A Christmas Story About Automated Last Mile Delivery
It is a snowy Christmas morning in Manhattan, New York City. The blizzard outside shows no sign of relenting and Carl is still waiting to get that Christmas present that his dear daughter, now a legal counsel to the White House in Washington D.C, had “dispatched two days back” according to an unnamed delivery conglomerate (read Amazon!).
He has called his local hub to know more but again gets a harried answer from the hub manager, now working his fourth shift, that the “roads are clogged with snow and we are trying our best, Sir” and he puts the receiver back with a sigh. Carl and many more fathers like him in Manhattan are not feeling the Christmas cheer just yet and it feels like quite some time before Santa aka Amazon finally gets their reindeer in check.
Let’s get these reindeer in check. A recent report by Goldman Sachs states that almost 36% of deliveries made in Christmas 2016 were “delayed by a day or more”. The leading research labs in the logistics optimization space are trying to address this very problem. The very erratic nature of the industry has made this problem all the more competitive. Let us imagine a future in which we have addressed the basic pain points solving Carl and many others’ problems.
Sleek futuristic looking vans are dispatched from Amazon’s Hubert St Hub. They look inconspicuous but there is a sense of machine-like efficiency about them. When you peer closely, you realize that they are indeed machines as they are driverless. Some of them seem to be making a way to Brooklyn, some eking out a way to Harlem and others to Jersey (yuck!).
As they make their way to the inner boroughs of either of these neighborhoods, you realize that something on the top of the roof is beginning to take flight. These trained drones, armed with their days’ worth of shipments, are raring to go and deliver Carl (now 20 years older in the future) his Christmas 2036 present. As they are flying, the route seems second nature to them as they navigate their way through the urban forest. They are fitted with the camera, which will recognize Carl or one of his nominees to deliver the shipment to.
Carl is also able to track the shipment in real time, with an exact ETA of his delivery. The drone drops off the package on time and continues along its route. The van is also moving along its own route, weaving through traffic. The drones and the vans act as a swarm, acting together, having the capability to delegate shipments, in case of unforeseen circumstances. This all works together like a masterfully orchestrated symphony.
Vis-à-vis the older system, this system offers benefits of being a one-time investment. A fire & forget kind of design if you will, where the daily struggles of dealing with manpower related inefficiencies do not creep in. A highly fault tolerant and efficient setup which can bounce back quickly in case of a crisis like overstretched ETA’s or missed SLA’s. Your drone is always out there to help it’s fellow in need and re-route itself to accept additional shipments mid-run.
The drones and the technologies described above are not as futuristic as it may seem. Uber, Waymo, Lyft, and Honda, and even General Motors are vying for the future of the self-driving car. Amazon and Alibaba have lined up examples of quick one-hour deliveries. On the optimization front, LogiNext bought down delivery time through route and service time optimization, while increasing ETA prediction to 99% accuracy considering live and localized traffic and weather information. These new age developments have made the future more accessible and plausible. This Christmas, let’s celebrate the new dimension that technology has added to last mile deliveries and logistics management.