Today’s world is all about speed: faster cars, faster public transport, faster internet, instant food – you name it. All of it design to make our lives easier by eliminating the wait. Our journeys are quicker than ever and the internet moves from page to page in less than a second; but there are some things that haven’t kept up with the acceleration. Delivery of goods, for example, has always been a bit of a speed bump in the instant way of life – after all, there’s only so fast an item can travel from one end of the country to another. How many times have you needed to get somewhere but been stuck at home waiting for a package to arrive?
There have been a couple of attempts to address the issue, most recently Amazon’s decision to try and use drones to deliver packages in less than 30 minutes. Creativity is the key here: you can’t just make the trucks faster, you have to think of an entirely new way of doing it.
The latest and perhaps most inventive idea to this end hasn’t come from one of the big product-moving giants like Amazon or FedEx, but from Volvo (of all people). Their idea, called Roam, aims to eliminate the need to wait around at home for your parcel to arrive, as well as lessening the costs companies face in missed deliveries. The latter is a difficulty that wastes huge amounts of money for the delivery industry each year.
So here’s what Volvo decided to do: come up with a system where deliveries can be dropped off and left inside your parked car for you to pick up when you return to it. This means you can receive packages when you’re out and about doing something else, rather than sitting around at home, which would be ideal for busy workers and families. It also means no delivery can be left incomplete.
The Roam system uses existing technology in Volvo cars that allows a courier (who is provided with a digital key) to locate the car via GPS, enter it on a one-off basis, and drop whatever goods you want inside. Once the process is complete the car then re-locks itself and your delivery waits for you to return to the vehicle. It’s been trialled with good success over in Sweden and could well be an idea that Volvo is looking to integrate into the supply chain in the coming years. And why not? There’s definitely a market for it – online purchases are on the rise, meaning goods shipping will likely increase, and we’ve all felt the pain of constantly being out of the house when the delivery man shows up.
But Is It Practical?
It’s a very clever idea, but will it work? Is it realistic? For starters, there are a whole mess of security issues to contend with – will people be comfortable having their cars opened while they’re not around? “Most people don’t leave valuable items in the car for security reasons,” says Professor of Supply Chain Strategy Richard Wilding, a problem that could lead to an inherent distrust in the system as a whole. He also points out that if groceries are involved “Chilled products will also be a problem, as the inside of cars can reach quite high temperatures – thinking about health and safety, there would have to be some kind of temperature control.” Hector Au, Senior Buyer at leading packaging supplier Rajapack, is equally sceptical from a safety point of view, citing the example that “There may be certain high crime areas that you would not want your orders delivered to.”
So there are a few early roadblocks in terms of safety; but what about viability? Is it a practical solution? Professor Wilding believes that some of the logistics are more difficult than Volvo are letting on, for example “unplanned trips and difficult locations – what if the vehicle moves suddenly or the delivery van has to navigate a complex car park? Both will cause logistical issues.”
Hector Au has similar concerns for the practicability of the concept, pointing out that “Boot space is also another problem for larger orders; I could see a form of ‘click and collect’ service working better in this instance.” Does this mean that the idea is slightly too ambitious, and a simpler existing one would do? Professor Wilding seems to agree: “Central locations to pick up items seem to work quite well. You could also have a drive through system, almost like at McDonalds, where you can drive to a collection window on your way home.”
So all in all, the concept is good, but the issues may be too many to contend with. Verdict? It could work – but it’ll take a few years to overcome all of the above.