Innovation is vital in today’s environment of technological change. To stay ahead, one must innovate or face extinction. It’s amazing how today’s small parcel market differs from the one just five years ago, and it will undoubtedly differ from the one five years from now.
Here are four interesting new ideas that make us rethink the last mile, all of which are sure to affect the future of small parcel delivery:
The most talked about new way to deliver e-commerce orders is by drone. Its appeal is largely based on the speed that orders can be delivered. Theoretically at least, it’s the fastest, most direct way to make a delivery — weather and weight limitations aside.
The real question will be the feasibility and scalability of delivering with drones. The high costs may prevent it from being a realistic everyday option for consumers, making it just another premium ‘expedited’ service.
There are already small robots being used to make food deliveries in some big cities, with e-commerce deliveries coming soon. The concept is based on using a small, autonomous robots big enough to fit things securely inside and then sending them on their way.
Robots seem to have slightly fewer practical limitations and scalability problems than drones. But, are more limited in their potential service areas and will require greater population density to be economical.
The opposite of drones is the idea of going underground to make deliveries. For the same reason subways work, this could be the next great option for small parcel deliveries. After all, why deal with above ground hurdles of people, buildings, and traffic if you don’t have to?
The reality is there are big infrastructure investments needed to make this idea work, but with the right density of customers, it becomes a possible option. Many cities already have networks of underground tunnels that most people don’t know about.
Autonomous vehicles, although futuristic just a few short years ago, will likely be the first of these new last mile concepts to become real. It’s easy to imagine self-driving trucks arriving curbside and a person coming out to get their boxes off the truck.
This option is not limited in the ways each of the others are – mostly because there is no need for new infrastructure and the technology already exists for the most part. It also allows for the carriers to maintain their economies of scale, and keep the rates they charge low.
These technological advances may have a significant impact on how deliveries (B2B and B2C) are made and future logistics infrastructure is developed to enable these new options. Stay tuned….