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Last Mile Delivery: Forgotten, But Not Gone

Although last-mile logistics is only one small link in the supply chain, it's the only one that directly touches the customer - an important point to remember when considering your site options.

LDW: Logistics, Distribution & Warehousing 2009
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How many dock doors are enough?
Rarely, if ever, will you hear warehouse managers complain about having too many dock doors at a facility. Yet you'll frequently hear them bemoan the opposite - especially if their warehouse handles last-mile deliveries.

As a rule, look for a facility that has one truck door per every last-mile truck that will routinely deliver from your facility. But if you can't attain that, don't settle for anything less than a two-trucks-per-one-door ratio - unless you want to experience bottlenecks. Moreover, if you do go with the lower ratio, make sure you have ample, secure yard space to accommodate trucks while they wait. Last-mile trailers are highly vulnerable to theft when they're left out in the open. And losing inventory can deep-six even the highest profit margin.

What if our company needs more locations than it currently has but it's not ready to commit to another facility?
All elements of supply-chain management can be capital-intensive. However, there are ways to enjoy the advantages of added facilities without getting in too deep.

According to Armstrong & Associates' most recent third-party warehousing report, more than a third of warehouses are now operated by third-party logistics providers (3PLs), which means your company can always exercise the option of using someone else's facility. Just make sure that said facility is designed for last-mile delivery. Even more important, be sure the 3PL that's operating it has ample experience in the last-mile industry, because it's a completely different animal than any other aspect of the supply chain.

The Last Word
On a final note consider this: While last-mile logistics is only one small link in a supply chain that can often encompass thousands of miles, several modes, multiple carriers, and numerous hand-offs, it has one attribute that no other link can touch: It's the only one that directly touches the customer. And last impressions count for a lot. Remember this fact if someone suggests that last-mile site selection isn't worth the same scrutiny as tactics further up the supply chain, because when it comes to customer retention, a strong finish can be worth its weight in gold.

Bud Workmon is president of 3PD, Inc., one of North America's largest and exclusive national providers of
last-mile delivery and logistics services. The company makes nearly five million home, business, and job-site deliveries per year via a network that includes nearly 500 locations and 1,500 delivery teams.
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