Inbound Logistics | August 2023

than look for a single “best idea,” it’s likely different solutions will apply in different scenarios. So, a shipper may use a parcel company to reach suburban customers, and then lockers and cargo bikes when delivering in an urban center. Here is a look at some of the most promising solutions.

A number of solutions show promise for helping shippers navigate the last inch of deliveries. They include software to more efficiently route delivery vehicles, community lockers, cargo bikes, crowdsourced delivery models, and the use of brick- and-mortar retail stores. Even drones are being piloted in a few areas. “We’ll see a lot of creativity and innovation in this space in the coming years,” says Gary Nemmers, chief executive officer with Magaya, a logistics software provider. FINAL INCH CHALLENGES Congestion makes deliveries in urban areas tricky and time consuming. Delivery vehicles spent 28% of their trip time cruising for


Investments made in artificial intelligence (AI) technology

can optimize routes to both conserve fuel and

minimize mileage and wear on delivery fleets, explains Raj Vaughn-Patel, manager and SAP retail lead with Clarkston Consulting. The ability to help shippers save time and money is helping to drive the market for route optimization

Valqari’s landing station technology precisely aligns packages and drones, allowing for reliable package loading and unloading regardless of where the drone places the payload.

parking in downtown Seattle, according to a recent study by Goodchild and Giacomo Dalla Chiara, research associate, at the University of Washington. Porch piracy, or package theft, is another concern. In 2022, about 260 million packages disappeared from porches and front doors across the United States, reports Safewise, an online resource providing safety tools and information. Consumers increasingly expect visibility to the changing status of their orders, from when it’s picked, to when it heads to a distribution center, and when it arrives at their front door, says Jeremy Tancredi, partner in the operations excellence line with West Monroe, a digital services firm. As the value of the delivery increases, so do expectations. Many consumers want to know the delivery time and then see a picture of the package near their front door. It’s not only consumers who are looking for this information. All constituents involved in a transaction, such as distributors and retailers, want “one

version of the truth,” says Jeff Abeson, vice president with Ryder Supply Chain Solutions. “It’s a huge challenge.” Despite the challenges, the customer experience is “paramount,” when it comes to executing the final inch, says Nathan Lease, senior director, logistics research and advisory with Gartner. It’s often online customers’ primary interaction with a brand. Even as many consumers want rapid delivery, they’re also considering the environmental impact of their delivery choices. Some firms now offer multiple shipment options, and show the carbon impact of each. FINAL INCH SOLUTIONS A growing range of technology solutions is available to help shippers meet these challenges. They tend to be at different points of maturity, and it’s not clear any are perfected. “We’re in a phase of experimentation and ideas,” Goodchild says. Rather

software, which is expected to grow by nearly 11% annually, according to a Research and Markets report. DELIVERY ROBOTS While they may look like something from a futuristic film, delivery robots that can take packages from a vehicle to the doorstep are already in use. For example, Starship Technologies’ autonomous robots have made more than five million deliveries to date, according to the San Francisco-based company. Sensors and one dozen cameras allow each robot to see where it’s going and navigate around people and objects. Each robot is tracked with GPS to within one inch, and can be unlocked only with the customer’s phone. DRONES Drone delivery has been talked about for years, but hasn’t really taken off. “The technology has been more than capable

34 Inbound Logistics • August 2023

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