In logistics, the last mile is the process of delivering the last leg of a journey as fast as possible. If logistics were an athlete, it would be Usain Bolt, trying to work out the fastest way to get a pair of shoes from the start line to the end point. But unlike being having access to an Olympic running track and seeing sprinters progress on TV. Delivering on last mile logistical promises is not as easy as it looks.
Looking at it from a customer’s perspective, the last mile is the most tangible interaction people have with an order. Be it online, over the phone, or through an EDI portal, the moment between you selecting “yes I want that thing” and the item being delivered – that moment now has a whole new world of expectation around it.
The crossover between commercial and consumer grade technologies is now at a point where businesses are expected to deliver a product as well as information, as quickly as possible. Thank Uber for that. Uber has changed things by letting you know when the car will be arriving, what make and model the car is the driver's name, and the rego number on the front. The whole process is easy, the information is sleek, and you as a consumer have complete visibility of your journey.
Uber though, is a tricky example; they do a good job and make the last mile look and feel easy. But making something feel easy is not as easy as it looks. Granted some companies are just… worse, than others. You can YouTube plenty of examples where drivers hurl packages over fences or worse, you could have been left to deal with Aus Post’s ‘missed delivery’ service… the horror of that experience still haunts me till today.
Thankfully though, not everyone is trying to ruin your life with a little piece of paper and a 20-digit tracking code. Some companies, despite their best efforts, are stuck dealing with factors beyond their control influence. Yes, you can easily place the order, and yes Uber shows you exactly how far along the journey is - meaning you want the same kind of information everywhere.
But feel a slight bit of sympathy for the operators who have to deal with, not only this new customer demands for information. But with things like traffic, flooding, IT service dropouts, or people simply not being at home. All of which throws off the perfect scenario and impact a carrier’s ability to deliver their goods to customers on time, to the right place in the right quantity - not broken and not incurring further costs to the business or to the customer.
Luckily, new technology and tracking methods are coming out all the time, my final thoughts though are; if you’re a Linfox or a DHL or a Toll or an Amazon, you can afford to invest huge money into giving people perfect visibility of the journey of their products. But what about the little people? What about the suppliers of components? What about the small operators who can’t afford such a big investment in digital supply chain infrastructure?
To answer that, tune in next time
This post originally appeared on a site called LMN. This piece has since been edited and is now featured on Krys Carter. A content and consulting company logistics. For more content, visit www.carter.directory