HOW E-COMMERCE CAN MITIGATE AIR POLLUTION GENERATED BY LAST MILE DELIVERY WITH AN INCREASING NUMBER OF USERS

ROLE

UX Researcher

UX Designer

TEAM MEMBERS

Individual

TOOLS

Figma

CONTEXT

Covid-19 has shown people how important it is to be prepared for a crisis. . Companies are making changes related to crises with long term in mind. Pandemic has altered the shopping behaviour of consumers. Consumers are now practicing online shopping through E-commerce platforms. Because of how convenient e-commerce is, people will continue to shop online. So, e-commerce will get a greater number of users. E-commerce has created a positive impact on the environment (like paperless structure, less vehicles used by customers, etc.). But it is very early to say that ecommerce has only positive impact. There are few negative impacts which cannot be ignored. Air pollution is one of them. It is generally caused by last mile delivery which is the last part of the delivery process where a package is delivered from warehouse to customer’s house.

Methodology

  1. To understand the future of the environment and how different entities affect secondary research was considered.

  2. This is followed by looking deep into how the last mile delivery and e-commerce can bridge the gap by taking action to reduce air pollution.

  3. After getting insights from existing solutions and analysis of all the secondary data I moved to ideating output. In the end, developed a concept to optimize the vehicle routing which reduces the fuel consumption and maximizes the efficiency of the last-mile delivery process.

PHASE - 1

Secondary Research

E-commerce and Environment

What is the impact of e-commerce on the environment?

     Positive impact:

  • E-commerce provides paperless information which helps in global warming effects.

  • As E-commerce can track online orders and future demands, it can decrease overproductions.

  • Due to the increasing number of internet users, technologies have evolved and the delivery process became fast

      Negative impact:

  • It is too early to say, e-commerce has only positive impacts as there are negative impacts too that are hidden. When we think about the negative impact, the first picture that comes to mind is packaging waste. However, the packaging waste is not only responsible for environmental changes but also air pollution. Transportation or delivery processes are responsible for air pollution.

  • Most of the consumers are not aware that carbon emission generates more when they opt for one-day delivery/faster delivery.

The e-commerce delivery process is divided into 3 parts from which the 3rd part which is last mile delivery is more responsible for air pollution.

Phase 2

Air pollution and Last mile delivery

 

Secondary Research

It is the last and final journey of the delivery process where the delivery package is delivered from warehouse to customer’s door.

The goal of last mile delivery is to deliver the package to the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is the important part of customer satisfaction. To keep up with buyer’s expectation of fast delivery, companies try to make the shipping process as speedy as possible but still it says that last mile delivery is the most expensive, valuable and slowest part of the process.

How does last mile delivery cause air pollution?

  • Long distance shipping

In rural areas drivers have to travel miles to only deliver one package in between stops which requires more time and produces more harmful gas.

 

  •  Traffic in urban areas

In big/metro cities, the roads are narrow and always packed with traffic. Which also eventually produced harmful gases in air and resulted in air pollution.

 

  • Fast delivery

Customers want fast and on time delivery. To satisfy their needs, the one package has been delivered one way which increases the fuel consumption.

 

  • Additional transit

Sometimes the delivery takes one more round of transit as customers opt for return/exchange of packages or they cancelled the order last minute. Sometimes the address is incorrect or the customer changes address. In this case the delivery boy has to take an extra trip.

Why is it important to mitigate air pollution?

 

  • According to the world economic forum, e-commerce will see growth and the last mile delivery will also increase which will lead to an increase of emission of gas by 32%. [8]

  • The B2C e-commerce delivery shipment accounts for 61% which will affect environmental pollution.

  • According to a study, people don’t have a clear idea about the impact of e-commerce on the environment. They don’t know whether it is possible to reduce air pollution or not. [3]

 

For future generations and before the environment changes become worse it is required to take steps ahead and therefore e-commerce should put emphasis on saving the environment by taking steps to reduce air pollution.

Phase 3

Existing Solution and Problems

 

Secondary Research

Key metrics for last mile delivery

Key metrics help to manage the last mile delivery service. It is very important to know which KPIs affect more and need attention to make the delivery service better [1]. Below are the KPIs which are commonly used by companies.

 

  • Cost per kilometer= (Driver cost + Fuel cost + Vehicle cost) / Total Distance(km)

It informs the cost it takes to drive a vehicle one kilometer.

 

  • Fleet capacity utilization=Used capacity / Total Capacity

It tells how much capacity of a delivery vehicle has been utilized

 

  • Legs per trip

A leg is the part of transportation between stop A and Stop B. It helps in optimization of routes.

 

  • Average service time= Total service time / Number of deliveries

An average time it takes to unload a cargo called as average service time

 

  • Planned Vs Actual stops=Number of actual stops / Number of planned stops

During delivery a driver might take unplanned stops for some reasons which might delay the plan and decrease the service levels. By knowing the ratio between planned and actual stops we can avoid this big issue.

Key metrics for sustainable last mile delivery

There are numerous logistics management softwares are available which helps companies to optimize their last mile delivery by using above KPIs.

It is very important to know which KPIs affect the air pollution most. I looked into algorithms/methods which are used by companies and how they are trying to make better (sustainable) delivery service.

With the help of above KPIs, companies started looking for more sustainable solutions. They suggested below points which can be embedded into the existing last mile delivery process. These points basically help to reduce carbon emission and air pollution.

