Case Study: Collaborative Transportation To Win The Last Mile

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A prominent book wholesaler providing customized fulfillment for retail bookstores wanted to maintain its high service standards when outsourcing final delivery to independent subcontractors. While the subcontractors are integral to the company’s strategy, they also hinder improvements in the last mile, presenting a dilemma.  

Driven to exceed customer expectations, the company strives to collaborate with each bookstore manager to precisely tailor a logistics process that meets their needs. Open and transparent communications are emphasized to inform customers of delivery status, making end-to-end supply chain visibility a top priority. 

To achieve this, the company’s 30 warehouses in Germany and Austria and its fleet of 400 delivery trucks are automated with digital solutions that share information with external customers. However, this visibility ended once book orders were delivered to its subcontractors for the final delivery to the customer’s bookstores.

The Challenge

Despite the shipper’s investment in automating enterprise logistics processes, its subcontractors are independent operators that chose their technology.  Without a standardized delivery process, the company was prevented from realizing the full potential of its investment.  

The challenge of integrating each subcontractor’s delivery processes with its enterprise logistics systems was enormous. Until a cost-effective solution could be found, a blindspot affecting the most crucial phase of transportation, the final mile, left several issues unresolved:   

  • Strategic Vulnerability The shipper’s strategic advantage hinged on providing customers with complete transparency to a reliable, customized delivery experience. But that requires control over the entire delivery process. 

  • Difficulty Making Continuous Improvement It's easier to identify process improvements with comprehensive logistics metrics, constraints, and costs.

  • Inequitable Pricing Determining service value is complex and competitive benchmarking is only possible with standardized, complete, and accurate data. With this, less capable subcontractors with better negotiating skills may be overpaid, while the valuable ones are underpaid. The inequity can lead to losing the best subcontractors while incentivizing the least capable of remaining. 

  • Less than Optimal Performance With comprehensive supply chain visibility, logistics performance can be optimized. Without access to this data, delivery operations are exposed to risks from traffic congestion, ineffective subcontractor decisions, and vehicle conditions.

  • Lower Level of Customer Service A subcontractor learns customer preferences when on site, and a knowledge gap of these preferences exists with the wholesaler. Without systematically capturing these requirements, the wholesaler must assume subcontractors are meeting them. Furthermore, this valuable information must be recovered with a change in subcontractors so service levels are maintained.     

  • Insufficient Risk Management Dependence on subcontractors for final deliveries posed risks to delivery continuity in the event of subcontractor-related issues.  Lack of visibility to these risks and an inability to mitigate them left the wholesaler vulnerable to unexpected disruptions.  

  • Lack of Resilience The inability to manage risk and make process improvements jeopardizes business performance. A subcontractor going out of business or failing to perform could precipitate significant losses.

Solution Requirements

Overcoming the challenge required a solution that would encourage the full participation of subcontractors; it would need to improve the subcontractor’s business. It would also have to be seamless, easy to implement and use, and readily support the existing scenario:

  • Retailer merchandise management systems place orders with the wholesaler by 6 p.m. each night for next-day fulfillment. 
  • The wholesaler uses its fleet to deliver orders from its warehouses to subcontractors.
  • Subcontractors use their vehicles for final transportation to bookstores within their assigned territory.
  • Subcontractors hold keys to the bookstores for after-hours restocking of designated locations, ensuring displays are orderly and meeting any other requirements specified on orders for each store.

The Solution: Collaborative Transportation   

The company created a collaborative transportation solution by implementing an extended version of  flexis SCM Vehicle Routing and Scheduling (VRS) as a SaaS (software as a service).  Subcontractors could quickly increase operation efficiency, and the wholesaler was able to standardize the entire delivery process.  


Because the cost is shared across multiple parties, the subscription is affordable for subcontractors of all sizes. The process improvements generate a positive ROI while resolving previously-mentioned challenges for the wholesaler and each subcontractor. 

The wholesaler can integrate and manage the final mile as part of its enterprise transportation process, allowing process improvements that were previously impossible. Some of these improvements are included in the flexis solutions:

  • Visibility of shipment and order details such as book titles, delivery time, location (e.g., where it is on the road or its shelf location in the bookstore), and operational data for every vehicle (including telematics data if provided).
  • Optimization of routes to maximize profit, service quality, and sustainability.
  • Route planning that considers seasonal retail fluctuations, holidays, and customer delivery windows.
  • Scheduling considers site-specific delivery constraints like the number of trips and time required to cart books into a retail store, required elevator trips, distance from the loading zone, etc.
  • Address verification and geocoding ensure error-free planning and navigation.
  • Traffic patterns and temporary restrictions such as road works and roadblocks are avoided in the routing.
  • A mobile driver app that automates tasks like capturing delivery receipt signatures, POD (proof of delivery) pictures, and driver notes.
  • Real-time tracking of driver location from geo-positioning.
  • Geofencing time stamps recording entry and exit entering and leaving delivery locations.
  • Automatic and user-initiated planning supports adjustments in real-time when conditions change (e.g., use of alternative vehicles, responding to customer delays, etc.)
  • Identification of optimization opportunities by detecting order consolidations, recurring disruptions, and routing changes due to changing conditions.

The Results

While optimization savings from SCM Vehicle Routing and Scheduling vary between companies and scenarios, falling within the average ranges noted below.   



Leveraging a collaborative transportation solution in the cloud allows companies to standardize their delivery processes and gain a competitive edge. Enabling closer collaboration with supply chain partners makes it easier to exceed customer expectations while significantly improving logistics operations.

If you want to learn more get your Guide to Logistics 4.0

In this Guide you will learn:

  1. Why a strategic process in transportation planning is a top priority for digitalization

  2. What megatrends will increase supply chain volatility

  3. How to manage it



Or do you want to learn more about the Gartner Top Trends in Strategic Supply Chain Technology 2023?

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