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What Is First Mile And Last Mile Delivery

Parcel Management
Parcel Management

When it comes to deliveries, it’s not as simple as customers ordering goods and having them arrive magically at their doorstep. It involves processes known as first mile and last mile delivery. Both encounter challenges of their own such as costs, packaging, labelling and the ability to ship a product within the designated time frame. 

This article will cover what is first mile and last mile delivery and the many challenges businesses face to get goods to their customers .

But what is first and last mile delivery?  And what’s the difference between the two?

first mile and last mile delivery

What Is First Mile And Last Mile Delivery?

First and last mile delivery are terms typically used in logistics and freight management. 

First-mile delivery refers to the process of shipping goods from the retailer to a courier service.  

The definition varies depending on who is shipping the goods.  For example, when it comes to manufacturers, the shipping could be from the manufacturing plant to a warehouse. However, the first mile for retail stores involves shipping from the store to a delivery depot. Because first mile delivery is the first step of the delivery process, if a shipment is delayed at this point it could negatively impact the entire journey. If the product doesn’t make it to the customer at the designated time it could lead to a loss of future orders. 

Last mile delivery, as suggested by the name, is ultimately the last leg of the delivery journey. Last-mile delivery involves goods in a transportation hub, depot or store room that are then transferred to a customers doorstep. It’s the most important part of the delivery process because it interacts with the customer directly. If the delivery encounters issues such as delays,failed deliveries, or damaged items, there is no way for the business to solve that issue before the customer suffers the consequences. 

What Does First Mile Delivery Mean?

As stated previously, first-mile delivery is the process of transporting goods along the first step of it’s journey towards the final consumer. First-mile has varying definitions for other businesses however it is easily explained as the first leg of the delivery journey. 

When it comes to manufacturers, it includes the shipping of completed goods from a factory to a distribution centre. For e-commerce, first-mile is the process of transferring goods from a retailer and presenting it to a courier that will deliver it to the customer’s preferred destination. First-mile delivery for retailers can involve goods being sent directly to a retail location. However there is a middle mile step in which goods are transferred from the distribution centre and shipped to individual store destinations. Neither the distribution centre nor the courier are the product’s final destination. That’s why both of these are examples of first mile delivery.

First mile delivery is important for all businesses because any issues or hiccups here will impact any future deliveries down the line by arriving late to it’s first stop or causing a stoppage that can create extra work. 

first mile delivery

What Does Last Mile Delivery Mean?

Last mile delivery refers to the final stage of the delivery process where goods residing in a transportation hub are then shipped directly to a customer’s chosen destination. This is the most important part of the delivery journey and the one that needs to be efficiently carried out to accommodate growing consumer demand. It’s also the most expensive part of the process due to the number of stops that can potentially create human errors resulting in an increase of failed deliveries, refunds, returns. 

What’s The Difference Between First, Mid & Last Mile Delivery?

When learning what is first and last mile delivery it can be easy to forget the middle part of the journey. Knowing the difference between first, mid and last mile delivery is key to understanding how these types of deliveries operate and what role they play in the delivery process. 

First mile delivery is the first stage of the delivery journey, involving goods transferred from a factory to a distribution centre, or warehouse. 

Middle mile delivery is where goods are delivered from the warehouse or distribution centre to fulfilment facilities where customers purchase the products. 

Last mile delivery is always the last leg of the delivery journey and the step that ships a product from the fulfilment facility to the customers doorstep.

first mile and last mile challanges

Challenges Faced In First & Last Mile Delivery

To understand first and last mile transportation meaning, you have to know the challenges both face throughout the journey. 

Challenges Faced In First-Mile Delivery

  • Labelling

Labelling is a challenge encountered by first-mile delivery. The importance of correct labels are often underestimated by sellers, and therefore not enough effort is taken to prepare them. Handwritten labels that miss some or all of the important details can pose a problem for courier companies. Incorrect labels mean couriers don’t have the correct information needed to complete the delivery, so they need to wait until they receive the right information which results in delays.

  • Packaging 

An additional issue first-mile delivery faces is packaging. Sellers don’t typically undergo the same packaging standards where packages can often be received by courier companies in less than satisfactory condition. This is because the type of materials used can be unsuitable for shipping if they are considerably weak and endangers the safety of the goods being delivered. If an item is damaged then delays occur, making the first-mile process all the more difficult and time consuming. 

Challenges Faced In Last-Mile Delivery

  • Cost 

Last mile delivery is the most expensive part of the delivery process due to refunds, failed deliveries, and even some things most people don’t really think about such as excessive idling in between deliveries. It all adds up! 

More stops make it difficult for drivers to find the most efficient route and makes manually planning these routes very stressful and time-consuming. This planning time, plus idling, refunds and whatever else makes  Last Mile Delivery total more than half of shipping costs. This could end up consuming most of a business’s profits. 

  • Delivery times 

Because last mile delivery is the last leg of the delivery process, it’s considered the most important in terms of time. There is significant pressure to deliver on time and should delays be encountered, customers are not receiving the quality service they were expecting. In doing so, this can negatively impact your business’ reputation as they can publish their complaints online for everyone to see. 

Wrapping Up

Now we’ve gone over what is first mile and last mile delivery, the next step is finding a way to reduce your delivery costs easily.

Locate2u is a delivery management service that helps keep businesses organised, increase their overall productivity and save time and money. When it comes to last mile delivery, Locate2u has the software that reduces costs and makes businesses jobs all that more easier. 

Locate2u’s route optimisation reduces time spent manually planning and builds the most efficient routes for your drivers, turning hours into minutes. Putting your drivers on efficient routes increases making completing last-mile deliveries just that much faster. With Locate2u’s real-time tracking you can also give your customers accurate ETA’s, improving their experience as they can anticipate the arrival of their package. 

If your business is experiencing last-mile delivery challenges then Locate2u is the solution. Click here to learn more or request a demo.

About the author

Founder and CEO at Zoom2u & Locate2u (ASX:Z2U). Steve has significant software development and entrepreneurial experience. Operating in the delivery space for more than 15-years, he actively contributes to the development of the industry. He has a strong focus on job management and job despatch systems.

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