Transit from manufacturer to customer almost always consists of a multiple-step journey. Each step needs to be efficient and cost-effective for any company to succeed, survive, and thrive in a competitive space.
First mile delivery, middle mile delivery, and last mile delivery are the terms used within the distribution and supply chain to describe each leg of the journey. Sometimes there may be several middle mile deliveries. At the same time, in other circumstances, there may only be a first and last mile delivery or just a final mile delivery for highly localised producers.
In any case, to create a first-class experience for the all-important end-customer, the execution of first to last mile delivery must be flawless.
First Mile Delivery
First mile delivery is typically the part where the product or produce is taken from the factory or farm to the warehouse or distribution center.
For retailers, they may consider the first mile to be from the supplier’s warehouse to the retailer’s distribution center. In eCommerce, the first mile might be the journey from the retailer to the courier who will take the item to the customer’s home, office, collection point, or smart locker.
Middle & Last Mile Delivery
In retail, the middle mile delivery is often the part from the distribution center to the individual retail store.
Final mile or last mile delivery, which refers to the same thing, is always the last step in the supply chain journey. It is the step that puts the item in the customer’s hands, which could be an individual in B2C business models or a company in B2B business models.
Where the first and middle mile deliveries may involve moving consolidated batches of palletised or crated goods, the last mile delivery is almost always individualised goods (individual SKUs (stock-keeping units)).
Because last mile delivery involves the retailer and the customer, many retailers choose to bring this operation in-house, particularly when serving a local audience. This presents opportunities for making last mile delivery efficient and sympathetic to local issues, such as air pollution and noise pollution. The solution will also need to consider the retailer’s challenges, such as reducing fuel costs and vehicle maintenance.
In light of the 2020 and 2021 Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), shopping in person in a physical store has either not been possible, restricted, or undesirable. This means that for many businesses, last mile delivery is playing a more significant role in delivering excellent customer service and forms a larger portion of the retailer’s operational budget.
Utilising the right final mile strategy is vital, and this begins with the selection of last mile delivery vehicles. Electric last mile delivery vehicles are increasingly seen as not just desirable but fundamentally essential, balancing sustainability and environmental consciousness with lower fuel bills and significantly less vehicle maintenance. The choice and types of EVs are now plentiful, with fewer limitations on range, vehicle speed, battery life, and recharging times.