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Juggling with Last-Mile in the never-ending present

by Milkman

It can be overwhelming, you know, to jump into the current of news that tell the everyday story of how our world is changing. Working, as I do, in both tech and logistics, with the goal of changing last-mile deliveries for good, I naturally tend to delve deeper on those that speak about my area of operations.

You never know from where the next “revolution” will come, be it one of Amazon’s daily new features, Walmart’s firing back at Bezos by using employees as delivery drivers or some obscure startup that pops up with a truly innovative idea. Of course, then, there’s the whole drones & self driving cars shebang, unfolding like a soap opera over a background of lawsuits (Waymo vs. Uber), government’s lobbying, breakthroughs and fallbacks. Everyone in the sector is betting on a different horse and those who can afford it bet on several horses at the same time, hoping that at least one will become a champion.

And yet, from sunny Silicon Valley to the neon tinged streets of London and Berlin, if you skim the myriad articles and editorials that try to make sense of it all, only a handful of solutions make the cut, being repeated time and time again, as if turning them into mantras would let them become truly disruptive or usable faster than technology allows.

All the fuzz surrounding the sharing economy has recently become very quiet. Uber, which is still, by all means, an amazing enterprise, shudders under the weight of its own culture, with the King himself taking an indefinite leave of absence. It’s now clear that an army of private citizens can and would very much like to change the home-delivery landscape, but only if treated correctly, as any employee deserves. This pretty much undermines much of the power of those startups that thought it was possible to thrive on the shoulders of an underpaid workforce.  This, in turn, makes purely on-demand efforts rarely sustainable.

Drones, ground delivery robots and self-driving cars will eventually become a reality. Not today, not tomorrow and not as an overall replacement of human efforts. They can and they will be complementary to a faster, easier delivery world but, to function at a 100% of their potential, need to see our cities (especially in Europe and the Asia-Pacific) completely rethought over.

Free deliveries aren’t really free and Same-Day will soon be perceived as less urgent than the chance of choosing the delivery day/time-window right on checkout (this is what we believe and work for at Milkman).

So: where does the true “revolution” resides? It is, quite frankly, hidden in plain sight and, as usual, the guys at Amazon can see it as clearly as daylight. We can do Uber, Amazon, robots, platforms and startups only because we can gather and handle an unthinkable amount of data. This power is exactly what should drive us not towards a roster of compartmentalized solutions but into a new culture of wide, agile cross-implementation.

Ten years ago it would have been unthinkable to mix the spontaneity of on-demand with the careful route-planning of time-windows, the mobility of crowdsourced fleets with the “weight” of proprietary ones, food with high tech, mass retail with micro-commerce, warehouses with mobile apps. It would have been unthinkable to let shoppers accumulate this much power and freedom.

The future doesn’t really exist, it’s always one step ahead of us. The never-ending present, I think, is harvested not by one-solution specialists but by jugglers: those capable to taking the best bits out of every disruption and make them work together for the greater good.    

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