The strong e-commerce growth has boosted the great transformation that the logistics sector is experiencing at present time. The new consumption habits have changed. To buy online is not only a common practice, it also implies that the customer expects to receive the items purchased in the established day and place as part of the shopping experience.
The vast majority of retailers are rapidly advancing towards digitization and, due to an increasing demand, especially in large cities, the transport of goods has experienced a significant increase as well as a growing demand for ships to house them and points from where to distribute them quickly and efficiently.
Speed, efficiency in the delivery of the orders and profitability are some of the most important challenges that the sector is facing. This has led operators to restructure the logistics landscape, from the ships design to their location. In this context, the need has arisen for a new type of ships with different dimensions, characteristics and locations, according to their function in the supply chain.
The consumers’ demand of an almost immediate delivery (with terms ranging from one hour and a day at most) has led to substantial changes in the supply chain. One of the most important ones is that operators have been forced to take the distribution centers closer to the customer. Thus, we’re moving from a traditional logistics experience, based on the distribution from a regional platform, to an urban logistics that distributes from urban distribution centers to the consumer. The need to be more efficient is leading to the creation of a network of smaller distribution centers.
The new urban logistics is based on small warehouses or warehouses located in city centers to guarantee the immediacy of deliveries. They have been baptized with the name of urban distribution platform (PDU). These new spaces are located in cities of more than 300,000 inhabitants, they have between 1,000 and 3,000 square meters and do not have docks, but direct access. In addition to achieving more agility and efficiency in the delivery of orders, with these new distribution platforms closer to the end customer, there is a lower incidence of vehicles in large cities, with the environmental benefits that this entails. One of the operators that has already experienced the PDU is Amazon, which has opened its Amazon Prime center in Barcelona in the Eixample and in Méndez Álvaro, in Madrid.
However, this new trend in logistics faces barriers such as the scarce land availability in urban centers. To overcome this difficulty, it has become increasingly common to see ships with mezzanines. On the other hand, real estate experts believe that it will be increasingly common to house these new urban logistics platforms in old obsolete industrial areas that have been absorbed by urban expansion. In Madrid it could be Julián Camarillo to the west or Fuencarral in the north, and within the M-30 the Bravo Murillo area, Embajadores and Prosperidad. In Barcelona, Poblenou, Glorias, Bon Pastor and Eixample Izquierdo are some examples of neighborhoods to be considered for this type of use.
Optimizing the "last mile" logistics processes will be key in the companies’ competitiveness, either on the side of the manufacturers or the logistics operators. The combination of an adequate strategy for locating the distribution centers together with the advances that technology brings to optimize processes (including reverse logistics) will be fundamental pieces of success.