It’s no secret that the last mile is often the most hectic part of a shipment. It’s where mishaps and delays are most likely to occur, and it consumes disproportionate amounts of supply chain spend. Often times, the last mile can account for more than 25% of your product’s total logistics costs. While this may seem unavoidable, there’s no shortage of small changes that can be made to improve the last leg of your product’s journey. Here’s our list of the top things to make sure you’re doing right to turn the last mile your best one.

Collaboration & Document Storage

We say this often, but in the last mile more than any other, it’s important to keep your supply chain partners close. Close collaboration and constant contact are needed to make sure things go smoothly, and it’s easy to get caught up chasing documents or to lose important information in an email thread. Communication facilitated by phone and email my seem like the easiest option, but locating and documenting any information that’s shared can be a nightmare afterwards—which can expose you and your business to unnecessary risk. If you have the option, utilize or invest in technology that can store your documents in a shared portal. Some supply chain software solutions will also allow for in-app messaging, tying messages and documents to individual purchase orders to keep you extra organized. That way, when things inevitably go wrong, you’re able to easily locate and access your agreements, packing lists, bookings, and more.

Capacity Planning

A big part of why so many things go wrong in the last mile is because it’s the most difficult part of a product’s journey to plan for. Unfortunately, it’s also the most important part to plan for. You can’t guarantee that everything will go perfectly every time, but you can make sure you have the capacity to be ready for anything. Visibility deep into your supply chain and careful planning are the best ways to achieve this. When you can track exactly which product is arriving and when, you’re better able to plan for truck capacity, warehouse staffing, and more. 

Overstaffing a warehouse only for a delivery to be delayed is an easy way to waste money, while not having enough staff on hand when a delivery comes in early is an easy way to waste time. Make sure you have enough tracking and control to ensure you’re never surprised. 

Before product even gets to the warehouse, you can face the same dilemma with your trucks. Shipments arriving earlier or later than you planned for, and now you don’t have enough drivers to move them? Say hello to demurrage charges. Shipments delayed and you’ve got drivers waiting at the port for pickup? You may end up paying them to sit with their trucks in park for hours. 

Demurrage, Detention, & Storage

Some use these terms interchangeably, but you’ll want to know how they’re used and tracked to save yourself from surprise fees and charges. These fees can be incurred from having a container in use for too long. The more time it takes you to transport, unload, and return a container, the more money a shipping line loses from being unable to use it. Make sure you know exactly how long you have before you need to return a container and plan accordingly. Charges can also arise from leaving your container at a port or yard for too long—like when you don’t have enough truck drivers on hand to pick up your shipments. Be especially careful with these restrictions when moving product via rail, where fees can be charged in as little as 24 hours after arrival. Supply chain technology that provides pre-shipment visibility can help you plan to spread out the arrival of containers to ensure you have the time and capacity to manage them.

Loading and Unloading

When planning for timing and capacity, it’s important to evaluate whether you’re live unloading or dropping and pulling. If it’s a live unload, you can face charges from drivers for keeping them waiting for an open dock at your warehouse or for lacking the staff on hand to quickly unload the container. This makes it imperative to plan for delivery down to the minute of arrival. With drop and pulls, it’s important to know whether you may face charges for returning empty containers, which have been growing in popularity as the financial and ecological benefits of street turns are realized. In any case, it’s imperative to do your homework and plan carefully.

Each of these are made easier with the use of supply chain technology that provides visibility and control. For questions on what solutions may be best for you or to learn what Navegate can do for your supply chain, contact us.