Bringing It Home: Fostering Partnerships for the Last Mile

When it comes to last mile delivery, partnerships are helping organizations of all sizes compete.

By Fiona Soltes

Long gone are the days of believing the personal doesn’t bleed over into the professional. Recent years have proven that solid relationships are key to business success.

Call it partnership. Call it collaboration. Regardless, today’s companies are learning the importance of working with others not just to increase scale and efficiency, but also to discover new processes, explore different expertise and maximize offerings in our increasingly fast-paced world.

And nowhere is that more evident than in last mile delivery.

A host of innovative startups have broken onto the scene of final delivery, bringing creative concepts and high-tech wizardry to the forefront. It’s true that some of the industry’s largest players are making inroads of their own, expanding offerings for a greater piece of the e-commerce market pie. But for everyone else, this “partnering up” is helping organizations of all sizes compete.

“These start-ups are important, because they all come with some innovation,” said Jim Tompkins, veteran supply chain consultant and chairman and CEO of MHI member Tompkins International, a supply chain consulting and implementation firm. “If they bring something new to the table, then that’s something we can all learn from.”

Tompkins, for one, has learned that there’s more than one type of collaboration. Collaboration based on economies of scale, for example, can be dictatorial in the manner of what needs to be done, and in what way. It’s like one person heading to the grocery store with several orders, maximizing time and effort.

But then there’s synergistic collaboration. That’s similar to marriage in which one party is great at “A, B and C,” and the other is great at “D, E and F,” and each focuses on what they do best for the greatest result. Tompkins tells the story of meeting a biologist lauded for the “overnight success” of discovering the DNA of the Zika virus in three days. It’s true that the discovery took three days, the scientist told Tompkins. But it also was true that 11 years prior, he had collaborated with an engineer who was a specialist in electronic microscopes. Their partnership, begun all those years prior, was what led to the DNA discovery in short order.

The two types of collaboration are as different as can be, Tompkins said. But in the world of last mile delivery, both are important.

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