 

  • Optimizing vehicle routing system

Suggest driver shortest route and avoid crowded route

 

  • Reduce the stopping points

It helps to reduce parking time and waiting time

 

  • Manage returned parcels

Often customers return their items and ask for exchange. This adds an extra trip in the existing delivery order.

 

  • Locating the exact address

It’s important to know the exact customer address for the delivery person to avoid additional time and fuel consumption looking to find customers.

Existing solutions for sustainable last mile delivery

Technical solution

  • Electric vehicles (EVs)

  • Cubicle

  • Turning roads into electrified roads and allow vehicles to charge on the go

  • Robot

  • Drone

Problems with technical solutions

  • Less charging setup due to infrastructure

  • Low battery performance

  • Supply-Demand gap

  • High price currently

  • Recharging a battery takes time

  • Less knowledge about technology among people

  • Not every company is capable enough to purchase such products like EVs

  • Takes time to implement due to technical constraints

  • High investment

Non-technical solutions (Algorithms/Framework/Concept)

  • Crowdsourcing or TaxiCrowdShipping system

Crowdsourcing is to reduce the unnecessary moves of logistic delivery vehicles. In this approach, delivery partners and the citizens deliver parcels when they travel to their own particular destination. It takes the advantage of citizen’s movement and reduces the number of movements. The citizens who move in the city because of their needs become the temporary deliveries [7].

Problem: Not everyone is comfortable getting a parcel by unknown people knocking at the door [2].

 

  • Parcel locker system

Parcel lockers are installed in outdoor and indoor places. Delivery people put parcels in these lockers. A notification is being sent to the corresponding recipient with a unique code and he has to enter that code to open that locker.

Problem: Customers are less willing to take parcels from lockers and hence they are most likely to opt out from this option. The size of the lockers is not enough for large parcels. Number of lockers is dependent on the area of that space.

 

  • Use of public transportation for delivery

It suggests using public transportation like metros, bus, BRTS to deliver parcels. In this way we can avoid additional vehicles and take advantage of public transport.

Problem: Buses and metros take longer to reach as it takes many stops. So the number of deliveries in one day reduces and business can’t satisfy customer expectations.

 

  • Warehouse near public places

Usually, warehouses are made quite far from urban areas. To carry a parcel from warehouse to customer’s home it takes time which results in increasing fuel consumption due to longer routes. To avoid taking long routes a small step has been taken where warehouses are built nearer to public places like metros, banks where customers can take their own parcel from the warehouse while traveling through these places.

Problem: Only works with those customers who commute through metros and other public places on a daily basis.

 

  • UPS- the world largest delivery service created an algorithm in which the vehicle eliminates fewer left turns (in countries with right hand traffic) means less idling at signals and less fuel consumptions. It doesn’t avoid all the left turns but reduces the turn by 10% of overall turns. It reduces the emission of CO2 [9].

Problem: Only works where there is proper infrastructure.

Insights and Analysis

By secondary research and the insights of existing problems, I summarized focus points and I look into how my solution should look like (By keeping in mind India and it’s infrastructure):

 

 

  • The sustainable solution like electric vehicles in India seems to have quite slow development. It will surely come in the market but not immediately. It requires a lot of infrastructure planning in India. Evs are a bit costly and not every Indian company is capable of buying them. So, there is a need for solutions which can be implemented within the shortest time by companies.

 

  • Optimization of the vehicle routing can reduce CO2 emission and helps in sustainable last mile delivery.

 

  • With increasing use of ecommerce, customers are now expecting the deliveries within 24 hrs. To satisfy customers proper fleet planning is needed. This can be solved by implementing a sustainable method to increase the number of trips.

 

  • In India, where there are numerous businesses, not everyone can afford EVs or robots to deliver parcels. By keeping in mind all kinds of businesses (Big, Medium, small sized) the solution should be affordable. It should not need high investment.

 

  • According to India’s population and infrastructure, it is not impractical to develop a solution where there is a need to change the existing roads with the latest technology if the solution needs immediate response. It is surely possible in the future but it takes time to ideate and develop the solution.

 

  • It is important to know that with environmental goals, business goals are also necessary to get more effective solutions.

 

  • Lastly, the main goal of any business is to satisfy the customer expectation.

According to focus points, I decided to work on optimizing the vehicle routing which should satisfy sustainable last mile delivery goals and business goals.

Solution goals:

  • Minimize the fuel consumption and maximize the efficiency

  • easy and can be implement immediately

  • Affordable (Less investment)

  • Reducing Number of Failed Home Deliveries

  • Manage the returned parcel

  • Reduce the fuel consumption rate

  • Reduce number of stops

  • More delivery in less time

  • Optimize the vehicle route

Concept development

Ideating for output

Proposed Output

Squared vehicle routing (SVR) concept

why

SVR concept

SVR is the proposed concept for sustainable last mile delivery to reduce the air pollution caused by last mile delivery.

what

Goals

  • Minimize the fuel consumption and maximize the efficiency

  • Easy and can be implement immediately

Affordable (Less investment)

who

Users

E-commerce businesses who are connected with last mile delivery can apply this concept into their last mile delivery logistics.

 

Stakeholders

  • E-commerce companies

  • Local shop owners

  • Delivery person

  • E-commerce customers

How

Use of the concept

As the concept is about optimizing the vehicle routing and making the existing solution sustainable, the proposed concept can be used/implemented in software where all the logistic communication happens.

Where

Location

The concept is being formulated by keeping in mind India’s infrastructure and population so initially it works only for India.

Proposed Output

Video