As global e-commerce is emerging on its technology-backed wings, supply chain logistics are taking the cue, finding new frontiers in highly productive transport systems. The overcrowded cities and the explosion in e-commerce home delivery are raising questions on the feasibility of conventional last mile logistics.
However, innovative and technologically advanced solutions are redefining the boundaries of last mile delivery in fast-growing mega cities and inaccessible suburbs. There have been new researches on the implementation of large-scale product delivery in urban environments.The tech-enabled logistics industry is bound to spur the end-consumer experience in last mile delivery and, thereby, bringing great breakthroughs in the Indian e-commerce industry.
Last Mile delivery: The need for a better roadmap
An indispensable element in the logistics and supply chain, the last mile delivery or the ‘customer-centric logistics’ is the process of conveyance of any package from the warehouse to the customer’s doorstep. The pivot of Last Mile delivery is enhanced customer satisfaction through safe and swift package delivery to the customer.
The distance covered coming anywhere between 50 to 100 miles, and the deliveries inclusive of susceptible goods like food and grocery, it is a time and effort-consuming process that demands vigilant monitoring and skilful operation.
Today, with the deliveries (and returns) growing in proportion to the complexities of over-populated urban areas a cost-effective last mile logistics strategy has become the need of the hour. To quote the statista report, “In 2018, over 3.87 billion U.S. dollars were invested in last mile delivery start-ups.” Since the potential of last mile delivery is recognised by the companies, especially in the case of e-commerce delivery, it is subject to grow over time.
According to The World Economic Forum projects, 66% of the population approximately will live urbanised metropolitan areas and mega-cities by 2050.
The number of delivery locations would sky-rocket and the logistics service providers would struggle with small deliveries that are required in short delivery times as well as complex return processes.
Drones: The Future of Last Mile Delivery Logistics
Transport plays a major role in the effectiveness of the Last mile delivery. While most of the journey involves transportation through main roads and highways there are places in the urban cities that are densely populated or even too detached to make delivery easy.
Many interior rural areas also need an alternative solution of delivery other than roads. With problems like navigation and routing, the idea of Last Mile Delivery is disrupted and that causes a blotch over the logistical and supply chain front.
UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehiclesaka drones are becoming the most futuristic solution for Last Mile logistics. Online retailers like Amazon, have turned to developing multi-level UAV fulfilment centres or “drone-beehives” that permits the deployment of this technology within a fabricated environment.
Jeff Benzos, the founder of Amazon, first mentioned the involvement of drone delivery known to be Amazon Prime Air, back in 2013. Since then, many other companies like Google’s ‘Google Wing’ project, DHL parcelcopter, Alibaba, FedEx have taken up drone delivery to fulfil the demands of the customers, reinforcing better performance standards, greater customer satisfaction and reduced order fulfilment costs.
Drones for delivery: Effective manoeuvring of a complex network
A substantial amount of research has been carried out in the last years on the potential use of drones for parcel delivery, principally in the area of logistic optimisation. The use of drones could drastically decrease labour costs and has been hyped as a potential disruptor to the parcel delivery industry.
Let’s find out its advantages and how it is beneficial to the entire process of supply chain management.
1. Reduced Delivery Cost
Based on the idea of being cost effective, it has been observed that drone delivery cuts down the delivery cost for the company. The transport cost, tolls and taxes etc can be nullified with a drone delivery initiative. The elimination of manual labour cost is also added, making it a pricey option to deliver.
2. No Transport Rentals
Even to send packages from one place to another, the logistics company needs to rent vehicles, such as trucks. Parcels, big or small are delivered as Last Mile delivery to your doorstep using these vehicles that have hefty rentals and add on to the overhead costs.
3. No Congestion Charge
Most of the logistics companies have to pay a decent amount as the cost of congestion to enter the busy premises of the city or town with the goods. This can be called an unnecessary need in the time of drones as they can take over the delivery as a substitute to on-road vehicles. Thus, the logistics company will not have to bear the congestion cost.
4. Easy Navigation
Drones have an in-built GPS that allows them to navigate through dynamic terrains and deliver the package promptly. This is the major focus of the Last Mile delivery process, as it could be difficult for human efforts to locate the exact address and drop the packages in such highly inaccessible geographic locations. Vehicle transportation may also fail to cross natural barriers and difficult landscapes to reach the customer. However, drones can easily do that without a sweat.
5. No Missed Delivery
Dissatisfied customers are an absolute no in e-commerce business. Missed deliveries are one reason customers have to hassle themselves with the logistics company. Be it delayed or overdue deliveries, there is no scope for such doubts with drone delivery systems.
6. Mobile Tracking
The GPS in the drone can provide factual information to the dispatch office and the customer about its location. This negates any chances of theft or displacement of packages. The drone delivery is reliable as it is precise in locating the address and also provides a safe and secure delivery without any damage to the product.
7. Environmental Benefits
The fact that the increasing number of vehicles add to environmental pollution isn’t new-found wisdom. The smoke-less nature of drones gives them optimal advantage as a safe and environmental-friendly transport system. Though there have been arguments about noise pollution, the drones today come with advanced noise cancellation systems to counter the accusations.
The possibilities of a drone-based delivery system might seem sceptical at present, but would soon be a futuristic solution to logistical operations. Other than this, there is still research going on around the delivery of heavy packages - something that the drones aren’t capable enough to do today. But as assured, this query will soon be resolved with ongoing experiments on other prototypes of drones.
As Markets and Marketsstates in one of its reports, “The drone logistics and transportation market is estimated to be valued at USD 11.20 Billion in 2022 and is projected to reach USD 29.06 Billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 21.01% during the forecast period”. It is also expected that drone delivery would expand to other industries after scaling up in the logistics field.
From healthcare and food to Arms & Ammunition delivery, delivery of goods could be carried out with much efficiency and proper research in the sector concerning drones. But for now, the logistics and transportation industry is keeping itself busy with warehousing, infrastructure, shipping, and software.