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The global e-commerce revolution continues to expand to unimaginable figures. According to Forrester, e-commerce grew by 14% in 2017 and the retail market is predicted to continue to soar in Europe, The UK, America and Asia. With figures continuing to rise,there is the looming question, ‘How will retailers continue to meet customers’ demands?’ Last-mile logistics are often the most expensive and time-consuming part of a package’s delivery. Inconsistencies continue to arise with lost packages, or packages left outside a customers’ house. Due to these inconsistencies, there is a demand for GPS tracking on each delivery. Today, very few delivery companies offer the technology that allows customers to track their orders in real-time.

 

As part of a wider effort to solve the  looming last-mile problem, companies are beginning to seek a solution through the use of robots. Amazon’s patent application was published with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and it refers to “autonomous ground vehicle” that can carry items from a delivery truck to a person’s front door, or even bring them into the customers’ home.  The design also describes a robot that can open garage doors and front doors. This idea may not sit well with many individuals but should continue to grab headlines for the near future. How close is the e-commerce world to a world in which  robots drive alongside cars in traffic and have the keys to unlock the door to people’s homes after climbing a set of porch stairs? This technology warrants a huge amount of time and effort and it seems we are no closer to having robots go the last mile without a human helper watching each move.

 

Another effort to solve the last-mile problem is the use of drones to deliver packages quickly.  Digital Trends recently reported that drone deliveries had begun in Shangai, in an effort to solve the last-mile problem. However, we are not close to seeing this trend in Ireland due to various issues. It is unlikely important deliveries will be made using drones as the loss or damage to an item would be too great. Clearance is needed for each flight from the Irish Aviation Authority, and to complete a very small drone delivery will require clearance weeks in advance. This technology has yet to be perfected and predictions are it will be a long time before Ireland will see this on the cards.

 

On paper, it seems the use of robotic technology is the way forward for the last-mile problem. In reality, these technologies need to be tried tested and tried again before trusting robots to handle people’s items.  It may be cost effective and time saving for retailers to use robotics in the long term future.

 

Courier services are dated back to ancient history, with men delivering packages and messages on foot and horseback.  The use of robotics may seem revolutionary, but what does it mean for couriers within the last-mile industry? People have been receiving packages from humans for thousands of years and as such, they value human to human contact in the last-mile logistic industry.  

See our previous blog ‘How Retailers Can Optimize Their Delivery Services’ here.