Five main trends in UK’s last-mile logistics

Last-mile delivery has a big impact on two important logistic factors: the shipping cost of parcels and customer satisfaction. Don’t we all know the frustration with shipments not arriving in time and how this makes us feel towards the seller? So, what are the five main trends seen when looking at last-mile delivery in the UK? Melle van den Berg writes about it.

1.     Door to Door delivery

With the last mile delivery being a large part of the shipment costs, businesses that are able to be cost-competitive while delivering in time will increase their market share and turnover compared to their competitors. There are three different ways the industry is acting on this:

Short term – Flexible delivery by time slot delivery and rerouting option 

In previous years couriers tried to deliver packages at moments when the customer was not home. Thus the courier had to wait or take the package back to the depot for delivery at another moment, which was costing a lot of time and was thus inefficient. For the customer, this was not an enjoyable experience as well, because they had to wait longer for their package to arrive. Of course, some drivers would hand it off to neighbors, where the customer could pick it up. But many neighbors eventually got fed up with all packages in their hallway and becoming a non-profit collection point. Now parcel companies such as DPD are giving customers the possibility to choose a time slot of their convenience in advance or reroute the package to a location or locker where it can easily be picked up, giving customers flexibility and improve the customer experience while working more efficient.

Mid term – In house delivery 

Some years back a test was started with in house deliveries as well. By using for example Amazon Key the courier was able to access a house and deliver the package inside while the owner was away. So far it is unsuccessful because house owners do not feel comfortable giving unknown people access to their house. To avoid having the courier get into the house, some consumers are placing lockers in front of their house where the package can be dropped off by using a one-time code to access the locker. In areas with plenty of space, this is easy to arrange, but in dense urban areas there is just no space.

Long term – Autonomous Delivery Vehicles 

While we see hobby drones flying over when we spend time in the park or on the beach during the summer, the risks involved and complexity of flying or driving autonomous vehicles in urban areas, with sometimes heavy packages attached, is still seen as too high. The expectations for Autonomous Delivery Vehicles are the highest as it will completely eliminate the costly human aspect of the delivery, but it will still likely take years before this new technology becomes mainstream. The first tests are being carried out now, mainly by restaurants as a gimmick with an employee staying close by.

2.     Pick up and collect

Almost 35% of the UK consumers prefer to pick up their packages nearby their house or work, making it possible to pick them up at a time that is most convenient. Because of Covid19 and the new normal of social distancing, especially parcel lockers are gaining interest rapidly. Besides lockers, the number of central pick-up points is growing quickly as well, with RoyalMail, Collect+, and DPD offering the majority of the locations.

3.     Sustainability 

The government’s interest in a cleaner environment is also driving a change for last-mile couriers. Local companies like DPD, UPS, and Gnewt are successfully working with electric vans and cargo bikes. The first outcomes show a decrease in pollution, safer traffic, and less disturbance by using these smaller electric vans.

4.     Delivery management platforms

Platforms, such as Paazl and Metapack, offer e-commerce companies the flexibility to have shipments delivered at a specific place and time. After receiving the order online, the platform can select the best courier and parcel company option for delivery to the customer. Especially for e-commerce companies with a low/medium shipment volume, this can be a good solution, because multiple forwarders can be managed in one place and the flexibility in delivery options (E.g. home, lockers, pick-up points) can increase customer satisfaction.

5.     Opening of city depots 

The combination of flexible delivery and focus on safe and sustainable urban logistics is leading to a growth in city depots. These city depots operate as cross-docking stations, located on the border or even in the city. Large trucks bring the packages from the hubs to the city depot, which has a limited number of large truck dock doors. Here the packages are quickly sorted by automated systems to usually 2-10 outfeeds. Every outfeed again can serve multiple destinations, depending on the delivery/route plan.

Usually, the last mile depot operates in two shifts; in the morning packages are sorted from trucks to vans who bring it to the customer and in the afternoon back from the vans that picked up packages along the way, into the trucks. A visible new trend is that smaller clean vans, or even cargo bikes, make multiple routes from the last mile depot to the customer and back again, multiple times a day. This higher frequency leads to a quicker delivery time and the possibility to offer time slot deliveries. While delivering the packages to the customer, the couriers can also pick up packages, which are brought back to the city depot, fed into the system, and sorted back to awaiting trucks to bring the packages to the hubs for deeper sortation.

Melle van den Berg

Want to see an automated last-mile sortation system in action? Watch this MHS video:

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