City logistics: not the last-mile, but the first-mile is the issue

In city logistics, we often talk about the last-mile issue with the introduction of zero-emission zones and more and more restrictions on urban freight in residential areas and inner cities. We solve these problems with bundling, collaboration, wholesalers, and city hubs. However, these solutions cause new problems upstream in the supply chain. Not the last-mile, but the first-mile will soon be a bottleneck.

Companies decouple the last-mile of the many small shipments for customers in the city from the first-mile logistics on a regional level; city hubs and wholesalers. The last-mile into the city will become smarter, cleaner and also affordable if companies leave that to professionals.

First-mile: just-in-time

Sounds simple. But the new last-mile solutions do raise questions about how in the first-mile companies will consolidate time-critical small shipments for construction, retail, hospitality, and offices to city hubs. In the hospitality and food sector alone, there are thousands of producers and suppliers who will soon be delivering via hubs. The thousands of partners of Bol, Zalando or Amazon face major challenges with deliveries for tomorrow and even the same day.
How are we going to organize the efficient collection of all those just-in-time shipments? In any case, paperless. The planning of the collection rounds determines the success of hubs and wholesalers. This information is necessary for the correct and efficient processing in the hubs.

Learning from flowers and plants

We can learn a great deal from the supply chain of flowers and plants. They moved away from delivering large volumes from a single grower to the auction. Today, the grower delivers a couple of roll containers several times a day directly to multiple customers. Flowers and plants have to be transported to the marketplace as quickly as possible. The complexity increases.

Just as people can choose to go by bus or cab, so can planners in the floriculture sector. The Winter Logistics DWL Express is comparable to a cab service; it can be used ad hoc. In addition, Winter Logistics offers the DWL Bus service. This is a permanent service, which always drives fixed routes at fixed times. Never again having to make the same phone call every day to book transport. Make sure that the cargo is picked up at the agreed time; paperless with a user-friendly app. De Winter Logistics works together with other transporters in Greenport Logistics.

Opportunities: faster, more often, and fresher

Innovation in the last-mile will inevitably lead to more fineness, dynamics, and complexity upstream in supply chains. There is a need for large-scale, and sustainable, collection systems for first-mile. Paperless, bookable as a cab, with high service levels. Data plays the main role in communication with city hubs and facilitates dynamic planning. Transport capacities are shared with colleagues or with transport platforms. This is not business-as-usual. It is a fundamental innovation in ‘fluff’ and ‘stuff’ we need to make city logistics more sustainable.

Walther Ploos van Amstel

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