When the Covid-19 pandemic began sweeping the world in early 2020, there was a sudden increase in the number of people buying food, beverages, medication, personal protective equipment and various household essentials. Many companies quickly ramped up production at their factories, but they struggled to quickly transport these goods to customers because they did not have a large enough network of delivery vans and drivers. Similarly, many citizens began to make personal protective equipment and other essentials in their own homes to help meet high demand in their local community, but they had no way of easily distributing these goods.
This is where solutions like Last Mile Digital Platform can help. Developed with Open Standards and hosted on the secure Microsoft Azure cloud, the platform provides all the capabilities organisations of all sizes need to cost-effectively manage their end-to-end, long-haul to urban last mile transport operations. Organisations in any industry can use the platform to quickly create a pool of drivers and vehicles, and then use machine learning technologies and artificial intelligence algorithms to create optimal route plans for picking up, delivering or swapping any type of goods.
Drivers download a smartphone app to receive their daily collection and delivery schedule, as well as detailed directions to each location and real-time updates on any changes. They can also use the app to contact the central control team to request additional help or report an issue. Meanwhile, customers can track deliveries in real time via a smartphone app and quickly reschedule if necessary.
The platform has several built-in capabilities to expedite collection and delivery processes. For example, when a driver comes within a certain distance of a collection point, the app notifies staff so they can be ready to load the parcels as soon as the vehicle arrives, rather than waiting for the driver to park and come to find them. This streamlines the collection process and allows drivers to get parcels to recipients more quickly.
In addition, when they deliver the parcel, the driver no longer needs to collect a paper signature from the recipient. Instead, they use their smartphone to scan a QR code on the recipient’s smartphone from more than one metre away. This automatically sends a geocoded, time-stamped virtual ‘proof of delivery’ notice to the recipient’s smartphone so they can validate it. Once the delivery has been logged as successfully completed, the app automatically transfers all the collection and delivery information to the platform’s back-end system and deletes it from the driver’s smartphone to protect customers’ privacy.
Delivered via a software-as-a-service model, the Last Mile Team Platform can be quickly scaled to handle peaks in demand, which makes it particularly suitable for use during emergencies like Covid-19 and holiday periods when the number of daily deliveries can increase by at least 100 times. All an organisation has to do is to recruit additional drivers, ask them to download the app and Azure will scale the platform to accommodate the new load within just five minutes.
Smart cities can also use the platform to create permanent or ad-hoc collaborative logistics networks by aggregating the governmental, non-governmental, business, charities, local community groups and other resources available at any given time. By tracking all vehicles and drivers in real time, the network’s management team can quickly divert resources to wherever they are most needed and ensure that essential supplies and other goods can be collected, delivered or swapped cost-effectively and efficiently.
Rigorous field tests have shown that the Last Mile Digital Platform optimises logistics and reduces delivery costs by 25 per cent, while increasing the rate of success on first delivery from over 33 per cent to reach at least 99 per cent. In addition, the platform can reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to urban goods distribution by 90 to 95 per cent. Consequently, the platform can play a vital role in helping to make cities greener, healthier and smarter.
Angel Batalla is founder and CEO of Last Mile Team
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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