Which technologies will fuel the future of ‘last mile’ logistics?

Author: Gary Byrne


The global e-commerce revolution continues to fuel a rising demand for parcel shipments around the world. Forrester Research predicts a 10% year-on-year growth for online retail in Europe and the US. The pace is picking up even faster in Asia; by the year 2020 the online retail market in China is projected to be equal to that of France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US combined.

The ‘last mile’ is the most expensive and inefficient part of any parcel delivery. To help businesses drive efficiency, cut costs and keep pace with distribution challenges and growing consumer demand for convenience and variety, new technologies are steadily being introduced. These range from drones and autonomous vehicles to robotics, automation and smart technology.

Looking at the future of the ‘last mile’ logistics industry, what are some of the top technologies which could have the greatest impact in helping drive businesses forward for the next 20 to 50 years?

Lost or damaged parcels are a major expense to many businesses and a significant number of incidents take place within the crucial ‘last mile’. Panasonic’s Business Intelligence Video Systems technology goes far beyond simple CCTV. The built-in intelligence and analytics features help you to understand why loss and damage is happening during transit and help cut costs, speed up delivery times and improve efficiency.


Delivery methods are under huge scrutiny in terms of driving efficiency in the ‘last mile’. In a report earlier this year, BI Intelligence examines the benefits of drone delivery as an e-commerce fulfilment method, in the form of cheaper, faster shipping. 

Although home drone delivery receives the bulk of public attention, using drones to make deliveries within the supply chain can smooth out the fulfilment process and increase efficiencies. However, delivering packages by drones to consumers’ doorsteps is still years away from becoming a common occurrence. Important obstacles still need to be overcome relating to drone regulations, the development of autonomous flight and traffic control systems for drones, as well as consumer acceptance.

Robotic delivery is often cited as an affordable and environmentally friendly solution for ‘last mile’ delivery. Order a takeaway in London for instance and it may be that your food arrives at your door in a personal delivery device (PDD). PDDs are already becoming a familiar site in a number of boroughs in the capital, but are yet to be fully autonomous.

Many argue that robotics has a long way to go to be able to react to environmental conditions and changes in circumstances, as well as reacting to humans. Would a robot have the customer service ability to deal with a forgotten food item in a takeaway order and interact appropriately, for example?


There is no doubt that huge environmental and efficiency gains can be made by developing more intelligent delivery systems. Is there also a sound argument for being smarter with the resources already at your disposal?

In the United States, Walmart is aiming to serve online customers by enabling its employees to drop off purchases on their way home from work. What this example demonstrates is that as well as considering, trialling and investing in future technologies, businesses would do well to thoroughly review their current resource to ensure they are working as intelligently and efficiently as possible with what they already have.

Our white paper on Robotics and Automation, outlines some of the challenges to implementing these technologies, to read more, please visit: bit.ly/logisticsreport2


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