To the layman, delivery systems look simple. They order products and services that are ‘effortlessly’ delivered to their doorstep. However, little do they know that there is a lot that goes on in the background to get that product to them. When we see things from a supplier’s point of view, a supply chain needs to be developed; and this entire supply chain can be broadly divided into three phases. These phases are first-mile, middle-mile, and last-mile delivery. Each phase constitutes different delivery methods and pose different challenges. When we add real-time tracking to the mix, the informational pool only expands. Therefore, in the article, we will talk about the three phases of a supply chain and how a fleet management software can aid them all.
The Three Phases
To create a world-class supply chain, it is crucial to break it down into three parts. This is not due to product quality control or anything of that sort. Instead, the chain needs to be divided into three according to the starting point and the destination of each phase.
Since all three phases have different starting points and destinations, the consignment needs to be shifted among vehicles. This shifting makes tracking complicated in a single line. Moreover, all three phases generally have varied distances between the start and end point, making them require varied fleet management and tracking facilities.
We will discuss the unique requirements of each supply chain phase later in the article. However, here are those three phases and what they imply in brief:
- First-mile Delivery: This phase delivers the consignment from the manufacturer’s factory or farm to diverse distribution centers.
- Mille-Mile Delivery: Once products are close to customers, they are transported from distribution centers to more diverse retail stores.
- Last-Mile Delivery: Last-mile delivery constitutes the products being delivered from the closest retail stores to the final customer’s doorsteps.
As mentioned above, first-mile delivery is the transportation of finished products from the manufacturer’s factory to distribution centers. Through first mile-delivery, the products are dispatched from the manufacturer and go closer to the customers. Closer, but surely not close enough to collect directly.
First-mile delivery is generally thought of as uncomplicated. Why? Because the vehicles need to follow a strict route to each distribution center and can just complete rounds on a loop.
Challenges of First-Mile Delivery and Their Solutions
First-mile delivery does sound less complicated than middle- or last-mile delivery since only the manufacturer and their direct employees are involved. However, it has its certain sets of challenges and solutions as well.
- Lack of Attention: Since no end-users are involved, there is no strict sense of accountability in first-mile delivery. Therefore, the process can be neglected leading to inefficiency. However, with the help of fleet management systems, this process can be just as streamlined as the well-attended middle – and last-mile delivery phases.
- Improper Packaging: First-mile delivery has to be quick or the rest of the supply chain will get delayed. Therefore, factory dispatchers might not pack the products well enough, leading to losses. This can be solved by proper video supervision or task management software.
- Poor En Route Handling: Due to low visibility in the first-mile delivery phase, consignment can be pilfered or handled poorly in the first phase of the supply chain. Proper tracking through some fleet management software solves the problem by adding a sense of supervision to the process.
Once the products have been received at the distribution centers, it is time to spread them forward and closer to the consumers. After all, while there might be only three factories in the nation, there can be as many as 20-1000 distribution centers for a particular brand or product. Distribution centers are closer to consumers, but not close enough for last-mile deliveries.
Middle mile delivery comes with several complications since the distance to be traveled by each consignment vehicle is generally large. Without proper tracking tools and techniques, it is almost impossible to know if products have reached the right retail stores on time or not. First-mile delivery is easier since at least the destination reports to the factory as well!
When you think of middle-mile delivery, you need to be absolutely sure of quality, efficiency, and product handling!
Challenges of Middle-Mile Delivery and Their Solutions
Middle-mile delivery is believed by many to be the most crucial delivery phase. MWhile last-mile delivery has to be much more delicate and is more complicated, not all products have them. Middle-mile delivery, on the other hand, cannot be ignored, and here are the challenges that come with it.
- Fleet Size: Since the starting and ending points are multiple, the number of vehicles involved in middle-mile delivery is large. Managing so many vehicles can become a tedious task for anyone if strictly done manually.
- High Fuel Costs: Most middle-mile delivery channels are long-distance and hence, consume a lot of fuel. Therefore, only with the help of software, fleet managers can calculate the amount of fuel each vehicle consumes and create a budget accordingly. Managers can also optimize routes in a manner that their fleet consumes the least amount of fuel.
- Risky Driver Behavior: Most middle-mile routes include highways, and highways are notorious for encouraging risky driver behaviour and hence, accidents. With the right software, you can keep track of how your drivers perform to evaluate the kind of training each of them require.
- Untimely Deliveries: Middle-mile delivery requires strict route management to avoid untimely deliveries that will further ruin the supply chain. Only when a software can track the vehicle and create estimated ETAs that consumers will get further expected and accurate ETAs.
- Pilferation: Fuel and consignment pilferation are not uncommon within unsupervised middle-mile delivery. Moreover, drivers are prone to using the vehicles for their personal use, further causing extra expenses for the companies. Only through fleet management software can these issues be solved.
Last-mile delivery is undoubtedly the most complicated bean in the pod. Why? Because the starting and ending points are endless and the turnaround time is negligible. Moreover, last-mile delivery is extremely difficult to track due to the sheer number of people and vehicles involved in the process.
Last-mile delivery might not be a crucial step for all supply chains. However, with the advent of online shopping, the demand for last-mile delivery has increased multifold. An increasing number of people want the products right at their doorstep and fleet management systems need to be ready for the change.
Challenges of Middle-Mile Delivery and Their Solutions
The challenges faced by suppliers in the last leg of a supply chain are many. However, there is nothing that a good fleet management system cannot help with. Here are some of the biggest challenges faced by suppliers in last-mile delivery operations.
- Same Day Delivery: Delivering products to multiple locations in one day is difficult, especially when not managed well. Software management can help suppliers manage routes and deliver people in the most cost-effective and the least time-consuming manner.
- Complicated Route Planning: With innumerable delivery points, route optimization can be extremely complicated. Suppliers wouldn’t want two delivery people to be running on the same path causing twice the expenses. Therefore, AI-aided software will automatically create routes that do not involve people intersecting paths.
- Flexible Deliveries: Last-mile delivery needs to be very flexible since the products need to be delivered according to the customer’s availability. Therefore, regardless of the excruciating details that have been taken into account while planning routes, there is always a need for last-minute changes and emergencies.
- Proof of Delivery: proof of delivery is important on both the company and the client’s end. After all, the delivery person took the product from the company and gave it to the customer and both need to know if the task has been completed. Features such as geofences or geocoded image verification are perfect for proofs of delivery.
- Low Number of Delivery Employees: With the increase in demand for home deliveries, companies find it difficult to cope up. Therefore, instead of employing hundreds of people for last-mile delivery, companies prefer crowdsourcing deliiveries.. However, crowdsourcing is only possible with advanced software and technology.
Software is the Solution to All Problems
Data and technology are where the future of logistics and supply chains is headed. Without proper data collection, analysis, and application, there is hardly any progress that any delivery system can make.
From this article, you can clearly see the different challenges that each phase of the supply chain can face. The solution to all these problems is mostly live GPS tracking and some basic tracking solutions in the total fleet management environment. Small specifications such as field force management and task management can also be easily aided through software.
Why use manual force and energy when you can easily use technology and use it to aid operation and make them more effective? Choose and use a fleet management software such as TrackoBit that might suit all your business needs and make your supply chain smoother.