With all the disruptions in the supply chain since 2020, the last mile has been in a constant state of flux. However, even as retailers scramble to meet e-commerce consumer demands, and providers lean into the latest trends to get those packages to front doors, there is plenty going on behind the scenes.
Ty Findley, managing partner of Ironspring Ventures, conducted a roundtable discussion titled The Next Chapter on Last Mile, with Penny Register-Shaw, chief strategy officer of The FRONTDoor Collective, and Bill Catania, founder and CEO of OneRail, on Tuesday during day two of FreightWaves’ Future of Supply Chain event in Rogers, Arkansas.
“One of our mantras at the FRONTDoor Collective is that the last mile should work for everyone,” Register-Shaw said. She noted that the company works to ensure its franchisees have the right business model that will be profitable and meet the needs of shippers.
The FRONTDoor Collective (FDC) is a network of franchised partners that specialize in last-mile delivery. It implements service-level agreements (SLAs) with franchisee needs in mind. It provides shippers access to a large network of last-mile providers (FRONTDoor Partners) as well as developing technology like route optimization and planning tools, and other tech commonly requested by its FDPs.
Register-Shaw also noted that sustainability is a prominent theme behind the scenes. Whether that is electric vehicles — FDC had hoped to be all electric by next year, but she said that will be delayed — or finding ways to recycle packaging materials, FDC is working to move the last-mile industry forward.
“All these things are cyclical and I’ve been around long enough to see what goes up comes down, especially in the e-commerce parcel space,” she said.
Catania comes at the last-mile space from a different perspective. Unlike FDC, OneRail simply contracts with providers and instead focuses on building technology that aids shippers. He told the audience that OneRail “combines humans, technology and capacity” to find the answers that work for everyone in the last-mile supply chain.
A complex math problem
Likening it to finding the math solution to a triangular problem, Catania said more goods are moving closer to the end consumer, but solutions still need to be found for what the right mode of transportation is, what is the right delivery time frame, etc.
“We are looking to do all this and save the shipper money,” Catania noted, adding that OneRail’s platform is designed to reduce miles and cost — a win for both shippers and delivery providers.
OneRail showcased its final-mile solution during a Monday demo session at FreightWaves’ Future of Supply Chain event. The solution matches any size order to an ecosystem of carriers, couriers and internal fleets to meet customer-specific SLAs. By aggregating prices, tapping into a delivery network of over 9 million drivers, and automating the assignment of the right vehicle type for the specific delivery need, shippers can lower their operating costs and optimize their delivery operations with over 98% reliability, the company said.
Its Last Mile Delivery Fulfillment solution is available in the SAP Store. The offering is fully integrated with SAP’s Commerce Cloud, allowing SAP customers to easily access the services of OneRail’s 7.5 million last-mile drivers.
Ironspring Ventures was part of OneRail’s $9 million series A funding round in August.
Register-Shaw said that any provider, including FDC, “must add value” to the process.
“We are very transparent with the price we offer to the middle mile, to the 3PLs, to the people connecting to our networks,” she said. “We also don’t want to build a network that has to be audited to death because the surcharges are so complex, so dense, that you don’t know what you have at the end of the day.”
Register-Shaw went on to say that supply chain parties need to work together.
“I do believe … that the next generation is about collaboration,” she said. “Not in a way that breaches anybody’s fiduciary duty to their own employer, but it’s about data sharing … to build a better supply chain, to build a better experience.”
Catania agreed, noting that interoperability is a key to building a better supply chain.
“For the supply chain to be totally effective and achieve the goals … there has to be interoperability,” he said. “We took an API-first approach because the fluidity of the data has to be there. It can’t be manual. We will never, ever tell a shipper we won’t integrate with someone. We will integrate with our biggest competitor if that is [best] for the shipper.”
For Register-Shaw, the last mile is the most important to shippers, and providers need to understand that.
“We want to be an extension of the brand and replicate all your hard work on the road and at the front door,” she said.