How to Enrich “Last Mile” Delivery with ePOD and Rugged Mobile Solutions

It only takes a glance at the backup on your local highway to know that business is booming. There are more trucks and delivery vehicles on the roads than ever before, anxious to drop off their loads or packages to their destinations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course, much of the reason for the package delivery boom is the growth in online retail; according to recent research, the United States is now the second largest e-commerce market in the world. In fact, McKinsey predicts that as many as 25 billion packages will be delivered per year in the United States within 10 years.

All of this makes the last mile – a large share of the total delivery cost often reaching or exceeding 50 percent – both a challenge and an opportunity for delivery companies. Companies that can better manage delivery costs without sacrificing service in this crucial segment of the supply chain will have a competitive advantage.

Solving the Last Mile Challenge

While solving the “last mile” dilemma has plagued delivery companies for years, many are seeing real success in optimizing their routes by pairing the mobile devices that drivers already carry with enhanced, integrated applications designed to improve accuracy and speed of delivery, as well as capture and share GPS information on a real-time basis. Some drivers, for example, use electronic devices mounted in their vehicles for route optimization and delivery information. Adding an electronic proof of delivery (ePoD) application gives drivers many more options for improving the last mile delivery workflow and customers greater delivery tracking ability.

An ePoD application can track products and provide information to multiple parties and at multiple points – from warehouse to delivery, and can include photos, signature captures and GPS coordinates. When warehouse personnel and drivers have full-featured, mobile devices complete with high resolution cameras, signature capability and barcode scanners, this type of application becomes particularly valuable. It’s also helpful for customers; as the freight or package is traveling through the system on its way to its final destination, customers can track its progress in real time.

With an ePoD solution installed on drivers’ mobile devices, delivery personnel can better pinpoint exactly where deliveries should occur using GPS coordinates. The applications also can update customers on exactly when they expect to arrive. That information is important to both customers and drivers. Customers can plan their resources and time rather than waiting around idle for a delivery that’s still an hour away—and they can also  ensure they have the right facilities ready so drivers no longer have to wait for customers to prepare for delivery.

Once at the delivery site, customers can sign for packages right on the mobile device and receive an immediate electronic delivery confirmation. Customers also can note the condition of the material or merchandise, which provides proof to the company if claims are made at a later date. If a product is found to be defective and rejected by the customer, the driver can use the ePoD system to notify the customer service department immediately.

Adopting ePoD technology can make a big difference to all those involved – the suppliers, transportation service providers, package delivery companies, as well as customers. It improves delivery accuracy and speed, streamlines back-office processes like reconciliation and invoicing, reduces billing cycles and eliminates paper-based processes.

FZ-N1-ePOD for Retail

The Move to Familiar Mobile Solutions

The use of mobile delivery tracking devices is not new. But what is new is the availability of modern, familiar mobile devices that are enterprise-grade, rugged and provide the needed functions of high-volume barcode scanning, long-lasting batteries that can be easily “warm swapped,” eliminating the need to recharge or switch devices throughout the workday.

Purpose-Built for the Needs of Every Employee

Today organizations and their employees are looking for mobile technology that has a familiar form-factor to consumer-grade devices used in employee’s personal lives, allowing for a faster training and integration period. This means that companies are not at risk of losing resources or wasting productivity during the transition from legacy devices or onboarding of new employees.

At the same time, IT and management focus on the need for durable, reliable devices that can withstand not only the bumps and vibrations of the road, but drops (within or outside of the delivery vehicle), moisture and harsh weather conditions. And to meet customers’ service expectations, these delivery companies also require their mobile devices to also provide better connectivity, sometimes with customized configuration options, like 4G LTE, Bluetooth and WiFi. Bottom line is their mobile devices must be reliable and agile since these companies rely on the technology they use to keep working, no matter the conditions.

To meet the needs of the business as well as their employees, Panasonic recently introduced a new pair of handheld devices to the Toughbook line.  Created to address the diverse needs of today’s workers, and provide companies with the mobility tools that meet the specific needs of businesses the Toughbook T1 and enhanced N1 are designed with a sleeker, slimmer profile to improve versatility, but are purpose-built with the same Toughbook promise of rugged reliability.

Whether mounted inside a vehicle or held in hand, the the 5-inch Toughbook T1 & N1 handheld offer the flexibility and durability that employees need when capturing and accessing information on-the-go.  And running on the latest Android operating system (Oreo 8.1), the FZ-N1 and FZ-T1 have a familiar form-factor to consumer-grade devices used in employee’s personal lives.

It’s Only Going to Get Better

In addition to real-time delivery tracking systems like ePoD, delivery and logistics companies have begun exploring other options to improving the last mile issue. One up-and-coming method involves reducing the frequency of home delivery altogether in favor of lockers installed in public places. While Amazon is the first out of the gate with its locker approach, others are making the leap as well. Panasonic and Hussman, for example, are developing the “LastMile Hub” solution, which will allow customers to retrieve perishable goods from secure, refrigerated and room temperature lockers.

For the majority of homeowners and business owners, however, delivery to the doorstep will remain a priority. According to McKinsey, several models are likely to dominate last mile delivery as they mature over the next several years. For urban areas, McKinsey expects autonomous ground vehicles (AGV) with lockers to become the primary method of delivery with some use of a combination of droids and bike couriers. In rural areas, McKinsey expects drones to proliferate.

Given enough time, these delivery methods show real promise. AGVs with lockers, for example, will be able to deliver packages without human intervention, enabling recipients to approach the vehicle and unlock a specified locker mounted on it. Droids, or personal delivery devices (PDD), will essentially be smaller autonomous vehicles, better suited to densely packed areas. Drones are small, unmanned aircraft, often traveling via the highway on trucks until they are released within one mile of the delivery target. All of these methods, while exciting, require more time to develop regulations, traffic control systems and user acceptance.

For the foreseeable future, however, most packages will continue to be delivered by humans, who can greatly benefit from purpose-built mobile technology solutions designed to help them conquer the “last mile” challenge.

If you would like to learn more about Last Mile Delivery Solutions and how Panasonic can help deploy a solution for you today, contact us.  Or learn more about TOUGHBOOK mobile handhelds and tablets for last mile delivery.