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Home > News > Company News > Supply chain: the last mile co.....

Supply chain: the last mile counts

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-08-10
A connected warehouse workforce makes a great difference to a company’s reputation in the supply chain, writes Justine Clark.

Today’s supply chains are hugely complex, which makes it all the more important that companies ensure that visibility and orchestration receives due attention.

According to Honeywell research conducted in 2016, ‘the last mile’ of delivery makes up 50% of all logistical costs, so it should come as no surprise that organisations face a number of challenges in perfecting this stage of the supply chain.

Incorrect delivery addresses or delivery to hard-to-find locations are common issues which sit alongside other non-controllable factors, such as traffic, parking and damage to the products themselves.

This is something the electronics industry in particular has to be extremely careful about given the often sensitive nature of the components being shipped – the turnover in the UK’s electronics market in 2016 was valued at £78bn by techuk.org.

As well as being an inconvenience, such problems can cost companies both time and money.

To combat this, companies need to find ways to optimise their logistical execution, to make sure the last part of the delivery is the smoothest it can be. However, it’s important to understand the intrinsic nature of the delivery and distribution processes, which are closely connected.

Many of the problems associated with the last mile can be traced back to warehouses and distribution centres and fixed there. For example, packages must be picked correctly and desptached with the correct information – such as suitable delivery labels and the right addresses – to meet the customer’s expected delivery window.

Connecting workers

A natural progression for eliminating human error and increasing efficiencies in the distribution centre can be achieved by introducing technology solutions, moving away from manual or paper based systems.

Equipping workers with the right tools in the warehouse enables a more informed, connected worker – and will have a knock-on effect in conquering obstacles in the last mile

Handheld computers, rugged  portable receipt printers, wearable scanners and voice technology can all transmit valuable data insights about stock and parcels, improving traceability of the delivery status of goods. With visibility comes the opportunity to drive efficiencies, and only through understanding exactly how processes are moving currently can business make changes for the better.

Streamlining processes

Companies keen to find ways to mitigate last mile delivery errors should consider voice technology as a solution in the warehouse. This can allow managers to communicate more clearly with workers and massively improve the success of the picking process.

If warehouse workers are using a paper-based system when order-picking they have to stop to read instructions and the process is slowed considerably while the margin for error is increased. With voice technology, workers can receive instructions via headsets while they’re on the move.

Companies benefit from higher levels of productivity, since employees can work faster hands free. While returns are an inevitable part of the retail process, voice technology improves picking accuracy so that fewer customers receive the wrong items.

Cloud connections

With increased demand for traceability companies must be able to trace packing, loading, and delivery.

A cloud-based solution enables organisations to connect their mobile workers to back-end systems, sharing information in real time. This improves customer service and can boost sales.

Cloud-based platforms can also offer a mobile app to support proof-of-delivery, customer tracking and in-flight changes to optimise tracking.

Last mile delivery processes need to be refined at every stage of the supply chain. Technological changes in the warehouse can provide a good foundation for overcoming last mile challenges. This can lead to fewer product returns, potentially huge cost savings, better visibility, a more streamlined supply chain and ultimately, happier customers.

Market research

A recent detailed report of research by IbisWorld about electronic component manufacturing in the UK revealed a revenue figure of £2bn that is forecast to fall by 4.5% between 2016 and 2017.

Its 2013-18 growth forecast for the market is also negative, at -4.6%.

In a contracting market quality of service will make a substantial difference for distributors seeking to seal deals with suppliers and purchasers, it said.