In-van delivery to speed up parts distribution

Will deliveries straight to customers vehicles unlock value ask Ian Kerr (Postal Hub Podcast) and Cathy Morrow Roberson (Logistics Trends & Insights)?

Credit: Mercedes Benz

Delivery companies including PostNord and DHL, in partnership with vehicle manufacturers such as Volvo and Volkswagen, have been rolling out in-car delivery in recent years.

These partnerships between automotive manufacturers and couriers provide a unique approach towards solving such last mile delivery issues as secured deliveries and alternative delivery locations as well as driving potential cost savings for the retailer.

Aimed at e-commerce shoppers, in-car delivery allows consignments to be delivered directly to customers’ vehicles. The car becomes a personal mobile parcel locker, which should reduce ‘porch piracy’ as well as virtually guarantee first-time delivery. The last mile is estimated to account for around 30% of a company’s total logistics cost, so first-time delivery will help drive that cost down.

And yes, Amazon has its own in-car delivery service, offered in conjunction with General Motors and Volvo, under its Amazon Key app.

Now, Mercedes-Benz Vans has unveiled its In-Van Delivery and Return (IDR), solution, which is being pitched as a means of increasing the efficiency of decentralized service fleets.

Like in-car delivery, IDR allows for delivery direct to the vehicle, with keyless access remotely granted to the courier.

But unlike some passenger car equivalents, Mercedes-Benz’s cloud-based system solution uses Bluetooth, meaning it works even without an internet connection.

As for finding the vehicle, the van has to be parked in an easily accessible spot (much like in-car delivery). Vehicles are located using an app and GPS-assisted navigation, meaning vehicles don’t have to be always parked in the same place.

How it could work in practice

In the case of a service fleet, IDR could be used to handle the distribution and return of parts and equipment to service technicians’ vans. Using IDR, deliveries and collections would be made overnight, meaning technicians start their working day with everything they need already delivered to the vehicle. Parts that are no longer required can be picked up without the service technician’s involvement.

Technicians would save on travel times, leaving more time for revenue-generating activities in the field. This is especially the case with decentralized fleets, where individual service technicians are often stationed far from warehouses or distribution facilities.

According to Mercedes-Benz, service technicians spend on average 60 to 120 minutes per day to collecting and loading the right replacement parts and tools for their jobs, as well as unloading unneeded materials.

There is an inventory benefit to the speedy delivery and return of parts. Companies should be able to maintain lower inventories thanks to the prompt return of unneeded materials.

IDR is currently being piloted in partnership with specialist logistics companies, with more companies due to start testing the concept soon.

Other potential applications

In-car delivery relies on granting remote access, and there are other services that can use the same technology, such as remote fuelling services and car cleaning services.

Similarly, in-van delivery can unlock a similar range of services for remote fleets. If the fleet doesn’t go to a depot each night, then the depot’s services can come to the vehicle.

So is IDR a good idea?

In-van delivery and returns is designed to speed up parts distribution, and it looks like it could help not only reduce last mile delivery costs but also reduce the amount of inventory on hand - a plus for manufacturers and other businesses that utilize just-in-time supply chains.

It will be a definite time-saver for technicians who should be able to redirect the time saved to more strategic and customer-focused purposes.

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