Last mile (transportation)
Usage in distribution networks
The term "last mile" was originally used in the telecommunications field but has since been applied to supply chain management. Transporting goods via freight rail networks and container ships is often the most efficient and cost-effective manner of shipping. However, when goods arrive at a high-capacity freight station or port, they must then be transported to their final destination. This last leg of the supply chain is often less efficient, comprising up to 28% of the total cost to move goods. This has become known as the "last mile problem." The last mile problem can also include the challenge of making deliveries in urban areas. Deliveries to retail stores, restaurants, and other merchants in a central business district often contribute to congestion and safety problems.
A related last mile problem is the transportation of goods to areas in need of humanitarian relief. Aid supplies are sometimes able to reach a central transportation hub in an affected area but cannot be distributed due to damage caused by a natural disaster or a lack of infrastructure.
As e-commerce continues to grow, the last leg of delivery, ending up at the consumer's home or business, has become more challenging. Since most consumers are away from home when deliveries are usually made, unattended delivery has become a significant issue among delivery companies like UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL and others. Leaving a parcel unattended exposes the item(s) to weather, and to the increasing chance of theft by "porch pirates" (a person or persons who steal packages off of unsuspecting customers' porches or front door areas). Retail companies like US based Amazon and China based Alibaba have researched and deployed drones for delivering goods purchased online to consumers. Amazon has also set up lockers in some urban centers as a way of consolidating packages. Automated parcel delivery is becoming a popular option these days. Europe has led the way in this with Germany, Britain and Poland being the first markets for these services.
The main challenges of last mile delivery include minimizing cost, ensuring transparency, increasing efficiency, making delivery frictionless and improving infrastructure.
Usage in transportation networks
"Last mile" has also been used to describe the difficulty in getting people from a transportation hub, especially railway stations, bus depots, and ferry slips, to their final destination. When users have difficulty getting from their starting location to a transportation network, the scenario may alternatively be known as the "first mile problem." These issues are especially acute in the United States where land-use patterns have moved more jobs and people to lower-density suburbs that are often not within walking distance to existing public transportation options. Therefore, transit use in these areas is often less practical. Critics claim this promotes a reliance on cars, which results in more traffic congestion, pollution, and urban sprawl.
Traditional solutions to the first mile problem in public transit have included the use of feeder buses, bicycling infrastructure, and urban planning reform. Other methods of alleviating the last mile problem such as bicycle sharing systems, car sharing programs, pod cars (personal rapid transit), and motorized shoes have been proposed with varying degrees of adoption. Late in 2015, the Ford Motor Company received a patent for a "self-propelled unicycle engagable with vehicle", which is intended as a last mile commuter solution. Bicycle sharing programmes, however, have been widely successful in Europe and Asia, and are beginning to be implemented on a large scale in North America.
"First mile" can also refer to material transport in indoor logistical situations, such as the entrance and flow of raw goods through a facility starting at the inbound deliveries department. Last mile considerations have become wildly popular, yet material handling accounts for 30-70% of an item's total production cost. One strategy for minimizing this cost is moving less inventory using a just-in-time model.
- Electric bicycle
- Transit-oriented development – a method for solving the last mile problem by building high-density development within walking distance of a transit station
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