Secrets of Successful Final Mile Delivery

Q & A – Kirk Godby

There is an art and a science to successful Final Mile delivery.  Like same-day, Final Mile involves timeliness, speed, accuracy and precision.  Fast and efficient Final Mile gives consumers what they want and shippers a way to measure up to increasingly demanding buyer expectations.
Having spent more than two decades in the customized logistics and delivery world, CLDA president Kirk Godby knows the demands of getting things from Point A to Point B fast.
In this month’s column he talks about the increasing role of local and regional carriers in making the Final Mile the fastest mile.
Question: We use the terms “Final Mile” and “Last Mile” all the time. Let’s clarify exactly what those words mean.
Godby: The Final Mile is the last delivery in the supply chain.  It’s about getting things from the manufacturer into the hands of the customer.  For example, from the pharmaceutical manufacturer to the pharmacy to the person who needs his meds.
Why choose a local or regional carrier to do this?
Godby: What Final Mile means to shippers is getting the product from them and into the ultimate customer’s hands in the most efficient way possible.  It’s especially critical today when consumers have gone from being okay with a three-day wait for a product to expecting it to arrive the day they order it.  Members of our industry started as on demand courier companies.  They grew up responding to the expectation that things would be delivered in hours. We’ve operated in the one or two hour culture for years. Lots of companies without that background have tried it.  Even the big national companies that are great with overnight deliveries haven’t mastered it.
Why?  Because it’s a whole different world..  There are bigger opportunities to fail.  Members of the customized logistics and delivery industry have the technology, communications and internal frameworks to respond to the unique challenges of Final Mile.  We have our own networks of reliable drivers who understand these demands and the managers who understand what it takes. Final Mile and on-demand require the same skills and these guys have been good at that for years.
Question: Final Mile is all about getting items into local markets.  Why else would shippers want to use regional carrier to do this?
Godby: The answer is in the name- local.  Members of our industry know their local markets.  They understand the traffic patterns.  They know the best routes to get the job done the most cost-effectively and efficiently.  In short, they know the lay of the land and that translates into better Final Mile deliveries.
Question: Talk about the role of technology in Final Mile.
Godby: Technology’s role in this process is to provide up-to-the-minute visibility of the shipment. National shippers demand that kind of information and anyone who deals in Final Mile has to be able to give it to them in a way that integrates with their systems.  Members of our industry are used to making the most this kind of technology.    
Question: Hiring local companies to do this work is certainly more complicated for national shippers.  Are any of them doing it and why?
o Godby: Yes.  Some of this county’s largest and most influential ecommerce and retailer shippers have leveraged the skills of members of our association, the CLDA, for years.  They include national distributors of automotive parts, office supplies, pharmaceuticals and some of this country’s most successful ecommerce companies.
True, some large national shippers would like to have one carrier handle the whole US.  But most don’t like being held hostage to one or two providers.  Many are using our members’ footprints and relationships to build their own networks. What attracts them is that our members are used to being flexible and customizable based on their needs.  We’re also used to changes on the fly.  They like that we can offer later pick-up times.  Or pickups in the middle of the night.  Or delivery on routes based on appointments.  They also like that many members of the industry also offer warehousing and logistics. 
Question: What trends in Final Mile do you foresee in the next few years?
Godby: We expect more and more national shippers build their own Final Mile networks using local and regional delivery companies. They are beginning to appreciate the collective experience of these companies in responding to customer expectations.
On our end, the biggest change we foresee in our industry is the continuation of a move towards larger vehicles.  Many of the members of CLDA have already done that.  They started out as courier companies using cars and vans and have moved to larger vehicles like box trucks.  In short, the capacity of these providers has changed over the years from moving paper to moving refrigerators.  This shift has positioned members of our industry deliver on the promise of Last Mile with the timeliness and supply chain visibility that it demands.
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