Final Metre Is The New Final Mile

Future Perspectives: The Final Metre is the New Final Mile

Final metre delivery is a key challenge that supply chain and logistics services need to get to grips with in the coming decade.

Today, satnav systems and digital route planning tools have made it relatively easy to get deliveries as far as the street in front of the customer’s home. They can plan the fastest and most economical routes, allocate deliveries between loads efficiently and predict journey and arrival times. Many systems allow in-flight adjustment, anticipating and reacting to changes in traffic conditions or new route information. Changes and updates can go directly to a mobile device in a van or via a phone app.

Right up to the point when the van pulls into the kerb, the delivery process is automated. But to get the delivery into the recipient’s home, letterbox or safe storage place requires a human. Unlike machines, people can easily navigate high kerbs and awkward staircases, spot mailboxes hidden in walls, read notes describing delivery access and make judgements about safe and appropriate actions in any given situation.

A report by Wise Systems revealed that as much as 75% of business delivery drivers’ productive time is spent not on the last mile – but on the last 100 metres. This included waiting at loading docks, looking for parking, and interacting with customers.

The time spent on this kind of activity varies, depending on the time of day, the customer location, the type of goods delivered and the individual driver. One way to improve efficiency is to use geodata to map the most important factors and feed them into the delivery routing algorithm. For example, avoiding deliveries to town centre retailers at their busiest trading times can cut time spent waiting at the back door. Showing parking availability and avoiding the times of highest demand helps drivers complete their task more quickly and with less frustration and delay.

Convenience is king in the world of e-commerce. Consumers and – increasingly – businesses, expect next day, same day or even two-hour delivery times, with nominated one- or two-hour 

windows. The challenge for logistics operations is providing these agile, flexible services profitably. Shop-to-door routes often involve small consignments and either long distances between non-urban stops, or dense concentrations of deliveries in congested and obstacle-ridden town and city centres.

On-demand is everything in today’s digitally connected world. Customers have plenty of choice for most of their purchasing, so if the delivery time, manner and price isn’t right, they’ll take their business elsewhere. The pressure of individual expectations affects B2B organisations as well as B2C: there’s a knock-on effect back up the supply chain from the company that’s serving consumer customers. Trade supply needs to be faster and more responsive – for example, more frequent but smaller deliveries that closely mirror daily demand patterns – so the end-user provider can satisfy and retain customers.


Innovative Organisations are Tackling the Final Metre Part of this Challenge in a Variety of Ways

Courier company DPD is opening satellite distribution hubs, with short range electric vehicles, including micro-vehicles, to move deliveries within urban areas.

Green tech vehicle company GNewt is looking at the value of on-foot parcel porters, who would meet delivery vehicles in urban areas and take over the last few metres of delivery, keeping delivery vehicles on the move for maximum efficiency and minimal energy wastage, while avoiding congestion from parked vehicles in city streets.

German automotive specialist Continental has experimented with robot dogs, capable of jumping out of the back of a self-driving delivery truck to carry a package right to the recipient’s door. A publicity-grabbing novelty perhaps, but it’s another way of looking at the types of mechanisation that could overcome the diverse terrain and environment of a country-wide delivery catchment.

Amazon’s well publicised hive trial is just one of the ways that organisations are looking to use drones. In B2B delivery models, where premises are constantly staffed, automated delivery methods are potentially more attractive than for consumer deliveries, where there may be no-one at home to accept and receipt goods. Automated drone docking points in business premises could take last metre automation right to the final destination.

Postcodes typically provide the data that locates the delivery destination. But in some densely populated areas, a number of business or domestic units may occupy the same postcode. This is a barrier to automating the final metres of delivery: currently a human being needs to take the initiative and determine the exact delivery point within the postcode area. What3Words has further sub-divided the planet, creating a new dataset that gives everywhere on earth a three-metre square location identifier. This means delivery points can be identified down to the exact doorway. What3Words is a 2D solution, so it doesn’t entirely solve the challenges of multi-level business or home addresses.

If you’d like to talk to an expert at CACI about refining your datasets and digital tools to enable more accurate and efficient geo-location, please get in touch with our distribution and logistics technology team.