When a person takes public transportation to work, school, or even just for fun, the chances of that bus or train stopping right at the desired destination is pretty small. Many urban locations are working on solutions to get that person to their final destination. More times than not, walking is always an option for the last leg of a trip, because, let’s be honest, everything is within walking distance if you have the time. But let’s say there isn’t all the time in the world. Work has a strict start time of 9am. Utilizing one of those newly installed bike sharing programs might just be the ticket. Some international cities even have programs for small electric cars. These new services are all about getting people where they need to go, as efficiently as possible.

But what about that new pair of shoes or that fancy new TV. They don’t have the means to just walk three quarters of a mile to their final destination. They also have no way of reaching the warehouse when the container is emptied at a port. This is where the shipping party needs to make sure they are using 3PLs and other last leg shipping companies effectively. 

The ‘Last Mile’ for that shipment to travel can account for up to 28% of the total cost to ship that particular item. There are many challenges associated with the last mile. Making deliveries in central business districts and other highly populated urban areas are much more difficult than those in less dense areas. When a shipment is on an ocean container ship or a rail car, very little effort is required to move that shipment from point A to point B. Very large distances are able to be covered for relatively minimal costs. The majority of the effort lies on the very tail end of delivering that shipment. So with such a common problem facing countless businesses globally, how does a company fight to reduce costs and risks associated with the last mile?

Information technology, people, and effective business processes are all essential to managing the delivery process and ensuring that the last mile doesn’t spiral out of control. A company must have visibility, control, and flexibility within their supply chain. Combining the tools of technology with the best practices of the business and employees past experiences, companies can pull in the reigns of the last mile. They can work to drive that 28% number down to a much more reasonable number. The ability to see their total supply chain with real-time control will help to reduce logistics expenses.

All of these ideas sound great but they mean nothing without the proper tools and services that can help the cause. Online dashboards showing real time data of the supply chain are a great addition to the overall process. There isn’t any harm in shopping around for other carriers/3PLs that have made major investments in their IT infrastructure and service offerings over the past five years to accommodate their customers seeking higher levels of visibility. Over the course of time, a company will just stick with what is comfortable because it’s what they are used to and never truly explore all the options available to them. The amount of cost savings potentially on the table might surprise the unaware. How can a company trust that carrier or 3PL that all the charges are accurate? Even the best of them make mistakes. When shipment numbers reach toward the thousands or hundreds of thousands, there is plenty of room to keep that company honest. 

The last leg of the supply chain can be a costly one. Fortunately, there are several measures one can take to help reduce the cost associated with this challenging delivery space. A package may not have the same conveniences as a human being when it comes to reaching that final destination, but the people responsible for that package making it through that last mile are crucial to the process.