minibotThe US Postal Service is handling more commercial shipments than ever. Traditional carriers like UPS and FedEx are seemingly on every street every day. Getting packaged delivered to the increasing number of customers who make purchases without actually showing up at a store is a world wide phenomenon and one in which cost is an important factor.

Of course cost is not the only issue. Speed, convenience, traceability, and reliability are also at the top of the list. And as the digital evolution has show us, new technologies are pushing hard at old school boundaries. Some of the players are new and some have been steadily gaining traction but the last couple months. Let’s take a quick look at the list of technologies affecting last mile delivery.

  • Uber (and competitors) delivery services
  • Drone and other unmanned arial delivery
  • Unmanned ground vehicles

There may be others but these broad categories cover the main entrants. Notice what they mostly have in common - the lack of people involved in the delivery process. With the obvious exception of Uber-type services the others reduce costs by reducing manpower. And that makes sense because a large portion of the costs of delivery are manpower related. The overall move to bring the manpower component closer to the point of origin and to control the delivery process is taking shape along several lines.

Amazon is looking a combinations of delivery services ranging from simply managing its own delivery fleet and moving away from USPS, FedEx, and UPS, to deploying drones from local distribution centers within a 5 mile redius of delivery locations.

Drones as a category got a boost when the US FAA legalized the license and use of drones for everything from pizzas to medicines  .

And there is very little commonality to the configuration of drones that range from the familiar quadcopter to airplane like structures. And combinations like the recent announcement from Daimler about combining delivery vehicles with drones that make not the ‘last mile’ but the ‘last yard’ delivery from the street to the doorstep  takes the best of multiple technologies.

Another combination of concepts is Starship Technologies’ launch of its 6-wheeled mini bot that carries orders down city streets and right to customers .

All these and more are on their way to populate the supply chain and change forever the economics of getting orders to customers. Behind these various delivery methodologies is the software that will make it possible. And if your order processing systems are not integrated directly with your delivery methods then you’re already behind the curve and in danger of being out delivered by your competition.
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