Inbound Logistics | January 2024

FROM AN ICY ENCLAVE in the Arctic to a retail store down the street, white-glove delivery service takes many forms—everything from placing a new sofa in a homeowner’s rec room to installing a single computer server in a restaurant’s tech closet to setting up complex medical devices. But the desired outcome is always the same: make the customer happy.

back on—to get a new refrigerator into the customer’s kitchen. At the commercial level, white-glove service could entail delivering complex medical equipment for demonstration use and picking it back up again or installing customized rooms for private video calls as employees return to work in open oor plan ofces. Customers, both consumer and commercial, have high expectations for service when they order expensive items for delivery. That also means the seller assumes liability for the product going into the customer’s location. “Companies used to be able to deliver a $7,000 couch to the street, and the customer took care of it from there,” says Nick Brown, director of supply chain solutions for enVista, a supply chain technology consultant. “Now the shipper is responsible for getting it into the customer’s room of choice.” Complexity and timing raise the stakes for white-glove deliveries. “These projects are time sensitive and often delivered in the off-hours and sometimes even weekend off-hours. When we deliver to a downtown location, for instance, we have issues like having to close off streets,” says Bourke.

outdated equipment has to be upgraded to handle the new workload. White glove provides an ideal scenario for deliveries to these data centers—even when they are located at the ends of the earth. In one extreme example, SEKO Logistics delivered data center gear to a location above the Arctic Circle, where the items had to acclimate to the local weather for hours until they could be installed. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION Unlike shipping from dock to dock, there is no telling what a delivery driver might encounter in a white-glove scenario. At the consumer level, that means doing whatever it takes—such as removing the door and then putting it

The denition of white glove encompasses a wide range of services, depending on customer needs. Basically, it’s the next step beyond nal-mile service, which delivers a product to the customer’s dock or curb. With white- glove service, providers take the product to the customer’s specic location of choice and install it or set it up for use. As consumers become more comfortable buying large items online, and brands go all in on reducing the amount of stock in retail locations, white-glove service will continue to play a signicant role in the fulllment space. Parcel and LTL carriers will continue to purge big and bulky items that make their networks inefcient, shifting more volume to white-glove service options. For their part, shippers are leaning toward white-glove service as a way to consolidate oversized shipments. Instead of sending, say, ve bar stools in three oversized parcel deliveries, the shipper consolidates that order into one pallet load for white-glove delivery. DATA CENTERS GET SOME LOVE Long a staple in the furniture and home appliance industry, other sectors are embracing white-glove services as well. The growth of articial intelligence and the remote work trend has created a surge in white-glove deliveries for data centers, for instance. “Constant growth and refurbishment of high-tech equipment exists primarily within data centers,” says Brian Bourke, global chief commercial ofcer for SEKO, a global logistics provider. Data centers are adding capacity, and

While furniture and home appliances have long embraced white-glove delivery, it is now gaining traction across a wider spectrum of industries. SEKO Logistics, for example, has added data centers to its roster of white-glove customers.

130 Inbound Logistics • January 2024

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