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Logistics & Supply Chain

Exclusive Interview: Nishith Rastogi, founder & CEO of Locus

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Exclusive Interview: Nishith Rastogi, founder & CEO of Locus. Image: Locus
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Nishith Rastogi, founder & CEO of Locus, in an exclusive interview with Freightcomms talking about the Last-Mile Delivery market

The global Last Mile Delivery Market was valued at $18.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $62.7 billion by 2027. In what ways has the Last-Mile market evolved over the last several years and what’s been the catalyst for the sector’s growth?

The Last-Mile market is ever evolving, as we’ve seen over the last several years. Now, more than ever, consumers are accustomed to top-notch fulfillment experiences that maximize their convenience across each step. Apart from the expedited delivery time frames that continue to get shorter, consumers also value the convenience of choosing their delivery or service slots, the ability to make custom asks on how a product should be delivered or a service rendered, real-time visibility on the status of their order, and transparent and multiple touchpoints for communication. The pandemic has undoubtedly played a large role in this acceleration.

Of course, with such a steep rise in customer demand, retailers, carriers and 3PL companies have had to scale their businesses in order to efficiently serve their customers and consumers while keeping Last-Mile costs to a minimum, which is no small feat.

I think it’s because of this and the new levels of convenience that we have seen tremendous growth and innovation in the Last-Mile sector. Companies have had to find ways to successfully streamline and grow their operations to make the post-purchase experience a delight, or risk losing customers, revenue, and reputation from getting it all wrong.

What continues to be the biggest challenge when it comes to Last Mile logistics today and where do you see the most opportunity for enterprises to enable their own success?

I firmly believe that companies that get the last mile right are at a strategic, and overwhelming advantage. So as long as last-mile fulfillment continues to be carried out by manual processes, it will be seen as a cost center that is plagued by less than efficient decision-making, poor on-ground visibility, underutilized vehicles, high costs incurred from fuel spent on empty miles, delivery delays, inefficient handling of returns, and loss of business from frustrated consumers that neither have any visibility on the fulfillment of their orders nor any ways to seek redressal with businesses.

This is exactly why one of the biggest opportunities lies with the digitalization of last-mile processes. To that end, change management is also essential. This is greatly facilitated by the best, most intuitive User Interface and availability of a variety of languages, all of which is supported by Locus’ dispatch management platform, which is, in essence, a real-world ready decision-making platform for last-mile excellence. By leveraging some of the best AI and ML engines, enterprises use the Locus platform to elevate the quality of their decision-making through automation, leverage the insights of analytics to optimize operations and strategy, address inefficiencies in the overall fulfillment process, route planning and deliveries, empower workforces to do more, and save time and money. They can also minimize miles driven, reduce the wear and tear on fleets, and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions. At Locus, we have already powered more than 650 million deliveries globally.

These capabilities are increasingly becoming key to success for so many companies looking to level up their services, cut costs and provide a more seamless customer experience.

According to the 2022 Gartner Hype Cycle for Smart City Technologies and Solutions report, “trends in analytics at the service delivery point, decarbonization, last-mile logistics, mobility, and building options are opening the door for an experience delivered at the edge of the service delivery network.” Can you shed light on how Locus is enabling this for customers and the industry at large?

Many businesses across industries are committed to providing such an experience at the last-mile with the help of technology solutions. Locus is actively working with 150+ of such clients across 30 countries to enable last-mile excellence through its comprehensive set of offerings of its Dispatch Management Platform. The five key modules are Order Management, Dispatch planning, Hybrid Fleet Management, Track and Trace, and the ever-important Insights and Analytics.

These modules work closely together to empower these businesses to make every delivery more efficient than the last through automation, and better and quicker decision-making capabilities. For example, the platform’s Advanced Analytics Engine provides insights that power business strategy to capture new growth opportunities and uncover hidden inefficiencies that can be rectified to increase productivity. Its Order Management capabilities scale up efficiencies by automating key processes such as order capture, allocation, and even the assignment of returns and failed delivery attempts. The need for scaling up capacity with the help of trusted third-party logistics providers at reasonable rates can be met with its Capacity Management features. The powerful algorithms of its Route Planning feature learn from past deliveries and take close to 150 real-world constraints into account for creating routes that reduce the number of empty miles driven, consume less fuel, and make optimal usage of the vehicles of a fleet. In addition, track and trace features provide an exceptional consumer experience through real-time updates on orders and seamlessness and transparency in communication with businesses. In my view, it is these and other features that work together to deliver this experience at the “edge of the service delivery network.”

The report also identifies Last-Mile delivery solutions under the Slope of Enlightenment Curve. Does that mean there’s still a level of education and adoption needed for the industry? If so, what do you think has prevented companies from prioritizing these strategies and how is Locus at the forefront of unlocking its potential?

