In the press, a great deal of attention is given to the concept of using drones to deliver parcels direct to people's homes as well as the use of autonomous delivery vehicles on the road. As exciting as these concepts are, a lot more work is needed before they are mature enough for large-scale implementation.
As I began to write about advanced logistics modeling, the first thing that popped into my head, literally, was “damn motorcycles”. I’m currently at 35,000 feet, flying home after a couple weeks with my wife visiting relatives and friends in Thailand. My mother-in-law’s home in central Bangkok used to be on a quiet, dead end street (“soi”, in Thai). At least, that was until about 10 years ago, when a major Asian parcel delivery company determined (somehow) that the best location for their Thai head office was further in our soi!
Last spring in Portland, Oregon, the two primary container shipping companies with regularly scheduled service abruptly stopped calling, partly due to a longshoreman strike at the time. The impact was fast; the fallout substantial.
Whereas containers used to be transported directly to the port terminal, they are now transported (mostly) by truck to Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland or ports further way. Many companies — such as Nike and Columbia Sportswear — were affected, but agriculture-based companies — such as Lamb Weston’s potato business and other companies selling commodities like wheat, onions, and corn — were severely affected. Shipping the same products to the same customers overseas now costs between $600 and $1,000 more per container. By some estimates, there are approximately 2,000 more truckloads on the highways every week.