‘Post Covid-19 logistics in urban centres is at a turning point,’ began Marcus Hurd, Head of Hub-to-Home operations at the last mile company Stuart. Hurd opened the first day of the Last Mile Month Webinar Series on the 5th October, organised by The Logistics Point. The first day was dedicated to exploring warehousing options along the last mile. Sandra Rothbard, Principal at Freight Matters, and Paul Needler, Partner at Arcadis UK, joined Hurd in a discussion about urban storage.
The last mile can use multiple storage options in order to repurpose elements of its supply chain and create new revenue. Repurposing areas in stores that are no longer as busy as they once were is becoming a strategy for many retailers – large and small. Stuart UK also operates a Hub-to-Home network which allows more flexibility as parcels can be received very late on the day of delivery and then shipped to the final consumer. ‘By this we are able to smooth demand around the peak services and in particular Pick-Pack-Wrap,’ Hurd explained. This strategy can allow retailers to smooth the spikes of activity across their distribution centres which results in better performance. ‘We want to touch the parcels as few times as possible, always deliver with a 100% green vehicle and deliver them to customers within a precise 60 minute window,’ Stuart’s Head of Hub-to-Home continues.
Sandra Rothbard from Freight Matters looked at the role of micro-fulfilment centres for the last mile. ‘It is no surprise that in 2020 we saw an astronomical increase in e-commerce,’ began Rothbard. The second important point she raised was the high level of CO2 emissions transportation and last mile operations emit. 25% of all global CO2 emissions come from the sector and it urgently needs to be addressed. Furthermore, heavy vehicles are a huge safety concern for cities and an eyesore for many residents and policy makers. For Rothbard a solution to many of these problems would be micro-fulfilment centres. Local, urban storage facilities that could handle large online orders and be served by efficient and green vehicles.
To add to all the rest, warehousing space is not available which leads to situations where a lot of the consolidation in cities is done on the streets. Four different types of warehousing could work as the solution: urban consolidation centres, micro-hubs, micro-fulfilment centres, and pickup points. All of them are designed to serve a different area size and cater to the needs of local and hyperlocal operations.
When you have very low vacancy rates you have to be very creative,’ admitted Rothbard and showed a few solutions, including pickup points on the street or at corners. Larger containers can be loaded with goods and then delivered to a pickup location at a particular neighborhood where parcels can then be distributed using vehicles or Click&Collect.