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January 19, 2024
The Difference Between First, Middle and Last-Mile Logistics
Shipment journeys have multiple stages, separated into three key segments — the first, middle and last-mile. Supply chains are often subject to complexities, and shippers are constantly searching for ways to innovate and bring costs down while ensuring delivery operations are as efficient as possible.

In this article, we’ll explain how each of these distinct phases of logistics serves to improve the overall efficiency of shipments and allow shippers to deliver better results for customers while keeping costs down.

First-mile logistics
The shipment journey begins, as you’d expect, with the first mile. A carrier or logistics operator transports goods from the supplier’s facility to a warehouse or fulfilment centre.

Technically the ‘first-mile’ can mean different things for retailers and manufacturers. For the former, it refers to moving products from a local distribution centre to their store. For the latter, it means transporting finished products from a factory or other facility to a distribution centre.
Optimising first-mile delivery
First-mile delivery can have a significant and direct influence on the customer’s experience. When the start of the journey is made as seamless as possible through a fast and efficient receiving process. This allows businesses to avoid delays and reduce costs, and sets up the remainder of the journey to run smoothly.

Tactics to improve the first mile include: correct and efficient labelling and packaging; using automated systems in seller or supplier warehouses for inventory tracking and processing; and using a third-party logistics provider (3PL) to enhance these fulfilment processes.

Middle-mile logistics
The ‘middle mile’ is an important and delicate part of the logistics process. Once items have moved on from the production centre to the distribution centre(s), additional steps take place before they are ready to be sent to the end customer. During the middle-mile, the goods will be stored in a warehouse or other facility and may end up being moved a few times to different locations depending on the total distance.

Bottlenecks can occur during this stage, delaying delivery times. This may be because poor communication between businesses and their suppliers has led to poor visibility and tracking. External factors, such as congestion or inefficient technology, result in rerouting and longer driving times.
Optimising middle-mile delivery
Improving middle-mile delivery and operations can prevent delays and keep customers satisfied. As we explain elsewhere, through enhanced warehousing, route planning and purposeful use of supply chain data, the middle mile is a key area to make significant cost reductions.

The implementation of software can enable greater visibility over stock via advanced warehouse management, which tells shippers the best time to re-stock or reduce inventory. Route optimisation software can arrange the sequence in which a driver delivers to improve efficiency and prevent congestion. Data capturing also provides shippers with more information on efficiencies throughout supply chains, letting them handle issues in real-time if and when they occur.

Last-mile logistics
There’s little else more important to consumers at this final stage than making sure they get their goods straight to their door in a timely, hassle-free fashion.

​Last-mile covers the final stage of delivery: moving shipments from logistics centres to customers. The shipment leaves a warehouse or distribution centre via truck and is taken to the customer’s doorstep.
Optimising last-mile delivery
Since they start at a local distribution centre closer to the customer’s end-destination, last-mile delivery strategies can speed up delivery times and even make the return process easier: by adding return stops to the last-mile delivery route, shippers can bring down the cost of reverse logistics.

Higher customer satisfaction with delivery also means customers are more likely to purchase from vendors again — leading to higher revenues. The logistical efficiency of a last-mile strategy lets businesses streamline operations and make their use of time and resources more cost-effective.

Which logistics strategy is the most important?
Conversations around improving logistics often circulate around the last-mile: the final stage can often be the most expensive, making up over 50% of total shipping costs—and the most time-intensive. More attention is paid to the last mile because the more inefficiencies that occur at this stage, the more complicated and costly the final delivery becomes.

While the first mile tends to be the most straightforward, that does not mean that shippers should ignore its potential for improvement. Similarly, the middle mile is crucial for maximising the total efficiency of logistics. The best way to guarantee customer satisfaction is to treat the entire transport operation as a holistic process that needs careful attention during each phase.

How Amazon Freight supports shippers at each stage
During the first mile, Amazon Freight’s online tools and self-service transportation management system lets shippers view and manage shipments on demand as soon as they have been picked up by one of our carrier partners. For UK shipments, our LTL services can allow businesses to cut down on fuel costs and transport goods with fewer emissions.

For middle-mile logistics, our intelligent route planning lets shippers leverage optimal routes for their journeys. When shippers want the middle mile handled by Amazon Freight, we can provide FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) services for inbound deliveries to our fulfilment centres.

From there, it is shipped to the customer by a HGV, freight train or ship. At this final stretch, we offer carrier partnerships optimal routes to ensure fast and efficient last-mile travel.

Move goods hassle-free with Amazon Freight
Shipping freight with us gives you a range of options that make the transport process smooth and efficient for your business.

We are constantly innovating our tech, helping our customers optimise logistics and improve their delivery reliability. We select GPS-tracked trailers from an extensive network of vehicles and carrier partners to provide full visibility over every shipment’s journey.

Contact us today at freight-uk-interest@amazon.com or create your free account to get a quote today.
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