A Look at the Difference Between First-Mile and Last-Mile Delivery

Professionals in logistics often use the terms first-mile and last-mile delivery to describe the movement of goods during the supply chain process. This article will look at the challenges encountered in first-mile and last-mile delivery and the differences between the two terms.


First-Mile Delivery

 First-mile delivery means transporting goods from the warehouse or merchant’s premises to the next hub where the goods will be forwarded further. However, the first-mile means different things to different businesses, but in all cases, it refers to the first leg of the journey that a product will take in the business’ supply chain process. A manufacturer may refer to first-mile delivery as transporting goods from the factory to the warehouse or distribution centre. For retailers, the first-mile delivery is followed by a middle mile step, where items are taken from the distribution centre and sent to the individual store locations. In some instances, the retailers may skip the middle mile step and have first mile deliveries made straight to the retail location.

In the ecommerce sector, first-mile delivery is described as the process where items are taken from the retailer and transferred to the courier, where the courier will bring them to the customer’s residence. An example of this is moving a product from the seller’s warehouse to the mall system. First-mile, in this case, refers to the first step in the home delivery order fulfilment process as the item is already in the business’ supply chain.


Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery is also referred to as final-mile delivery as it is the last step in the supply chain process. It also refers to the journey from a shipping warehouse or a retail store to the end customer’s residence. Last-mile delivery is also regarded as an essential part of the delivery process as this is when the business can directly interact with the customer.

Last-mile delivery must be carried out efficiently to accommodate growing customer demand. Suppose there are any challenges during the delivery process, such as failed deliveries, delays, or damaged items. In that case, there isn’t  a way the business can resolve these issues before the customer suffers the consequences. Last-mile delivery is known as the most expensive part of the entire delivery process, which results from the number of stops that can create human errors, which lead to an increase in failed deliveries, returns, and refunds.


First-Mile Delivery Challenges

First-mile delivery has challenges of its own, such as labelling and packaging. Labelling is a challenge for first-mile delivery as the value of the correct labels is often underestimated by sellers, so they might not put in a lot of effort when preparing them. Incorrect labels may mean that couriers do not have the correct information they require to complete their deliveries. They will have to spend more time gaining accurate information, leading to delivery delays. Using hand-written labels is also tricky as you might leave out crucial details, which poses challenges for courier companies.

Another challenge encountered in first-mile delivery is packaging, as sellers do not have the same packaging standards. When courier companies receive those packages, they might not be in the best condition. This can be due to the type of materials being used not being stable for shipping. Using weak materials for deliveries may also endanger the safety of the delivered items. If items are damaged, this will lead to delays, making the first mile more time-consuming and difficult.


Last-Mile Delivery Challenges

Last-mile delivery is an expensive step of the delivery process due to failed deliveries, refunds, and even excessive idling that occurs between deliveries as all these costs eventually add up. During the delivery process, drivers may have to make more stops to find the most efficient route. Manually planning routes can be pretty time-consuming and stressful. The time spent planning, idling, refunds, and all the other costs make last-mile delivery so expensive, with this step accounting for more than half of the delivery costs.

Since last-mile delivery is the final step of the delivery process, it is also deemed as the most important when it comes to time. Drivers face significant pressure to deliver on time, and when delays are encountered, customers will not receive the best service they might have been expecting. Failure to provide customers with the best service could negatively impact the business’s reputation as customers could leave negative reviews online where everyone will be able to see them.