The Intermediate Mile: The Penultimate link In The Supply Chain

The intermediate mile in logistics is the stage where goods are transported from one warehouse to another. This flow of goods generally takes place between a facility temporarily storing the products, received from a supplier or a production plant, and a second facility from which the shipment to the end customer will be made.

The journey of a product, from its manufacture to its delivery to the customer, is long. Therefore, the priority for any company is to ensure that the shipment of goods is efficient and as profitable as possible. To achieve this, they are looking for solutions to optimize the intermediate kilometer, for example with the help of technology.

What is the intermediate kilometer?

The intermediate mile is the process by which goods are transferred between different warehouses. This operation has a direct impact on other processes in the supply chain, including shipping to the end customer or the last mile. So, if there are shipping delays between two warehouses Nevada Truck Dispatching Services, for example, it is likely that the delivery of orders to the end customer will also be delayed.

The middle mile optimizes resources for processes where the first mile or last mile is not involved. Communication between distribution centers facilitates accurate inventory control and the proper organization of supply tasks .

Which companies generally manage the intermediate kilometer? Those present in several regions, with warehouses near urban centers, or those with an international clientele.

Decathlon, a French company specializing in sporting goods , is an example of effective management of the intermediate kilometer. In Northampton, UK, Decathlon has a warehouse equipped with Mecalux picking racks which supplies physical stores as well as online store customers. Zsolt Kabai, project manager at Decathlon UK, explains the progress of the intermediate kilometer: “Every day, we receive an average of 250 pallets of products from Decathlon’s central warehouses in France and Spain”. These items are then sorted and store in the right locations taking into account their dimensions and their level of demand.

Intermediate mile vs last mile

Unlike the last mile, very popular following the e-commerce boom, the concept of the intermediate mile is not yet so widespread in the business lexicon. The main distinction between the intermediate mile and the last mile lies in the destination of the products. If the intermediate mile includes the transport of goods between two warehouses, the last mile includes shipments from a warehouse or a logistics center to the end customer.

The last mile is the most complex logistical phase. Indeed, the management of the fleet of vehicles providing transport to the points of sale or to the end customers involves multiplication of destinations, while at the intermediate kilometer, only the main warehouse and the various shipping points (such as dark stores or micro-fulfillment centers ) intervene. In this context, the warehouse must coordinate with the carrier to optimize the distribution of goods.

The intermediate kilometer requires perfect coordination between the warehouses: it is necessary to ensure that the delivery of the products respects the available storage capacity, but also the opening hours of the installation which receives the goods. The last mile, on the other hand, requires seamless communication between the warehouse, carriers, and end customers. Warehouse operations must therefore make it easier for couriers to collect goods, by arranging orders in advance according to the delivery route or the carrier in charge of the shipment.

Finally, another difference between the two logistics phases lies in the load unit to be managed and stored. During the intermediate kilometer stage, large volumes of goods are transported, in particular pallets, between the distribution center and the transit warehouses. At the last mile, with the destination being the end customer or the physical store, it is more common to work with smaller bins or load units.

Optimization of the intermediate kilometer

Given the impact of the intermediate mile on the entire supply chain, companies with multi-warehouse management have discovered in this step a real opportunity to optimize their operations. For example, Amazon has made a strong bet on optimizing its middle mile with the creation of the Middle Mile Planning Research and Optimization Science, a department specializing in researching the optimal distribution of products between suppliers and fulfillment centers.

One of the ways to optimize the intermediate mile is to increase the performance of the warehouse. The implementation of warehouse management software such as Mecalux’s Easy WMS allows inventory control, as well as perfect organization of shipments and receipts of goods.

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