The Critical Last Mile

Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to work with some small companies that specialize in local, same day delivery.  I must admit, I had little knowledge of how good a business it can be to deliver medical equipment and supplies on an expedited basis within town.  The company I was working with, was looking to merge its operation with another company that specializes in next day delivery in a wider geographical region.  

As I drive around town, I see couriers on bicycles, even in this age of e-mail and DocuSign capability.  Over the years I’ve had the chance to work with local delivery of groceries.  A decade or more ago it was tried, then abandoned during the recession.  Now, it’s certainly back into vogue. 

Amazon is working on expedited delivery in a few hours from local warehouses in packed cities like New York.  The package delivery fleets are experimenting with dropping off packages at the grocery store so that you can “come and get it” yourself.  Even though the post office delivers to every address six days a week, many people make the trip to the post office themselves to pick up their mail at a post office box.  But, such businesses still need a shipping address for packages that cannot be delivered to a box.  Add to these different delivery methods, the work by Amazon to explore drone delivery of packages less than 5 pounds in weight.  

Daimler Trucks North America received the first ever license for autonomous vehicles in the USA recently.  Maybe that technology will play out as an improved cruise control on the highway.  But, it might also play out as deliveries being done via the required side walks that are hardly used by pedestrians in residential neighborhoods.  I could easily imagine golf cart like devices similar to the Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV’s) in the factories navigating sidewalks and avoiding accidents.

It certainly seems that it’s going to be an exciting decade as we continue to work to meet the needs of a growing, denser, older population.  I would think that one of the many trade and technical associations would run a special session or theme for a meeting related to demographics in our country and the world, combined with looking at how we deliver food, water and freight to people over the critical last mile.

TAGS: News
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