Last-mile technology solution providers have made a solid business case for these solutions in recent times, thanks to the early adoption and benefits seen by enterprise-level businesses across a wide range of industries. However, legacy processes continue to be used by businesses that are not digital natives, which is where the aforementioned change management becomes crucial.

Locus has been at the forefront of leading the change with its real-world-ready offerings that enable last-mile excellence at scale at every important step of the fulfillment process with its advanced Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities. Its seamless and intuitive User Interface, and its availability in a variety of languages, facilitate ease of the transition process and bring real-world on-ground benefits in no time. Equally important is its ability to reduce deployment times to as low as four weeks, and its various solutions are Application Programming Interface-ready (APIs) for easy integration with existing ERP, OMS, and TMS solutions.

Where do you see the Last-Mile logistics and technology industry headed over the next several years? What do you hope most for customers against that evolution?

Many companies still only view Last-Mile logistics as a means to an end, versus a growth center and driver for their businesses. It’s where many go wrong from the start. Brands that instead tap the right technology and processes at all stages within their supply chains – especially at the Last-Mile – can provide better customer experiences, build greater loyalty and retention, and significantly contribute to the bottom line results that propel them forward.

The Last-Mile delivery market is expected to reach $62.7 billion by 2027. I think it’s only a matter of time before the majority of enterprises wake up to this reality and start putting a stronger emphasis on their Last-Mile capabilities to get ahead of the curve. Adopting the right technology solutions will not just provide enterprises with reliable and actionable insights but will also give them a competitive edge to deliver customer satisfaction at scale.

What are some of the key points that businesses should keep in mind when they are on the lookout for last-mile technology solutions?

With the high-cost and unpredictable nature of Last-Mile as a whole, enterprises should really focus on solutions that solve problems and gather data to help alleviate future problems. Automation and AI-driven solutions should always make operations for enterprises easier. In addition to saving time and money, these solutions should solve pain points and because they are automated by nature, should allow supervisors to focus time elsewhere, keeping the workforce as efficiently as possible.

Needs differ from business to business depending on things like size, scale, volume, etc. but if an enterprise is looking to utilize Last-Mile technology solutions, these should always look to solve any main pain points in their fulfillment and overall supply chain.

How can businesses leverage their last-mile technology solutions to meet their sustainability goals?

Last-Mile tech solutions are really a game changer for enterprises looking to meet their sustainability goals. There are several ways these solutions do this: first would be route planning and optimization, where these solutions inherently reduce the number of miles driven and hours on the road – and with it – the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The second would be that these solutions are data-driven, and with the accumulation of data comes the opportunity to uncover hidden inefficiencies across the fulfillment process and overall supply chain. Using this data, supervisors and fleet managers can make the necessary adjustments to production and delivery processes that can ultimately benefit the environment. Locus has helped reduce more than 17 million GHG emissions by enabling businesses to cover less distance per delivery.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Consumers are now an essential part of the overall supply chain pulling products and services to the home. It is no more an option but a necessity for businesses to deliver a seamless customer experience in order to command their loyalty in the future. I believe that smart, innovative, Last-Mile solutions can alleviate a number of pain points for enterprises while keeping costs to a minimum, deliveries and routes optimized, and drivers and customers looped into their deliveries.

These solutions are a really great tool to level-up Last-Mile efficiency, and with the holidays right around the corner, there really is no better time to embrace them to differentiate yourself from your competition.

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Food Logistics

MSC announced a new direct service, called NWC – WAF service

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MSC announced a new direct service, called NWC - WAF service. Image: Pixabay
MSC announced a new direct service, called NWC - WAF service. Image: Pixabay
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MSC announced a new direct service, called NWC – WAF service, connecting Dakar and North Europe, and providing the best transit times on the market.

The new NWC – WAF service, dedicated to the export of reefer commodities from Senegal, will connect the country’s fruit, vegetable and frozen fish suppliers directly to key commercial partners across Europe including France, Belgium and United Kingdom in one week. MSC will connect Senegal with key European gateways such as Antwerp in 7 days, London in 9 days and Le Havre in 11 days.

MSC operates one of the world’s largest and most advanced reefer container fleets. We provide exporters with expertise at every step of the cold supply chain including dedicated reefer experts guaranteeing regular and frequent monitoring of shipments, from the receipt of the loaded container to its final destination.

The fleet deployed for this service will be ready to meet the demand for reefers throughout the season to transport fruit, vegetable and other fresh and frozen products from Senegal to consumers across Northern Europe with an average of 600 plugs available onboard each vessel.

