How manufacturers can boost sustainability in last mile logistics

Posted on 22 Nov 2021 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

One of the most important topics in delivery and logistics management right now is sustainability. Manufacturers across the globe are working to cut their emissions and reduce their carbon footprints - and with good reason.

By taking proactive steps to become more sustainable, you’re setting yourself up for future success while contributing to a global effort to fight climate change. The only question is: how do you do it?

For starters, you focus on your last mile logistics. This area has historically been the most resource-intensive part of the supply chain, and often the area with the most waste. Since there’s so much room for improvement, the sustainability efforts in the last mile have the potential to be some of the most impactful. Here’s a snapshot of what that might actually look like:

Decreasing emissions with route optimisation

Perhaps the most obvious strategy – and in many ways the most powerful – is using smart route optimisation to decrease fuel consumption in the last mile. By taking in all of a given day’s stops and finding the most efficient sequences and routes, a last mile routing engine can shorten the total distance that drivers have to travel in order to get the goods to their final destination. This process can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 10%.

Sustainability image courtesy of DispatchTrack

For this initiative to be successful you need to preserve route efficiency even in situations with high complexity. Manufacturers need scalable, cloud-based routing tools that can route efficiently for arbitrarily many trucks without missing a beat. By the same token, you need the ability to factor in a complex set of constraints with minimal loss of efficiency.

If, for instance, you’re factoring in time window constraints (something that would typically cause routes to become less efficient and thus cause more fuel consumption), the right system should still keep the routes short and your fuel usage low.

Improved reverse logistics management

One of the reasons that last mile delivery is so resource-intensive comes down to simple fuel usage – but a significant portion also comes from the overall complexity of the task, which has the potential to generate serious wastage. Reverse logistics is a useful case in point here: Sometimes products need to make their way back to the warehouse because of a simple delivery snafe – sometimes it’s because of product damage. If you don’t have the last mile optimisation tools to track and understand the order exception in real-time, perfectly good products can wind up on the scrap heap – meaning serious wasted resources.

The trick here is to boost last mile visibility. This starts with technology improvements out in the field. For instance, drivers could be equipped with a connected mobile app to automatically send order updates back to dispatch. This could include photos, videos, and notes documenting both successful and unsuccessful deliveries. Drivers could even make note of whether a particular item should be slated for redelivery, redelivered after fixing minor damage, etc.

When these orders make it back to the warehouse, dispatchers and managers are already aware of which ones need their attention. By giving you the tools to triage returns more effectively in this way, the right platform actually helps you significantly decrease the amount of waste in this leg of the supply chain.

Holistic supply chain efforts

The return management example above is just a representative example of the ways in which the right last mile platform helps support waste reduction. There are other examples (decreasing the number of trucks required to meet demand, eliminating the need for on-site servers, etc.), but they all follow a common theme: by cutting through the complexity of last mile delivery operations, you can pinpoint areas of waste and address them proactively.

In order to become more efficient in any area of logistics, you first need to understand what’s happening within your operation on an incredibly granular level. When you can make that a reality, you can lay the foundation for larger sustainability efforts that might go beyond the scope of last mile delivery management.

Sustainability initiatives ultimately need to apply to the entire supply chain – but a holistic approach to green requires end-to-end visibility and connectivity. That starts with the last mile.

About the author

As Founder and CEO, Satish Natajaran has built DispatchTrack into the leading SaaS solution for optimising last mile logistics. Satish believes in building software around the customers’ needs and pain points, which means striving to boost efficiency and minimise human effort at every turn.

Satish holds an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Mississippi.