Characteristics of Innovations in Last-mile Logistics - Using Best Practices, Case Studies and Making the Link with Green and Sustainable Logistics

Characteristics of Innovations in Last-mile Logistics - Using Best Practices, Case Studies and Making the Link with Green and Sustainable Logistics


R Gevaers, E van de Voorde, T Vanelslander , University of Antwerp, NL


This paper deals with the assessment of innovative concepts in last-mile logistics on their performance effects, for the sector as well as for the wider society and the environment.



Innovation, green logistics, last-mile logistics, E-commerce, night deliveries,


Logistics are undergoing constant and increasingly innovative changes: horizontal as well as vertical integration, traditional trade as well as e-commerce are changing the market structure. Another fact is that ?the greening of? or the sustainability of a supply chain is probably becoming as important as efficiency and effectiveness. One of the most important yet problematic parts of the supply chain is ?the last mile?. First of all, in most cases, this is the least efficient part of the supply chain due to the high degree of ?empty running?. Secondly, the last mile is ?ICT-sensitive? and, as a result, a lot of capital investments need to be made to bridge the last mile satisfactorily. Thirdly, basically the high degree of ?home deliveries? implies extra (high) costs. In parallel, and partly in answer to the previous issues, a number of technological developments are constantly leading to improved sector capabilities, and a number of process innovations are re-shaping the way last-mile logistics business is done.

In this paper, innovations in ?the last mile? will be identified, technical as well as process-related, that have significant positive impacts on last-mile logistics performance. This identification will be done by using case studies and best-practices. Special attention will also be paid to the relation with green and sustainable logistics. To that purpose, a scan is made of a wide array of last-mile innovations.

The final goal of this paper is to illustrate some important innovations in the last part of the supply chain which can have significant increases in efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability/?environmental friendliness? of the supply chain.

In the first part of the paper, the ?problematic nature? of the last mile will be described and defined more in detail. In the second part, innovative last-mile concepts will be described using case studies and best-practices. Attention will be paid to process as well as technological innovations. Examples are given of situations in which the innovative concepts have been applied, successfully as well as unsuccessfully. For the business-to-consumer (B2C) market, the e-commerce sector is a good case study. can be used as an example of implementing innovations in the last-mile on a successful way, whereas several other e-commerce companies went bankrupt during the e-commerce collapse around the year 2000. The defunct of these companies was in most cases a result from the very high costs of the last-mile in their supply chain. is an example of such an unsuccessful innovative last-mile strategy.

Attention will also be paid to night deliveries to supermarkets in urban regions with a high level of population density and the problems with noise levels. Concerning the definition of ?last-mile logistics?, deliveries to supermarkets can not be considered as ?full part of the last mile?, although some case studies about deliveries to supermarkets during the night can be used to learn important lessons about innovative concepts to reduce noise levels and increase environmental levels for the last mile.

Fourth, an overall assessment is made and policy conclusions are drawn focusing on the concepts which have the highest merit from being further analyzed in detail, and eventually being implemented with government support.


Association for European Transport