In an inefficient, costly, yet vital part of the supply chain, Google saw an opportunity to capitalize on the capabilities of its Maps platform and move into last-mile services.
The tech giant laid claim to its claim in the home delivery space in March with the launch of two tools – Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API – focused respectively on last mile fulfillment and delivery planning. routes.
Google’s foray into fleet management technology comes as no surprise to Jim Nicholson, senior vice president of operations at Loadsmart. He likened it to Amazon’s entry into the logistics space: a natural next step for the company’s broader ambitions. Heavy financial resources and years of Google Maps improvements should help the company in its foray into space.
“Having a leading web mapping platform absolutely gives them a big opportunity and a certain edge over the competition,” Nicholson said.
Google is bringing a wealth of Maps data and a familiar navigation interface to a space that has seen increased attention as demand for home delivery has exploded. U.S. parcel volumes exceeded 21.5 billion in 2021, compared to pre-pandemic levels of 15.5 billion in 2019, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index.
More efficient route planning and execution has become essential in response to the growing number of parcels. Since the last mile is the most expensive and least efficient part of the delivery process, avoiding errors such as an inaccurate address is key, said Shalin Mantri, group product manager at Google Maps. Platform, which oversees its transportation and logistics vertical. Fleet operators receive addresses in different quality states, and this is one of the main causes of failed deliveries, he said.
“A failure on this package basically means it’s not profitable for the fleet operator,” Mantri said.
Map quality and data ownership could be key advantages in the last mile space in the future. Customers of Google’s last-mile offerings will likely only help the company further improve its own mapping accuracy, said Rick Watson, founder and CEO of RMW Commerce Consulting. in a LinkedIn post.
“Listen to any Amazon Flex driver and one of their biggest complaints is about their route, maps, etc. Watson wrote.
Google targets delivery execution, route planning
The foundation of Last Mile Fleet Solution is the Google Maps Platform tool for ride-hailing and on-demand delivery providers, which launched in 2020 and has seen “tremendous traction”, Mantri said. This interest has led Google to bring many of these capabilities to last-mile delivery fleets.
Last Mile Fleet Solution aims to help fleet operators improve various aspects of the last mile delivery process, including navigating using the well-known Google Maps interface, capturing addresses, scheduling routes and shipment tracking. It brings Google Maps navigation capabilities to the driver, while fleet operators and end consumers have real-time visibility into the status of the package in its delivery journey, Mantri said. It is currently available to select customers in public preview before moving to general availability.
The Cloud Fleet Routing API, which is now generally available, focuses on route planning. It helps fleet operators create accurate routing plans at scale, while being able to re-optimize an existing plan up to 20 times per day at no additional cost, said Christopher Cho, product manager of Google Cloud AI. and IndustrySolutions. in an April blog post. Reoptimization may be necessary in cases such as traffic congestion.
Many companies already offer delivery route planning solutions, such as Circuit, Onfleet and Route4Me. Mantri said part of what separates Google’s offerings from competitors is that it brings “an integrated cloud and mapping platform” throughout the last-mile delivery process. This integration is essential to prevent information such as destination addresses from getting lost in translation, he added.
“If you use different maps or different geocoding between the entry point of an address and downstream execution, it’s like playing a telephone game, isn’t it? said Mantri.
Major carriers continue to route internally
Google’s leap into the last mile could become more complicated than expected as it extends beyond its core competencies, according to Nicholson.
Carriers are always looking for ways to maximize the capabilities of their expensive fleets and increase their profits, but the last mile space is filled with large incumbents that have legacy fleet management systems, he said. declared. Transitioning to a new system like Google’s would introduce “a significant amount of lift” for these potential customers.
Large fleets also already have internal routing capabilities. ASI completed the deployment of a dynamic routing upgrade to its ORION technology last year. The package delivery giant is now working to automate driver dispatch, former chief information and engineering officer Juan Perez told CIO Dive in April. In 2020, FedEx Ground rolled out advanced route optimization software to its drivers to help it increase efficiency while meeting growing demand for door-to-door delivery, said Raj Subramaniam, president and chief executive officer. operation of the time. on an earnings call.
But many companies beyond FedEx and UPS have built their own delivery fleets, and now they need the tools to execute those deliveries efficiently, said Bringg CEO Guy Bloch. Many regional carriers and small-scale fleets also lack the technological clout of large carriers, which could attract them to Google’s services, he added.
Experts say what’s next for Google
Operators have begun to rely more on cloud-based technology that allows them to fully integrate their systems and improve visibility, Nicholson said. Google’s rollout of a complete end-to-end solution could be the next step, depending on how it receives its current offerings.
“It’s going to be very important for them to demonstrate success and also learn and grow in a very complicated space,” Nicholson added.
Google already provides services to a major transportation provider. As part of a multi-year deal announced on Monday, XPO Logistics has moved several of its key applications to Google Cloud to take advantage of the “scalability and availability” of cloud computing. This will help XPO better cope with fluctuations in demand and keep its services running smoothly at all times, according to a press release.
Google makes its logistics resources available to other businesses in the same way as Walmart GoLocal and Fulfilled by Amazon, Bloch said. He thinks Google’s new offerings play into his long-term goal of getting as many people as possible to use his search engine. Helping businesses improve their digital operations and their customers’ online experiences will bring shoppers back online, creating more Google searches, he said.
Personalization of Google’s offerings will be key to its success in the last-mile space as many routing software providers offer fuel and mileage optimization, said John McClymont, director of operations and strategy strategy. continuous process improvement at Brink’s. in a LinkedIn post. He said the company would allow basic customizations first before expanding those capabilities further.
“Google gets the most map data on the planet,” McClymont said. “Pair that with more trade feedback and their database and rules engine will outperform everyone. »
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