Is there a Home for Last Mile Automation with LTL Carriers?
LTL carriers navigate many roads across the globe – but the last mile is one that isn’t one of their focus points. The last mile in logistics is commonly referred to as the final step in the delivery of commodities to the end user. While it’s assumed that this type of delivery service is reserved to parcels delivered to residential customers, it also applies to deliveries to any end user. Since most LTL shipments deliver to an end user, finding creative ways of integrating last mile automation is a challenge for many LTL carriers.
Contrary to popular belief, the LTL industry definitely has a need to invest in last mile automation in order to improve the customer experience, without putting a huge dent in their operational costs. Noted below, we’ll outline a few of the creative ways that LTL companies are beginning to introduce last mile technology that focus on their shippers needs to improve the last mile experience.
What is different from Parcel to LTL Last Mile Services?
Did you know that the last mile can comprise up to 30% of the total movement of a product from its source destination to the end user? This reality of shipping is a primary reason why most LTL carriers stay away from last mile delivery services – as it’s simply not cost-effective based on their business model. It’s also a statement of fact that the majority of last mile services are focused on the parcel segment – where smaller packages are delivered to consumers at homes or their offices.
The LTL last mile places an emphasis on tailoring their white glove services to business deliveries – as most LTL carriers simple are unable to deliver to residential addresses; or they choose to avoid these deliveries due to the lack of profitability. However, both LTL and Parcel shipments utilize similar automation platforms to improve the customer service, reduce missed-deliveries, and maintain profitability.
How is Automation Utilized in LTL Last Mile?
There are three major areas that LTL carriers can focus on to maximize efficiency and minimize costs of last mile delivery.
Route Planning & Optimization
LTL carriers struggle with route planning – especially when those unexpected changes occur. A less than truckload delivery route is typically planned far in advance, and the truck’s container is loaded based on the expected routes. A parcel delivery service contains smaller packages that can be swapped in location if a customer requests a different delivery time or new address on the day of. This brings up an interesting conundrum for LTL carriers; as they simply don’t have the flexibility to change their freight layout as easily.
A solution that many LTL carriers like UPS and Fed Ex Freight have utilized is a proprietary route planning and optimization software that uses a series of complex algorithms and cloud-based communication platforms to plan the routes up to a few hours prior to delivery.
Communication with the Customer
This is an area that all carriers can utilize. Customers today have become dependent on mobile technology – especially those in business locations. Many LTL companies have updated their communication platforms with cloud-based CRM systems, mobile apps, and multiple automated communication systems that can send up to the minute updates to customers, to prepare them for the LTL delivery. This feature is exceptionally beneficial for those recipients who have limited staff to receive products, as the carrier can provide them with an instant message via SMS text, desktop alert, or emails to let them know that the delivery is in route. By investing in this type of last mile automation, the carrier can reduce downtime, improve route efficiency and experience fewer missed-deliveries.
The primary objective of white glove last mile service is to improve the customer experience. With the LTL industry becomes more competitive, and shippers having more flexibility as to who to book for LTL shipments, carriers would be wise to invest in last mile automation that allows them to accelerate over their competition.
If you’re a shipper who is looking to work with LTL carriers that utilize similar last mile automation as your company, contact an experienced 3PL. third-party Logistics professionals like Redwood Logistics maintain solid relationships with multiple LTL carriers and can guide you to work with like-minded carriers who will represent your company exceptionally well.