implementing advanced logistic software powered by digital control towers into your system, you can gain real-time information from the largest GPS, ELD, and telematics network. This can be of benefit since you are essentially empowering yourself to keep a track of all your consignments on the ground. Also, in case of any irregularity, for example, a non-recommended route taken by a driver, can be instantly identified and resolved as a potential damage control measure. In other words it significantly improves the impact of driver tracking.
We have been talking a lot about real-time visibility, but how easy it is to achieve the said goal? While this might look like a difficult problem to solve, Machine Learning can make it unbelievably easy to do. Machine Learning or ML can analyze the trends of the previously traveled routes to generate predictive visibility and analytical insights around boosting fleet performance and even reducing the overall costs. For example, ML capabilities can predict the time it would take a driver to travel between point X to point Z on the basis of the average time taken by drivers in the past on that route. If the actual time taken is longer than predicted, immediate problem-resolving actions can be taken. This also further eliminates any room for guesswork and offers accurate ETAs.
Advanced logistics management tools automate dispatching operations. It informs a driver about his schedule much in advance, so that when the delivery executive starts his day he has a 100% clarity of the tasks he needs to complete in a siad period of time. Such a platform leverages an easy to use mobile phone application to keep a driver continuously updated regarding news tasks. This drastically improves productivity, ensures that drivers always stay informed and boosts driver engagement.
A modern logistics management platform keeps customers updated with delivery progress and shipping updates. It helps businesses to be highly transparent regarding their delivery processes, even if there are unexpected delays. Such a platform allows customers to change delivery location and time on the fly and get real-time updates on driver location, further enhancing the delivery experience. It also empowers customers with the ability to talk to drivers using online chat tools and once the delivery is done customers can also rate their delivery experience. An advanced logistics management platforms makes it possible to drive a customer-centric logistics strategy.
The benefits of last mile carrier tracking are quite wide, but it depends from whose perspective we are looking at those. Let’s quickly explain how tracking helps customers, 3PLs and enterprises.
The end goal of last mile operations is broadly split into two-parts. One, ensuring delightful shipping experiences and two, making deliveries profitable. As customer satisfaction and experience gradually overtakes price as the major competitive advantage, providing full visibility of logistics operations to end consumers via tracking tools will become imperative.
Savvy customers are impatient. They want to know, at any given point of time, post placing orders, where their packages are, when they will arrive and who will deliver the same. They want brands to intimate them with live notifications regarding last mile progress. A modern last mile carrier tracking solution delivers on all these expectations and more. It empowers customers to change delivery location and time on the fly. It helps track body temperature of delivery executives and store staff and display the same to customers. Such a solution literally makes the middleman, the third-party entity who brings the order home, invisible to the customer. This establishes a healthy brand-customer relationship and boosts loyalty.
Final mile carriers are also referred to as 3PLs, third-party logistics companies. Final mile tracking is critical for 3PLs. A lot of 3PLs providers suffer owing to poor tracking practices. Real-time tracking helps 3PLs gain better control of their vehicles and drivers. It helps them accurately track performance of drivers and ensure more realistic reward programmes. It mitigates risks and vehicle wear-and-tear by ensuring drivers follow transportation regulations. Modern tracking solutions are powered by geofencing capabilities that immediately trigger automatic alerts in cases of unnecessary diversions, prolonged halts, over speeding, vehicle idling and more.
Leveraging modern last mile carrier tracking technologies, 3PLs can significantly improve routing by considering multiple variable factors like, weather patterns, one-ways, containment zones, tonnage, empty miles, traffic congestions, proximity from store, warehouse, hubs and customers and more.
Enterprises are the ones to reap the benefits of last mile carrier tracking almost immediately. By implementing it savvy enterprises are automating route planning, increasing end-to-end visibility of ground level and carrier operations, shrinking fuel costs, reducing carbon footprint, improving productivity, ensuring seamless multi-drop fulfilment, generating delightful delivery experiences and more. Today final mile carrier tracking platforms are powered by Machine Learning and predictive intelligence that drive faster and accurate decision making and study patterns in the last mile process that human eyes could not, thus opening up opportunities to ensure cost effectivity and drive innovation.
The concept of tracking has evolved fast in the past five-six years. In today’s day and age it entails much more than just knowing where your executive is. It helps build resiliency. It ensures that SLAs are adhered to. To make supply chain and logistics leaders build a proactive approach towards executing last mile operations. Robust tracking tools and practices can positively impact TCO (total cost of ownership) and generate greater value for both lines-of-business and customers.
There is no one way of answering this question. The time required to complete or executive delivery depends on a number of factors. What is the delivery type? Is it same-day or one hour or the next day? Does the delivery include big box items and heavy machinery? In that case it may take more than a couple of days to get delivered. With regards to essential items like medicines, grocery and food, a last mile carrier usually delivers within hours. Cold storage deliveries have unique last mile delivery models, but to ensure hygiene they need to be delivered fast, in a day’s time or so. In other words a customer’s expectation on delivery turnaround-time is based on the kind of order but what’s important is to keep customers engaged by pushing out regular notifications or automatic text messages throughout the delivery process.
Picking out the ultimate carrier from a pool of options available could be a rather challenging and confusing job, to begin with. Before you get to picking your carrier and signing a contract with them, you need to first understand the kind of responsibilities a 3PL needs to be able to deal with. They are not only ensuring timely delivery of your product to the end consumer but they also could be, in most cases, the only point of interaction with your end consumer. They, hence, should be able to take up the responsibility of representing your brand.
Such carriers also need to fulfill a range of legal requirements, especially if you are a business that deals in specialized deliveries of sorts. The well-established and seasoned last mile carriers like DHL, FedX, Blue Dart, and UPS do not only ensure that the said responsibilities and expectations are duly met but they also continuously update themselves by integrating top-notch technology in their operations.
Having said that, here are a few quick things to look for before picking your carrier for the last mile.
Tracking and E2E visibility are critical. Enterprises must focus on the kind and level of tracking and visibility their potential delivery logistics provider can offer. As discussed, having control over your delivery fleet can help determine the areas of improvement for overall efficiency.
Wide, expansive delivery area coverage. The network of your final mile provider should be wide enough to be able to meet the geographical placement of your current as well as the potential consumer market.
A reliable delivery window. An efficient carrier should be able to offer a quick, reasonable, and reliable delivery window. The offered window should also be met consistently to achieve a favorable customer experience. Not only will a long delivery window potentially cause you an unhappy consumer but could also cost you exhaustive monetary loss in the long run.
Some other quick questions to ask yourself before picking a logistics carrier -
FarEye’s predictive logistics platform helps organizations orchestrate, track, and optimize overall logistics operations. We can help you achieve and surpass the delivery expectations of the customers with the efficient movement of goods. A range of modular tools offered by FarEye includes route optimization, efficient customer communication, digital signature for record keeping, real-time tracking and driver ETA, proof of delivery, and delivery network analytics. Our final mile carrier and logistics platform has already empowered global businesses to reduce delivery time by 27%, boost productivity by 15%, mitigate risks by 57% and achieve much more.