Trends in last-mile delivery: pick-up points, hubs and lockers
Times change. Going to buy at a physical store and taking the product home under your arm is something we associate with the baby boomer generation, or even the most nostalgic members of the Generation X. Whether due to e-commerce, the pandemic or the initiatives of the mega corporations, the fact is that we are already used to having our shipments delivered to our home at no extra cost and as soon as possible.
However, we are also increasingly aware of the environmental circumstances we have to adapt to, and the consumer demands (or rather, needs) more sustainable logistics models. How is intensive capillary distribution maintained whilst reducing its environmental impact? This tendency is referred to as pick-up points.
The “I want it here yesterday” problem
For some mysterious reason, when the average human being is presented with any choice, they tend to see the individual and immediate benefits and ignore collective and medium or long-term damage. So, if they offer to deliver a purchase to our home in record time and return it free of charge whatever the reason, we think it’s great.
It seems that we find it hard to look more deeply into it and realize the economic and environmental costs of this clearly dystopian last-mile logistics. As if we were incapable of realizing that behind that parcel we have ordered there are kilometres of transportation, storage requirements, route calculations and costs for returns…
The trend in the last mile sector, as we can read in this publication, is a rationalization that is based on three pillars: less polluting vehicles, intralogistics automation and the one that most interests us in this article: pick-up points.
The decline of home delivery?
The trend to achieve a more sustainable last mile is bringing the delivery closer to the end customer, and at the same time the end customer to the warehouse. To do this, many companies are creating a dense fabric of hubs and microhubs distributed mainly in urban spaces with a high degree of automation and new fulfilment patterns.
But bringing the warehouse closer to the patient is not the solution that solves everything. Nor is the use of electric urban vehicles, cargo bikes, and driverless vehicles. Although it sounds unnatural, the end customer must also play their part, as has happened with recycling. They need to be aware that home delivery has an economic and environmental cost that we can save with a simple gesture: going to get the product ourselves.
In some cases, home delivery is unavoidable or at least the most desirable and recommended option. This is the case of bulky goods and food delivery. But even in these cases, the end customer can go to strategically distributed lockers to pick up their products: for example, in local warehouses. This “meeting halfway” speeds up, cheapens and reduces the environmental impact of the last mile.
The future is already here
And if we don’t want it to go elsewhere, we had better adapt our consumption patterns to the existing economic and environmental situation (and not the other way around). In cold logistics, this occurs through the use of efficient packaging.