Publication Date
Authored by
Brent McCunney, Kristof Van Cauwenberghe
Topic(s) Covered:
  • Simulation
  • Transportation
  • Fulfillment
  • Urban Logistics

Same-day delivery is an increasingly relevant logistics service because of a continued boom in e- commerce. As customer orders are submitted dynamically during the day, companies need to dispatch vehicles from distribution centers to fulfill these orders as they come in. Given their advantages over conventional vehicles such as direct flight, no road traffic, and no driver/operator requirements, autonomous drones have recently been proposed for last mile package delivery. This study examines in what situations drones could be used to resupply trucks to reduce the time and/or cost of delivery. Drones can be used to dispatch packages from the distribution center to transshipment points where trucks can pick up packages instead of returning to the distribution center. The use of drones requires a new transportation network and routing. A simulation using SIMIO was developed to assess the impact of using drones to resupply trucks through transshipment points. Both a subset of the city of Boston and a portion of the rural area around Pittsfield, MA were used with package delivery orders arriving throughout the simulated time. Through dynamic dispatching for same-day delivery, orders were delivered significantly faster when transshipment points were resupplied by drones than in conventional last mile delivery. In the Pittsfield region analysis, the baseline with one transshipment point was 36% faster than conventional package delivery. The total truck distance traveled while delivering packages was also reduced by 24% or on average 80km per 8-hour work day. In the Boston case study, the baseline scenario of 4 transshipment points was 66% faster (2 hours) at delivering packages than conventional package delivery. Four transshipment points also resulted in a 10% or 60km a day less distance traveled for the trucks. Our research indicates that last mile package delivery companies can use drones and transshipment points to reduce package delivery time as well as truck travel distance.