The supply chain is a complex and interconnected network involving numerous players who are in charge of logistics, planning, assembling, and delivering a product to the right customer at the right time and place.
Meanwhile, logistics is a vital part of the supply chain. This industry, which has been around for a long time, handles the storage, transport, packaging, and delivery of goods. It also includes inventory management and distribution. There are three main types of logistics, namely:
- Inbound logistics, which involves moving goods into a company’s warehouse or factory
- Outbound logistics, which involves moving finished products out of a company’s warehouse or factory
- Transportation logistics, which involves transporting goods from one location to another
Logistic companies offer different types of services, such as freight forwarding, transportation management, warehouse management, international trade consulting, import-export consulting, and more.
There are many different ways you can leverage logistics to make your business more efficient and effective.
If you want to learn more about improving your business logistics, you should understand important shipping terms. Keep reading this article to discover what comprises logistics, particularly first, middle, and last-mile delivery.
What are first-mile, middle-mile, and last-mile in logistics?
First-mile, middle-mile, and last-mile delivery are common terms in supply chain and logistics. These three describe each stage of the delivery journey.
First-mile delivery or first-mile logistics is the transfer of goods from a manufacturing facility to a company’s warehouse or distribution center. The products may originate from any location or provider worldwide. The products’ next destination is the first mile.
For example, first-mile delivery may refer to the merchant’s distribution center to the retailer’s warehouse. For online sellers or e-commerce business owners, it’s the journey from the retailer to the courier, who will then take the items and deliver them to the customers or end users.
The first-mile delivery’s entire trip can be short or long-distance, depending on the item’s final destination. For instance, a merchant with multiple distributors within a city could make several stops to efficiently move goods. On the other hand, moving products from city to city may lengthen the travel time, making it vital to optimize every stage of the delivery process.
Indeed, the first delivery stage lays the foundation for a fruitful relationship between vendors or merchants and customers. Amid tough competition, business owners must exert extra effort to ensure their goods reach their destination efficiently and cost-effectively.
The next stage of the delivery process is middle-mile delivery. It refers to the transfer of goods from the distribution center or warehouse to fulfillment facilities. The latter is usually a sorting center that holds, packs, and sorts the products for delivery to their intended recipients. Individual retail stores may also receive goods during middle-mile delivery.
Like first-mile delivery, middle-mile delivery typically involves large batches of goods. Products reaching the fulfillment center remain in the facility until orders come in. By then, the fulfillment center packs the ordered items and schedules them for shipping to their final
destination leading to the last stage of the delivery process.
As its name suggests, last-mile logistics is the final step in the delivery fulfillment process. From the fulfillment facility, the goods are ready to reach the end users, which could be a retail store or the customers’ doorsteps. Last-mile logistics can range from same-day delivery to express delivery or standard delivery.
The faster customers receive their parcels, the happier and more satisfied they are. As such, you must work with reliable delivery services to handle your packages properly. Most of them use various delivery vehicles, including bikes, cars, light trucks, and trains to transport the goods the fastest way possible. However, customers may have to wait several days or weeks if the items come from overseas.
Common logistic challenges
First-mile, middle-mile, and last-mile delivery stages can be challenging in several ways.
The multiple steps involved in moving goods from one location to another make the delivery process expensive. Businesses should utilize technology to automate processes. For example, automated dispatching can help you save time and money for more essential aspects of business operations, such as marketing and customer service.
It may be a minor part of the first-mile delivery process, but a crucial one. Many businesses still use manual labeling, which can be prone to errors and lead to delivery delays.
Speed is a primary factor in ensuring a smooth delivery experience. However, the desire to speed things up can often compromise packaging. Fulfillment center staff may make the mistake of using the wrong packaging materials. As a result, various issues might arise, including damaged goods, improper handling during sortation or transport, and delivery delays.
Another supply chain and logistics challenge is tracking. With so many goods and destinations involved, staying on top of each delivery stage can be challenging. The key is establishing a monitoring system that will give your company real-time updates on where, when, or how your products will reach their destinations.
Shopping for goods has become more accessible and convenient thanks to e-commerce and online stores. The pandemic also paved the way for customers to buy necessities without stepping into a physical store. Along with the evolution of the buying process is the improvement of the logistics and supply chain processes.
First-mile, middle-mile, and last-mile deliveries make the movement of goods from manufacturers to retailers and customers possible. Given the ever-changing technological advancements and customer purchasing trends, companies should constantly be on their toes to improve their overall business processes, including logistics, to ensure their business runs smoothly and produces loyal and satisfied customers.