21 Jan 20

Here’s how Last Mile will innovate in 2020

It’s going to be a busy year in Last Mile, for three reasons: e-commerce continues to grow rapidly, technological innovation is enabling new solutions, and consumers are getting used to all sorts of high-tech delivery methods. So, what are the innovations Last Mile will throw at us in 2020?

This year, global logistics spending will reach €9.5 trillion, with transport making up 70% of the total, a recent study by Frost & Sullivan predicts. About 40% of that total is for last-mile delivery – a stark reminder of the need for innovative solutions in urban parcel delivery services.

Start-up boom

Indeed, it’s that high cost that is motivating innovation in Last Mile, the London-based analysts say. It has created a boom in logistics start-ups, all attacking the inefficiencies in the current urban logistics ecosystem with innovative solutions.

Some of the options they are exploring:

  • click-and-collect;
  • locker boxes;
  • on-demand deliveries; and
  • autonomous solutions.

Drones and bots

Of those, Frost & Sullivan predicts on-demand and autonomous delivery as the options that will rapidly become commonplace – think delivery by (flying) drone or (driving) bot. Another (relatively) quick win: digital freight brokerage, which could reduce empty mileage of logistics vehicles by up to 10%.

But innovation doesn’t have to be high-tech. Also coming, especially in densely populated urban areas that are difficult to navigate by LCV, are smaller urban-based distribution centres, and smaller delivery vehicles or even bicycles (which have the added advantage of being low- or zero-emission).

So, which specific Last Mile innovations can we expect in 2020? Here are a few of the pilots, products and services that are being piloted already, or will be introduced later this year.

1. Nokia wants to be your delivery robot

At the end of 2019, Nokia started a pilot project using an autonomous delivery robot at its Paris-Sarclay campus. Through the first quarter of 2020, the robot, developed by the Last Mile Autonomous Delivery (LMAD) project, will test a software platform for delivery robots. The aim is to serve the entire campus, which is managed by Sodexo. Campus employees can use the robot to have parcels above 5kg delivered, sparing them a trip to the central warehouse.

2. Dolly handles one order at a time

US-based chain Container Store is rolling out Dolly across the country. Dolly is a last-mile delivery service aimed at shoppers buying expensive items that are difficult to deliver, such as furniture. Despite being more expensive than the various external delivery services Container Store used to employ, customer satisfaction is up, mainly because the delivery window has shrunk from four hours to 30 minutes. This is made possible by Dolly’s unique approach: drivers handle single orders at a time, instead of several at once.

3. Partnerships between delivery specialists

Convey, a provider of delivery experience management, has launched ConveyPLUS, a network of more than 20 partners, offering last-mile delivery services. The network aims to help retailers who seek fast and efficient deliveries. Such partnerships between companies in the last-mile delivery chain will become increasingly prevalent, as they facilitate stability, quality and predictability of service.

4. SaaS model for scalability and replicability

Foodkart, the largest food-delivery network in various Gulf countries (UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain), is working with GetSwift for a last-mile logistics platform that is offered as a Software-as-a-Service model. The SaaS model promises to make last-mile logistics easily scalable and replicable, enabling further growth.

5.    NextNav’s no-GPS solution for vertical localisation

NextNav has developed the Metropolitan Beacon System, an indoor localisation system that doesn’t require GPS to pinpoint smart devices (phones, drones, cars, etc.) to their exact location (including the right floor).

Using cellular technology, the MBS – soon to expand from its current deployment in the San Francisco and Washington DC areas to all of America’s 50 biggest markets – is particularly useful for emergency services to figure out how many people are located on a given building floor, but the system also has commercial potential. The added vertical localisation makes it an ideal tool for locating drones – soon to come into widespread use for last-mile goods deliveries.

These are just some of the innovations taking place in 2020. More is certainly to follow. Watch this space!

Images: Nokiamob.net, The Container Store, Convey, Foodkart, NextNav

Authored by: Frank Jacobs