German institute reveals future of last-mile delivery

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The Fraunhofer Institute of Material Flow and Logistics (IML) has revealed the findings from its latest ZF future study, which looks at last-mile logistics. The study found that in the year 2030 delivery drones will still be a niche solution, but ground-based delivery robots will be commonplace in both major cities and rural regions.

For the study, IML conducted an in-depth review of customer expectations, statutory and spatial framework conditions, and technical trends and their impacts. The study found that customers in urban areas are demanding faster delivery services. Same-day has already become standard, and now the trend is toward same-hour delivery. According to IML, these demands can only be met with shorter logistics paths and to achieve this delivery providers need to establish local distribution centers to cut distances to customers.

The study also revealed the need for a more efficient and clean logistics concept for towns and major cities. This is because of restrictions placed on delivery traffic, such as restricted access to inner-city areas for some vehicles.

To address this, in the future, intelligent algorithms will be able to anticipate orders and transport requirements. Ideally, the merchandise will already be in the direct vicinity of the customer while they are placing their order. In addition, the authors of the ZF future study believe that new technologies which enable innovative forms of transport, or even make transport superfluous, will trigger the greatest changes. For instance, 3D printing will enter the mainstream.

The study identifies a big role for autonomous driving, although delivery staff will still be necessary. Their job will change – the transport vehicle will automatically follow them from house to house, for example. In rural areas, autonomous delivery vehicles can reduce the high cost pressure on logistics companies struggling with an increasing shortage of drivers. And road-bound transport robots can also be used for the last mile in urban areas. Safety concerns, however, will keep transport drones restricted to niche activities.

Fredrik Staedtler, head of the ZF Commercial Vehicle Technology Division, said, “The findings show that the commercial vehicle industry can lead the way in automotive megatrends such as e-mobility and autonomous driving. That’s because transport operators need to synchronize customer requirements, framework conditions and available options in a unique way. As a systems supplier, we supply the right solutions for the logistics challenges of the future.”

To view the full study, click here.

November 30, 2016

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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