Field-service professionals are familiar with the challenges of final-mile delivery. Take visits to customer sites in urban centres. The 80/20 rule can be applied here, with 20% of the trip distance likely accounting for 80% of the journey time due to road congestion. And this problem isn’t going away. Journey times are getting longer, with average travel times on motorways and main A roads increasing by over 7% from 2019 to 2020 (1).
Delays and operational delivery make bad bedfellows. Companies that limit the impact and reduce the frequency of delays in last-mile logistics will see improvements to their field-service metrics. This can mean better first-time fix rates, lower mean time between jobs and enhanced parts logistics. All of which adds up to time well spent for technicians and engineers, happier customers, and lower fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.
What’s the cost?
Speaking of fuel efficiency, this is taking on increasing significance. Volatile energy and fuel prices can mean running vehicle fleets is an expensive business. So limiting the time drivers spend in slow-moving traffic will keep fuel spend down. As an added benefit, this often means savings on maintenance costs.
But there are other ways to measure the cost of final-mile delays. Stop-start journeys in congested areas result in a bigger carbon footprint. And for many companies, sustainability is a key pillar of their business strategy. More and more firms are looking to curb the environmental impact of their operations, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles is one way of achieving that. Naturally, steering clear of last-mile delays is a priority that feeds into companies’ sustainability goals.
Technology and processes spell progress
If increasing congestion is the problem, dynamic scheduling is a key piece of the puzzle. The solution strives to make field-service journeys as smooth as possible, offering flexibility to workflows and efficiency to workforces. It’s a crucial tool in ensuring technicians and engineers travel smoothly and avoid the worst of delays.
Yet, decision-making algorithms will only go so far. If field-service operators head into city-centre sites to collect parts, chances are they will hit traffic. Rethinking the process can help with this problem.
Smart lockers can be a bright idea
For getting parts to the right people, adjusting the logistics chain can be an effective solution. Smart locker networks offer the scope to do just that.
We built our network of smart lockers for exactly that purpose. So our engineers could spend less time behind the wheel, and more time doing what they do best. Using our pre-existing UK infrastructure, the system features a connected network of secure pick-up/drop-off points.
The lockers were so successful that we eventually rolled them out to over 1,900 of our sites. We’ve since established the network as a commercial service – Final Mile. Leading field-service organisations, as well as some of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers, now use it.
With the help of Final Mile, one of our customers eliminated 40,000 miles of journey distance in their first year alone. This works out to just under 14 tonnes of CO2, and would also have meant a huge saving in fuel and vehicle maintenance costs.
So while the complexities and challenges of final-mile logistics remain, there are tools to overcome them. Whether it’s powerful technology or better processes, the roadmap towards progress is there for field-service teams.
1 - Based on average seconds per vehicle mile and calculated from February 2019 to February 2020. Data taken from CGN0405, as published on gov.uk