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What is first mile logistics? Challenges and optimisation strategies

First mile logistics is the very first part of the transportation process in the supply chain where goods are often shipped on pallets or in bulk. It’s a crucial phase which sets the tone of the entire delivery process. Even though fist mile delivery is often unnoticed, it significantly impacts customer satisfaction and overall logistics costs.    

Find out more about first mile delivery challenges, tips for optimisation and how Van Express can provide the right solution for your business all around Europe.  

What is first mile logistics in different industries?

It’s important to know that first mile logistics represent different things across different industries.  

In e-commerce logistics, first mile shipping represents the first stage of the order fulfilment. It encompasses the process of picking, packing and dispatching products from their initial location to the nearest warehouse or distribution centre. From here, the products are then shipped to the couriers who will deliver them to customers.  

In retail logistics, first mile delivery often involves transporting goods from a supplier or a manufacturer to their own warehouse. It’s a very important phase as retailers need to keep adequate stock to always ensure product availability and thus keep customer satisfaction and loyalty.    

Why is first mile logistics so important?

With the steep rise of on-line shopping in the recent years, competition has never been so fierce. It’s now more important than ever that you do whatever they can for a fast and smooth delivery process to keep your customers happy and satisfied.  

Still, many business owners are often not aware how significant role the first mile shipping operations play in the whole delivery process. If first mile logistics is properly carried out, it lays the ground for a seamless last mile delivery, thus playing an important part for a modern shopping experience.    

First mile logistics is so important as it helps to ensure that your goods will be delivered to the right customers on time and in the right condition. Every modern on-line shopper wants to receive their order quickly and safely.  

What are first mile delivery challenges?

First mile logistics requires a lot of coordination, planning and sorting and can be thus very challenging before goods are picked-up and shipped on. If these processes are inefficient, they can lead to shipping delays, increased unexpected costs and bad customer experience.  

Among the key challenges in first mile delivery are improper packaging, inefficient labelling process, lack of visibility and too many manual operations.  

  • Improper packaging  

Different items need different manners of packaging. Unfortunately, it often happens, that in race with time, many businesses use uniform packaging materials. This can quickly lead to damage and customers’ unsatisfaction.  

Solution: Devote some time to search for different packaging materials, test them and see what works best for your business.  

  • Inefficient labelling

Despite lack of time, many smaller businesses still manually label their parcels and undervalue the importance of providing all essential pick-up and delivery details. Insufficient labelling causes problems to courier companies who then face shipping delays.  

Solution: Invest in automated label generation. It will provide all necessary pick-up and delivery details on every single package.  

  • Lack of visibility

First mile logistics operations are complex and comprise of several important steps. Poor handling of good, real-time tracking, shipping delays, missed deliveries and potentially lost parcels are among crucial challenges.    

Solution: Implement real-time monitoring and analytic tools which will help you improve the overall visibility of your first mile operations.  

  • Manual operations

Manual labelling, communication, notifications, loading, tracking, ... are among the most common manually carried operation. Such errors can greatly negatively impact first mile delivery which ruins the whole supply chain delivery performance.  

Solution: Automate the above-mentioned processes as they will greatly reduce human errors and will boost the efficiency of your first mile delivery operations.  

Do you want to speak to a logistics expert about your first mile delivery challenges in Europe?  Book a call  

Strategies for optimising first mile logistics challenges  

Digitalisation and automation are the key solutions to optimise your first mile logistics operations. They are comprehensive processes which can greatly enhance your business operations resulting in increased efficiency, improved order processing and inventory management, reduced repetitive manual tasks leading to manual errors, lower costs, ...

Efficient first mile logistics optimisation strategies include:  

  • Real-time shipment tracking
  • Route optimisation
  • Warehouse innovation
  • Effective communication
  • Up-to-date data & information

Implement real-time tracking

Real-time shipment tracking plays a vital role as it allows your business to monitor the exact location and status of all shipments when they move from one location to another. If the responsible employees notice potential issues, they can act on time and minimise potential delays.      

Optimise the routes  

There are many different applications and software solutions which can help your business to optimise first mile delivery routes. Advance route planning tools check real-time traffic data, including traffic jams, road closures, car accidents and other road conditions. If you streamline routes, you can reduce travel time and lower fuel consumption by avoiding wrong directions and picking the most efficient routes.  

Innovate warehouse flow

Manual labour is still greatly present in many warehouses. Opt for automation and robotics which will optimise many tasks, such as storage, sorting and even packing. An accurate automated inventory system will greatly improve your first mile logistics operations as such a monitoring system minimises chances for mistakes regarding stock availability, which leads to faster dispatch of items to different hubs.  

Improve communication  

Open and clear communication and collaboration with suppliers and couriers is of prime importance for smooth operations.  By communicating regularly and effectively, you will build better and stronger relationships which lead to a more unified business approach which enhances a whole supply chain.  

Know the right data

Implement a system to collect the right data and information. Analytical tools offer insights into past and current order details. By analysing different metrics, your managers can evaluate demand fluctuations. Seeing how order demand changes throughout the year, can help create an effective strategy to optimise stock to guarantee product availability and minimise excessive stock at the same time.  

Final thought on first mile delivery

It shall be clear by now that first mile logistics operations play a very important role in the whole supply chain. With the rise of e-commerce, businesses shall think more closely about their first mile logistics and start digitalizing and automating their manual operations.  

By optimising first mile delivery processes, your business has better changes to improve its overall logistics and level up customer expectation.  

Optimise your first mile logistics around Europe with Van Express to better suit your requirements. Get in touch with our logistics experts and get full support.  

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