Starting immediately, the service will rotate as follows: Antwerp– London Gateway – Le Havre – Tema – Lomé – Tincan/Lagos – Abidjan – Dakar – Antwerp

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Logistics & Supply Chain

Maersk launches new rail service in India, Pratigya Express

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Maersk launches new rail service in India, Pratigya Express. Image: Maersk
Maersk launches new rail service in India, Pratigya Express. Image: Maersk
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A.P. Moller – Maersk, the integrated logistics company, continues to design and implement logistics solutions that address the ever-evolving needs of its customers. Building further on its strong commitment towards developing a robust rail network in India, Maersk flagged off yet another weekly, dedicated rail service, the ‘Pratigya Express’, from Sonipat Inland Container Depot in NCR to APM Terminals Pipavav Port on the western coast of India in Gujarat.

“The NCR is abundant with retail and rice exporters who need a regular connection from their manufacturing facilities to the consumers in the western market. Through our dialogues with our customers, we realised that they faced two challenges – either they don’t have a fixed schedule for departure from Sonipat ICD, and once they get it, they do not necessarily make it to the right vessel connection at the port.” said Major Jyoti Joshi Mitter, Head of Rail, Maersk India.

She added, “Our ambition was to address both these problems with a single solution – we launched a dedicated weekly rail service that gives the exporters a fixed visibility on departure from the origin and then connects to a fixed vessel connection at the APM Terminals Pipavav Port.”

The ‘Pratigya Express’ will move cargo from Sonipat ICD to APM Terminals Pipavav Port with a transit time of two and half days. From there, the cargo will have the option to connect on services such as the Shaheen Express, which will be launched in the coming days or the MECL.

Both of these services will then be able to take the cargo to the Middle Eastern or European markets. Studies show that cargo moved on rail instead of road has advantages in terms of both cost-savings and time-savings. These two benefits eventually also contribute to reducing carbon footprint.

Maersk’s new ‘Pratigya Express’ service on the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor will move 90 TEUs very week. APM Terminals Pipavav Port also plays an important role by being the first port to be connected to the DFC and has excellent connectivity to the hinterland through its rail head and road infrastructure.

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Logistics & Supply Chain

DHL Supply Chain signs an expanded contract with Vodafone

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DHL Supply Chain signs an expanded contract with Vodafone. Image: DHL
DHL Supply Chain signs an expanded contract with Vodafone. Image: DHL
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DHL Supply Chain, Deutsche Post DHL Group’s contract logistics specialist, has signed an expanded contract with Vodafone. For many years, DHL has been supplying network components and equipment for the expansion of Vodafone’s cable network. Such equipment includes cable reels, fiber optic cables and the telecom cabinets that can often be seen along streets. In addition to handling logistics for this equipment, DHL has set up a new and innovative webshop solution for Vodafone and its service partners to process orders for approximately two thousand Vodafone products.

DHL Trading Solutions, a business unit of DHL Supply Chain Germany & Alps, is working on the project as a 4PL provider. It coordinates and manages all processes in the end-to-end supply chain, including planning, implementation and oversight. Vodafone and its customers and business partners benefit from having DHL as their sole point of contact. Among other things, DHL has taken over the management of materials and suppliers from Vodafone. New orders are triggered whenever reorder points or warning levels are reached or Vodafone’s forecasts indicate that new inventory needs to be procured. This ensures that Vodafone’s technicians and external service partners receive the materials they need when and where they need them.

Based on Vodafone’s specifications and requirements, DHL has developed a customized, integrated webshop solution for order processing. Customers and business partners will also benefit from having a customer service unit operated by DHL to assist with any questions about webshop orders when needed; this unit is to be expanded and improved in cooperation with Vodafone in the months ahead.

“We’re very pleased to have set up this intuitive, innovative and customized webshop platform for Vodafone after a very short preparation and implementation period,” says Rainer Haag, Chief Executive Officer of DHL Supply Chain Germany & Alps. “It enables Vodafone’s technicians and external service partners to order at short notice the network components and equipment needed to expand its cable network.”

Ullrich Heid, Head of Network Logistics at Vodafone GmbH, is also pleased with the expanded contract. “With DHL Supply Chain, we have an experienced, expert partner of long standing who, in a short time, has shown us it can completely take over these extremely important and time-critical logistics processes and everything associated with them,” he says.

In this partnership, with assistance from an external partner DHL is also providing Vodafone with inventory financing for all products stored in the warehouse. To this end, DHL has taken over all of Vodafone’s inventory. That means DHL will now sell the required equipment to the construction companies so that Vodafone is ultimately invoiced only for the materials actually needed and sold. “Thanks to our expanded cooperation with DHL through the webshop platform and the associated services, we’ve been able to remove the inventory from our own business and have it efficiently pre-financed until customers order from the DHL webshop,” adds Heid.

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