The Simple Guide to First-Mile and Last-Mile Delivery

Minhal Datoo blog author
Minhal Datoo May 19, 2021 • 3 min read
first mile delivery

Last Mile Delivery Optimization Begins with the First Mile

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What is First-Mile & Last-Mile Delivery?

First Mile Delivery

First-mile delivery is the process of transporting completed goods from a factory to a distribution center or warehouse; it is the first leg of the journey that an item will make in the individual company’s supply chain process.

Example: In the eCommerce world, first-mile delivery is the transferring of an item from the seller’s warehouse to the mail system. This is the beginning of the order fulfillment process and the beginning of the company’s supply chain.

Last-Mile Delivery

Also known as the “final mile”, is the last step of the supply chain. This is the final leg of the journey of an item from a warehouse facility to the consumer's home.

Example: Throughout the supply chain process, items are transported in large batches, or pallets, however at this final step, the process involves taking individual SKUs and labeling them for transport to a final destination. This could be a new sweater ordered online and shipped to a customer in Vancouver from a warehouse in Toronto or it could be same-day delivery of groceries from your favourite local supermarket. 

So now that we learned what first and last-mile delivery is, let’s dive deeper into how many companies are overlooking first-mile delivery and missing out on the positive impact it can have on your overall supply chain.

Why is first-mile delivery so important to your business?

For decades now, 3PLs, carriers, and supply chains have been honing their B2B delivery process to perfection, and the results show! Innovation in technology, automated warehousing, and the Internet are contributing factors in helping make sure a package that was ordered gets shipped to the right customer, on time.

However, last-mile delivery shouldn’t be the focus, rather taking a step back and observing the whole supply chain shows one startling fact — no one really knows where to start with optimizing the first-mile.

Limited control, crude cost model management, inefficient long-haul route optimization, and poor less-than-truck-load (LTL) shipment management are just some factors that have not been properly looked at and optimized.

But why? 

This is the first step of your supply chain process, it should be optimized, otherwise, it can have a domino effect on the rest of the process.

One order of pallets gets delivered to a freight service late eventually leads to an unhappy customer with a negative cascading effect on how they view the brand afterwards.

By taking the necessary time to iron out the logistical potholes of first-mile delivery, businesses can optimize their whole process, saving themselves on cost, while improving the overall supply chain from manufacturer to consumer.

How To Improve First-Mile Delivery?

Everything boils down to one factor — time.

Reduce delivery time to reduce overall costs.

1.  Start by tracking everything

From the sourcing of materials to their transportation to the manufacturer, to the delivery of the completed goods to freight service, to its final destination, the consumer. Knowing the timings of shipments will help in identifying weak points in delivery time, which can lead to serious delays down the supply chain.

If you are running a solo operation, look into these great tips on outsourcing your supply chain for improved logistical operations.

2. Log all the details

It always comes back to the data, and the more you have of it, the better you can see the big picture and identify the weak links.

Logging details on shipment size, pallet size, mode of transport, capacity, routes (as well as the stops), warehouse storage space, weather conditions, freight dimensions…you get the picture.

The more you know, the better equipped you are with finding recurring negative patterns that can be mitigated for an improved, and more streamlined supply chain process. 

3. Plan ahead, and thrive

Now that you know the details, you can start to plan out better routes, better shipment sizes, and/or more efficient carriers, and this is thanks to the data collected from the previous step.

Knowing the bigger picture allows for a business to optimize even the small steps, which in turn, will lead to finding ways to reduce cost while not sacrificing the quality of delivery.


The first and last miles of the supply chain have a lot in common. 

In both cases, it’s all about optimization — specifically, about having the right processes in place to speed up the supply chain:

  • Tracking to see materials or items transferring from source to destination
  • Finding ways to be cost-effective
  • Incorporating automation to better streamline the process

However, by focusing on first-mile delivery, businesses are able to improve production processes, accelerate time to market, and strengthen competitive positioning with well-priced products which all leads to the end goal, happier customers.

If your business hasn’t already started looking into optimizing first-mile delivery, now is the time to start.

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