Robotic last-mile/ doorstep delivery. Really?
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I have attached an excellent article from Supply Chain Game Changer on last-mile delivery, that opines on pertinent points and developments in the space and references robotic delivery. While you can’t deny that new technology is driving tremendous change in the last mile, the article does not overstate the practicality of robotic delivery.
I’d like to take a minute to piggy-back off this article content and suggest that the practical applications for robotic delivery to the doorstep, are being highly over-stated by companies developing robotic delivery solutions and in the press. The last 50 feet of the home delivery present significant challenges.
The home delivery is highly nuanced and must navigate and overcome various potential barriers to a successful delivery or released shipment. More importantly, robotic final-step delivery connected to an autonomous delivery vehicle is slow, will be impossible to scale and it is the scale that drives efficient/affordable parcel delivery operations. Stand-alone robotic delivery solutions like FedEx’s Roxo are also slow and designed as a point-to-point delivery solution, meaning it must return to the host terminal or mobile fulfilment centre/truck after each delivery. Again, the scale will be impossible to achieve with this type of automated, last-step delivery solution.
There will be low volume, specialized applications for robotic delivery, but scalable, high volume, low-cost solutions in support of doorstep delivery will be difficult to practically implement. If you look at how FedEx is marketing the Roxo delivery robot, the initiative is more about messaging that gains a lot of attention and exposure that positions FedEx as a technology leader in their field. It seems that many companies want to be connected to and a message about new tech whether it makes sense or not.
I am all about testing robotic parcel delivery, but the practical applications for this solution will be limited. Just last night, my 28-year-old son was telling me about how he satisfied his urge for candy one night, earlier this week by finding a candy delivery app that resulted in a human delivery within an hour for 3 dollars plus tip. We had received 10 inches of snow the previous night and the streets, sidewalks and his driveway were still partially snow-covered which would have rendered robotic delivery useless.
Read this article and let me know what you think about robotic last-miles!
Dean Maciuba is the Director of Consulting Services at Logistics Trends & Insights LLC and he is an expert on last-mile delivery, Amazon, e-commerce, and the design/implementation of speciality distribution solutions.