Does increased e-commerce threaten the Christmas logistics miracle?

Author: Tony O'Brien


The Coca-Cola truck is on the TV again and every morning we face the prospect of scraping the car windscreen free of ice.  This can only mean one thing; Christmas is upon us!

How we, as consumers, prepare for the festive season has changed over the last decade with Christmas wish lists now made on apps and mobile driving online sales. However, perhaps the biggest change affecting retailers has been the demand for instant gratification, with ‘next day’ delivery becoming an absolute necessity.

Last year, online retailers in the UK alone took £24 billion over the festive period – 12 per cent higher, year-on-year, and more than a fifth of the sector’s overall annual revenue. Combined with the phenomena of Black Friday and Cyber Monday creating huge sales peaks over very short time periods, the logistics industry is under ever increasing pressure to serve the demand for speed.

In 2014, distribution company DHL Germany delivered more than 7.5 million parcels each day in the week before Christmas Eve, while last year its UK counterpart DPD expected to deliver 700,000 parcels over the Black Friday weekend in November alone, compared to approximately 225,000 over a typical weekend.

Traditionally this increased demand has resulted in taking on extra staff. For the seasonal Black Friday rush for example, Amazon’s UK business and the Royal Mail both hired 19,000 extra staff, while UPS in the US hired an extra 95,000 workers.

However, logistics companies are now looking for new solutions that will help retailers meet the demands of the modern consumer.

Alongside human resource considerations, logistics organisations are seeking to automate decision-making by utilising intelligent, connected tools which help identify spare capacity in the network. 

Panasonic is currently working on a proof-of-concept with a small number of European logistics organisations to address the challenges of e-commerce. In doing this, the collaboration team has identified a number of root causes. Warehouse space is one such challenge. It has led to one of the world’s largest logistics companies developing an internal warehouse space sharing app which gives real-time information about the space available within a warehouse, allowing logistics organisations to optimise and position the ad-hoc and temporary needs of their customers, particularly relating to e-commerce, during the festive season peak. 

Another root cause is the challenge of replenishing stock at retail outlets to satisfy the needs of traditional shoppers and the increasing trend of ‘click and collect’. Here, Panasonic has developed ‘Gateway’, a solution which supports the consolidation of deliveries in to heavily populated areas, or populated retail locations such as shopping malls or airport retail spaces. It not only reduces vehicle movements into congested areas by up to 80 per cent, but improves delivery accuracy and on-time delivery performance.

For the last mile of the journey, Panasonic handheld devices are now an essential part of the delivery process.  Many field workers carry multiple devices in order to carry out their daily tasks; from mobile phones, Electronic Proof of Delivery applications to SatNavs and vehicle compliance tools.

Our software engineers have developed ‘Mobile Management Suite’ which combines not only existing electronic systems but also digitalises manual paper-based processes into a single rugged handset, simplifying and streamlining the operation for greater efficiency, vital in the world of logistics.

Our heritage of relentless innovation is helping logistics companies to meet the challenging demands associated with e-commerce, so millions of consumers can all have a happy Christmas!

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