Coping with the Last Mile Capacity Crunch

2020 was predicted to be a stressful peak season for last mile delivery businesses.  The combination of more consumers shopping online, another wave of COVID-19 restrictions hitting and the always-busy seasonal delivery surge was expected to create a tidal wave of demand sweeping over post, parcel and express business.

Here we’ll look into how it all panned out, what lessons we can learn ahead of the next peak and specifically how mobile computer vision technology can to help.

Scaling with the seasonal surge

The delivery volume lived up to expectations.  With more than 3 billions parcels delivered in the US alone (Source: ShipMatrix), it was the busiest peak ever.  With COVID lockdowns keeping many physical stores closed or driving safety-conscious shoppers to buy online, eCommerce fulfilment and last mile delivery capacity was put under severe strain.  Carriers were operating at 90%+ capacity on the busiest days.

Due to intensive planning, heavy investment in scaling up resources (people and equipment) and the already increased capacity from the prolonged pandemic peak –  delivery on-time in full numbers held up quite well. However, ShipMatrix data estimated that over 2 million parcels were not delivered by Christmas due to the higher than expected volume.

So how did customers react?  Actually, a recent survey from Convey showed that most 76% of US consumers tempered their expectations for flawless on-time deliveries due to the extraordinary circumstances.  This heightened tolerance is unlikely to last though and it’s worth highlighting that 46% of people held the carrier responsible for late deliveries, while only 19% blamed the retailer.

So how can this capacity crunch be tackled?

You must be able to scale at the speed of need

There are a few future predictions we can be fairly confident of:

  • The shift towards eCommerce is here to stay.
  • Delivery volume is only likely to increase during the next seasonal peak.

Add in the high potential for more unplanned peaks as the pandemic continues to evolve, and it’s clear that the ability to scale at speed is vital.

Rapidly scaling operations typically means more drivers, more devices, more vans and more costs. But this is where leveraging a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy and scanning-enabled smartphone apps can deliver a huge advantage to your last mile operations – especially when budgets are under strain.  

Smartphones + software scanning = scalability

With Scandit’s mobile computer vision software, everyday smartphones become enterprise-grade scanners. With BYOD, new or temporary employees can use their personal devices to download and run business apps and corporate scanning software to complete last mile workflows.  This can be anything from scanning parcels when loading the van to confirming proof of delivery at the doorstep. And the combination of Scandit and BYOD offers huge potential.

Adopting BYOD for employees with Scandit scanning-enabled mobile apps helps to create superior scalability and eliminate other pain points when compared to traditional scanners.  This is because:

  • The combination of scanning-enabled apps and a BYOD approach makes it especially easy to tap into crowdsourcing or gig-economy platforms and sub-contractors. 
  • It is simple to deploy, as employees simply need to download an app to get started. 
  • It’s cost effective, as businesses don’t need to source, stock and ship expensive hardware scanning devices. 
  • Training requirements are minimal with familiar, personal smart devices, so it’s easy to scale at speed. 
  • Integration into existing mobile apps is quick and straightforward.
  • With Scandit you can be assured of top performance scanning in real-world conditions, even on lower end devices, so it doesn’t matter what device the driver has.

US delivery company Shipt is a great example of scaling operations at speed with BYOD.  During the peak of the pandemic they were able to double their workforce, onboarding 100,000 new contractors, to handle a three-fold increase in demand for order picking and home delivery using a scanning-enabled app deployed on contractors smartphones.  

COVID-19 created an unprecedented surge in demand. We needed a scanning solution that could quickly scale up, deliver a quality user experience, while keeping customers and contractors safe. Scandit’s fast, accurate, intuitive scanning means little training is needed for quick, contactless order picking.
Chace Burnette, Principal Engineer, Shipt

While BYOD helps scale delivery resources rapidly, some enterprises prefer to provide and control the devices used in their operations to optimize performance and efficiency.  Here enterprise-owned smartphones still provide additional flexibility and help cost effectively scale with seasonal peaks.  Smartphones are ubiquitous, easy to source and with the Total Cost of OwnerShip (TCO) of deploying smart devices with Scandit barcode scanning is typically three times lower cost than that of dedicated scanners.

You can find out more about the advantages of different approaches to deploying software scanning solutions, whether BYOD or COPE (Corporate-Owned, Personally-Enabled), in our Mobilizing the Last Mile infographic.

Ensure you can adapt and flex technology to meet new challenges

last mile age verification delivery

Continuously adapting to new and changing consumer needs is no small challenge.  Especially when avoiding disruption and ensuring efficiency, speed and cost effectiveness is critical. 

One major adaptation throughout 2020, during peak season and continuing today is the need to ensure delivery processes are safer and more contactless to protect customers and employees.  This has created a number of challenges, from failure to verify proof of delivery to the potential increased friendly fraud to compliance challenges when delivering age-restricted goods that require age verification checks.  The latter is a growing concern with demand for age-restricted deliveries in products like alcohol growing rapidly.

This is another area where the flexibility of smartphones provides an advantage.  Smartphones with Scandit-enabled mobile apps provide a single device that can support many different workflows required in last mile driver operations.  Mobile computer vision technology enables  enterprises to handle things like managing parcel identification and capturing proof of delivery with safety, confidence and clarity.

Parcels can be scanned at a safe distance of over 2 meter to comply with social distancing while ensuring proof of delivery.  You can also add ID scanning capabilities which can scan identity documents (For example, drivers licenses, national identity cards) during age-restricted deliveries, again from a safe distance without them having to change hands, ensuring no item is incorrectly received by a minor.

Innovate processes to sprint the last mile

Parcel delivery is the last and most important part of last mile delivery—the crucial moment when an item reaches its final prescribed destination. Naturally, this step demands careful coordination to ensure that the right parcels reach the right delivery locations at the right time. 

Scandit-powered devices make it easy for Post and Parcel dispatchers to plan itineraries, optimize delivery routes and track delivery progress in real time, driving efficiency and transparency. 

But additionally, mobile apps provide a future-proof platform to innovate and optimize last mile processes.  When dealing with exponentially increasing volumes, any efficiency gains or savings help.

For example, drivers use smart devices to access GPS and information on dynamic navigation factors (like weather or traffic), fostering more efficient and seamless deliveries. 

With Scandit,  it’s simple to add ID scanning capabilities into a smartphone app, enabling quick, contactless age verification checks when dropping off age-restricted items.  And Scandit MatrixScan enables drivers to scan multiple barcodes in one go and quickly identify specific packages when loading or searching for a package in their vehicle—making parcel delivery almost effortless.  

MatrixScan can also use Augmented Reality overlays to highlight packages that have updated or special instructions at a glance on the device screen.  Watch it in action:

When reflecting on your peak season performance and looking ahead, it’s worth assessing how software-based scanning on smartphones can help you create lean, flexible and scalable last mile operations.

Scale Last Mile Delivery With Scandit

If you want to find out more, why not check out our latest guide ‘Scale Any Last Mile Peak with Smartphone Scanning’.  

Or if you have any specific questions about mobile computer vision and how it can support your Post & Parcel enterprise then don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’d love to help.