Solving problems in supply chain has literally been the primary focus for most of my career. Barring a sidebar or two, our retail teams have hacked away with a single-minded purpose - to get merchandise out the door faster and cheaper with each passing iteration. And along the way, we chased the dream of overcoming our industry's biggest challenge - the one thing that keeps profitability elusive - that of last mile delivery.
Then came the virus.
It's been about two weeks in lock down mode and probably the longest since I've bought anything from Amazon (or anywhere else). It’s been essentials only, mainly groceries and that too bought in-store or sometimes using the buy online pick-up in store option.
It’s not that I’ve not wanted other things. As most retailers have been unable to provide same day or next day or even two-day service, the immediate need (or the need for instant gratification) for the merchandise seems to fade away.
I guess the question then is “Have we been trying to solve the wrong problem?” Have the greatest minds of our time been working tirelessly to bring items like the “elastic waist belt” to us by free 2-hour shipping? (That belt, by the way, is #6 on the top-trending item list on Amazon for 2019 – and that’s a whole different problem!)
It’s common knowledge that last mile delivery is not only more expensive than any other segment of the supply chain but also has the highest environmental impact.
Time to re-focus our energies on building technologies that help create products that add value to the consumer. Products that are manufactured using sustainable sourcing practices and responsible labor use and are distributed using channels that leave a minimal carbon footprint.
Products that are worth the wait.