What Is the First Mile & Why Are Logistics Pros Looking to Optimize It?

What Is the First Mile & Why Are Logistics Pros Looking to Optimize It?

While there is no denying the value of end-to-end supply chain visibility, professionals in the transportation and shipping industries say there is one key area—first-mile logistics—where visibility efforts fall short. According to Supply Chain Digital, end-to-end optimization from the first through the final mile, is essential to unlocking meaningful cost reductions in any supply chain: “By streamlining the order collaboration, communication and transportation management process, organizations have the ability to determine the most efficient and cost-effective way of moving goods through that complex first mile of the supply chain. From an average 10% reduction in costs to meeting environmental targets for emissions reduction, the immediate benefits are clear; and the big picture value is unarguable, as the vision of end-to-end supply chain visibility, standardization and optimization can become a reality.” The renewed interest and focus on first-mile optimization follow a similar path that transportation service providers followed regarding last mile optimizations. Let’s take a look at the first mile and why its optimization is vital to successful shipping management.

What Is the First Mile in Logistics?

To understand the impact the initial miles and steps of the supply chain can have on the entire delivery process, one must understand what first-mile management entails. First-mile delivery refers to the movement of goods from a centralized warehouse or storage facility to a centralized distribution center or shipping hub. From there, a logistics partner, carrier or shipping company will carry the goods on to the next leg of the shipping process. The other side of the coin is the concept of last-mile delivery, defined as the movement of goods from transporter to the customer.

E-Commerce First Mile Challenges

Several stumbling blocks often occur during the first-mile management of e-commerce logistics. Each of these issues could potentially cause significant problems and delays.

  • Labeling – Every item transported, regardless of the mode, must have proper labeling and identifications to ensure appropriate shipping and handling.
  • Handling shipment data – All shipment data must be accurate, including the vital information about the number of items in an order, the weight, size, and final destination.
  • Packaging – Without proper packaging, items can be damaged or lost during loading or while in transit.
  • Inventory – Effective inventory management and using accurate supply lists can help ensure minimal delays in order fulfillment and loading. This is a great first step toward meeting the goal of on-time, in-full deliveries.
  • Congestion – Precise scheduling at docks, ports, and trucking areas is critical to allow for a smooth and easy send-off that avoids costly delays.
  • Documentation – Some shipments need permits, licenses, or other documentation and paperwork to authorize certain materials moving across state or national borders.

Set Up For Success: Optimizing the First Mile

A great deal of added value comes from first-mile optimization, such as:
  • Faster reaction time ensures shipping managers can quickly accommodate new orders and maintain a competitive advantage by providing omnimodal shipping services.
  • Real-time shipment tracking is among several visibility tools available to monitor shipments across all delivery modes, which helps to satisfy customer and carrier demands.
  • Reducing wasted resources and continuously optimizing routes makes the most of hours of service limits while reducing fuel waste and dead haul miles.
  • Efficient document management provides drivers and customers with automated tools to quickly, conveniently, and safely sign and record necessary documents.
  • Optimized shipping routes eliminate delivery delays due to traffic conditions, inclement weather, and last-minute schedule changes.
  • Improved collaboration opportunities through the use of an integrated transportation management system that provides real-time shipment status.

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Improve First Mile and the Full Final Mile Delivery Cycle

Today, we see one supply chain, consisting of two fundamentally different standards between the starting point and ending point of the shipping line. For the past few years, the focus has fallen on streamlining the final-mile delivery. With that aspect of shipping nailed down, interest is shifting to optimizing first-mile services. Improving first-mile logistics in global supply chains is a trend that will continue to gain momentum.

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