The “Last Mile”—the delivery of a product to the customer’s home or office—is one of the most pressing issues in logistics today. As delivery standards become increasingly demanding, makers of large and bulky goods, in particular, have found themselves pressed to deliver, say, a couch with the same speed and efficiency that consumers expect to get from a product that comes in a manila envelope.
In April 2018, Ryder purchased The MXD Group, a last-mile fulfillment provider with a national network of facilities. “This closed the final gap on the end-to-end integrated solution that Ryder is bringing to the table,” says Jeff Abeson, chief commercial officer for Ryder Last Mile. As a result of the acquisition, the Ryder network now has 124 e-fulfillment hubs covering more than 98 percent of the U.S. and Canada within a two-day delivery time frame.
This also addresses “non-conveyable product”— industry parlance for big and bulky goods, such as medical equipment, washing machines and even trampolines. These types of products often require “white-glove installation” with multiple tiers of service and complicated dynamics. Drivers may need to enter homes to install products or go down unusual routes through residential streets to meet specific delivery times.
Historically, this type of service has been offered only by a hodgepodge of small companies that operated on a regional or local basis. “The industry has been looking for a national seamless solution for big and bulky home delivery that gives you the right combination of speed and cost,” Abeson says. Larger resources translate into many benefits.
For example, Ryder provides 100-percent real-time visibility and tracking of shipments— something most customers demand today. However, many of the advantages of a national network are more subtle. If a product is shipped in less-than-ideal packaging, Ryder personnel can open the package when it reaches a facility and provide repairs or touch-ups so the product is in pristine condition when it reaches the customer’s home. “This is a cost-effective way to get the product back to first quality, as opposed to shipping another product, which causes delays and aggravates the customer,” Abeson says.
Another benefit from the national network is the ability to handle reverse logistics—as customers become more comfortable buying bulky goods online, companies need to figure out how to manage returns. Ryder has implemented strategies like holding some returned products for clients in its fulfillment centers, ready to be sent in a timely way to another customer who orders it. Indeed, for one such manufacturer of medical equipment, which had a small number of products, Ryder kept a stock in its fulfillment center before anyone ordered them.
“By allocating products that haven’t been ordered yet, we were able to improve their cycle of order to receipt of product to 48 hours from the previous 10 to 14 days,” Abeson says.
Success Out of Silos
Ryder’s end-to-end capabilities allow it to find efficiencies, which are often hidden in silos that exist in many supply chains. For example, Ryder was providing last-mile services for a big bedding company whose customers were complaining that delivery schedules were not being met. “From an outside perspective, when you’re missing deliveries, the obvious place to look is the last mile, but when we did a deep dive, we found the issue was further up the supply chain,” Abeson says.
The bedding company had a disconnected supply chain, and a part that was managed by another supplier was not producing products fast enough to maintain the delivery schedule— a common, but subtle issue that is difficult to find in a huge network with many small vendors. Ryder was able to implement a system that flagged exceptions, so delivery options could be revised, and products could still get to customers in a timely manner.
“To be world-class, you need to have a single point of view and a single data stream,” Abeson says. “Without it, you’ll struggle forever. With so much emphasis on social media and the ability to escalate something quickly, you have a greater obligation to deliver a perfect experience every single time because that’s the retailer’s brand.”