Couriers pull up their Christmas stockings
With just a matter of weeks left until Christmas, the world's major courier companies are busy making preparations to ensure important packages get to their destination on time.
Preparations for the festive period - one of the busiest times of the year - start many months in advance for all the courier companies that offer services through online parcel delivery specialist Parcel2Go. And with just a few weeks left, the industry's leading firms have unveiled details of how they're going to cope with this year's rush.
UPS, which offers a range of standard, saver and express parcel services through Parcel2Go, has predicted it will deliver 527 million parcels globally between late November and Christmas - a 10 per cent increase on 2011. To cope with demand the company is hiring 55,000 temporary workers.
FedEx, which has European and world courier service available through the Bolton-based parcel delivery firm, expects to handle about 280 million packages over the same period - up 13 per cent on last year. It has said it will hire 20,000 seasonal employees to get packages out on time. Parcelforce has also announced it will take on extra staff to cope with increased demand.
"All of the courier companies that offer services through Parcel2Go are well underway with their Christmas preparations," said Richard Mercer, marketing director at Parcel2Go. "With more people than ever expected to purchase presents online, demand for shipping services is once again set to reach a peak in the days before Christmas.
"As always we're urging people to organise deliveries as early as possible but all of our courier partners are aware that many shoppers will once again leave things until the last minute, which is why they're making such thorough preparations."
FedEx is Reshaping Last Mile with Autonomous Vehicles
FedEx is embarking on an expanded test of autonomous, driver-less delivery vehicles to develop its last-mile logistics.
The US logistics firm piloted autonomous vehicles from Nuro in April this year, and the pair will now explore that further in a multi-year partnership. Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partnerships, said the collaboration "will enable innovative, industry-first product offerings that will better everyday life and help make communities safer and greener".
FedEx will explore a variety of on-road use cases for the autonomous fleet, including multi-stop and appointment-based deliveries, beyond the boundaries mass movement of goods from A-B. The logistics company says the exponential growth in ecommerce is spurring its experimentation in new autonomy solutions, both in-warehouse and on-road.
“FedEx was built on innovation, and it continues to be an integral part of our culture and business strategy,” said Rebecca Yeung, vice president, advanced technology and innovation, FedEx Corporation. “We are excited to collaborate with an industry leader like Nuro as we continue to explore the use of autonomous technologies within our operations.”
The changing role of couriers
Unlike structured delivery networks, operating under long-term partnerships and contracts, agility is where couriers deliver true value - and their ability to deftly solve last-mile fulfilment has most acutely been felt during the pandemic. For the billions of people around the world forced to stay at home to protect themselves and their communities from the spreading COVID-19 virus, couriers have been a constant. They may have been the only knock at the door some people experienced for weeks or months at a time.
But the last-mile has been uprooted by a boom in ecommerce, a shift that has been most apparent in the UK, US, China and Japan, according to the Global Parcel Delivery Market Insight Report 2021 by Apex Insight. These are markets with dominant economies and populations used to running their lives with a tap of a screen or double-click of a mouse.
“Getting last mile delivery right has long been a challenge for retailers,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Consumer Goods and Retail at Capgemini. “In 2019, 97% of retail organisations felt their last-mile delivery models were not sustainable for full-scale implementation across all locations. Despite increasing demand from customers, companies were struggling to make the last mile profitable and efficient.”
Jacobs says that the pandemic alleviated some of these stresses in the short term. With no other option, consumers were understanding and tolerant, if not entirely happy, with longer delivery times and less transparent tracking. “But, as extremely high delivery demand continues to be normal, customers will expect brands to contract their delivery times,” he adds.
Last mile's role in ESG
Demand and volume weren’t the only things that have changed during the pandemic - businesses looked closer to home and as a result became more sustainable. Bricks and mortar stores were transformed from mini-showrooms to quasi-fulfilment centres. Online retailers and other businesses sought local solutions to ship more faster. In densely populated London, UK alone, Accenture found that delivery van emissions dropped by 17%, while Chicago, USA and Sydney, Australia saw similar emissions savings.