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Last Mile Delivery, the Red Zone of Shipping

Last mile delivery is a fact of life for every shipper. The last leg of the delivery process is loaded with customer expectations, team effort, and performance challenges. A great deal of agonizing, analysis, hope, experimentation, hand wringing, and resignation has gone into refining the final step of the delivery process. Regardless of how much you believe you conquer last mile delivery, it remains a challenge.

An example of a failed Last Mile Delivery is a story of a shipment to a person in a mountain field camp. The delivery came very late in the evening when the crew was sitting around a campfire, just before everyone turned in. The driver pulled up to the camp, asked for one of the crew members, and handed him a package of cookies. His mother had marked it fragile, sent it next day delivery, hoping to surprise her son. As he returned to his truck, the driver complained he had a whole hour drive back to his terminal. The extravagant effort to complete the delivery on time cost the carrier at least an unplanned hour and expense certainly beyond the charge for the delivery. This is Last Mile Delivery gone wrong.

Everyone knows what last mile delivery is, yet no one has truly mastered it; likely because it has different meanings for each participant that varies from delivery to delivery. For the customer, it is the resolution of a transaction process of want, decision, action, and anticipation and they expect transparency and timeliness in the delivery. They want to know the progress of the delivery. Consumers want to track where it is at any point in time, and know exactly when they can expect it to arrive. A delivery that misses that target is a disappointment to the customer. This can lead to the loss of repeat business, refused deliveries, or even returned products.

For the carrier, last mile delivery is the most expensive, labor and resource loaded part of the transportation process. It does not have the efficiency of bulk transport, all resources are focused on delivering a single item. For the shipper, satisfying the customer and repeat business is the goal. A dissatisfied customer is a lost future opportunity. Everything focused on one item.

Everything is at stake. It is the hardest part, the most challenging, the culmination of the operation. In a sense, all the effort to arrive at this point is immaterial, unless you accomplish your goal. Do not despair. Last mile delivery is also an opportunity. As the last part of a process, it is the 'red zone' of the transaction. It is the opportunity to score; to build on the efforts that brought you to this point and is your chance to claim your reward. However, it has the thinnest investment of resources, has the greatest resistance, and the highest obstacle to overcome. It requires that final focused push to achieve your goal.

Only one person may cross the goal line, but they could not leap that final obstacle without the efforts of the whole team. Some created diversion, others cleared a path, and one threw or handed the ball to the closer. Each teammate played a part in making Last Mile Delivery a success. In the same way, everyone from the packagers, loaders, dispatchers, and drivers each have a critical role in making the Last Mile Delivery a success. Similarly, a glitch in any of those steps can jeopardize the success of the final step. If you want effective, Last Mile Delivery, look to your team.

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