Google Maps Platform

How Parcel Shuttle makes last-mile delivery more eco-friendly and drivers happier

ParcelShuttleHero

Editor’s note: Today's post comes from Simon Seeger, founder of Parcel Shuttle, a GLS Group backed Berlin parcel delivery solution that’s rethinking the sector with a "smart microgrid" system which enables it to reduce the carbon footprint of delivery runs while offering an opportunity to provide a flexible income for drivers. 


When we launched Parcel Shuttle last year, I was confident that Google Maps Platform would help us bring eco-friendly parcel delivery to Berlin through precise navigation. Never did I imagine that it would also lend a helping hand in the most precious delivery of all: a baby.


I'll never forget the day a driver called our dispatch office saying he couldn't continue his shift because his wife had gone into labor. The team scrambled to remotely adjust his navigation, redirecting his route to his home, then the hospital. Next, they used route optimization and live traffic prediction to get the couple to the delivery room as fast as possible.


The day little Vivien was born safely, weighing 7.16 lbs, brought great joy to all of us at Parcel Shuttle. It also reminded us why we're in this business in the first place. Delivering essentials in the greenest possible way, while bringing happiness to our drivers through fairness and work flexibility.


A green and fair vision for parcel delivery

We're disrupting the parcel sector through a "smart microgrid" concept that drastically reduces the distance required to deliver parcels, and brings drivers more flexibility by keeping delivery runs within their own neighborhood. All of our drivers decide exactly when they want to work, enabling them, for example, to attend dance classes in the morning and work a two-hour shift for us in the afternoon.

Parcel Shuttle Smart Microgrid

In parcel delivery, fleets of vans normally fan out from warehouses outside the city to drop off parcels in town before returning to the depot. 60 percent of last mile delivery kilometers are made up of additional mileage and man-hours spent making the back-and-forth depot journey, not to mention criss-crossing town for deliveries. We decided to turn the process on its head.


In our model, one large truck leaves the warehouse on a "milk run" to drop parcels into delivery cars parked within each Berlin micro-grid, walking distance from drivers' homes. Then, the driver just walks out the door, finds the car loaded with parcels, and delivers the goods in an efficient loop around their neighborhood, reducing the burden on drivers, roads, and air quality.


Our innovation may sound simple, but execution is a huge challenge. To make it work, we need cutting-edge Google Maps Platform navigation, route sequencing, and geocoding solutions to quickly guide freelance drivers to delivery points. 


Delivering goods to the right address as efficiently as possible

Imagine having to deliver a parcel with invalid address inputs for just about everything: company name, street number, postal code, and more. In a town like Berlin, it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And we can't blame the client for giving us the wrong address. We just have to deliver. Period. If not, we lose that business.


In order to crunch reams of location data to fix incorrect address inputs, enabling our drivers to find the right delivery point with minimum fuss we use the Geocoding API. Working with the Geocoding API, we can get a completely garbled address come in, and amazingly, the correct address pops out. It’s a real life-saver.


The right address is critical, but drivers also need to determine how to get there. We are able to lead our novice drivers to each destination, as if they've been doing this job for decades with the Maps JavaScript API.

Parche Shuttle Mobile Navigation

We quickly learned that calculating distances is only one part of the route optimization solution. We need to analyze live traffic conditions, such as bottlenecks, roadworks, and red lights, to deliver the best possible route at any given moment and to tell drivers the most efficient order in which to make multiple stops. This is where using the Maps JavaScript API and the API’s Traffic Layer helps us out.


The results have been encouraging. We've achieved more than 60 percent reduction in road covered in the city center, thanks to a combination of our own proprietary Android application and Google Maps Platform tools. We’ve also gained 25 percent time savings in last-mile delivery via Google Maps Platform guided solutions.


Serving Berlin amid the COVID-19 storm

The COVID-19 situation tested our business model due to a huge spike in demand. The lockdown not only led to families in Berlin ordering most of their everyday needs online, it also meant that small businesses needed to source supplies and spare parts through parcel deliveries instead of buying them onsite from wholesalers. 


During lockdown, we experienced a 25 percent rise in delivery points. Increasing stops by that amount greatly complicates routing calculations for each run. Basically, we have a quarter more places to visit in the same time window as before. It could have been a nightmare without state-of-the-art route optimization.


We're relieved that our delivery model has held strong during COVID-19, and proud that we've been able to serve the Berlin community. We experienced almost no stress to our eco-friendly model and commitment to timely delivery. This just wouldn’t have been possible without the powerful navigation and geocoding solutions of Google Maps Platform.


Global expansion with Google solutions

We see our growth potential as unlimited due to the combination of a simple yet unique business model, and Google Maps Platform tools to help make our model work. Our next steps will be bringing our platform to more German cities, then to the world.


We're excited about greening parcel delivery around the world. And how's baby Vivien doing closer to home? Just as fine as can be. We keep her picture up on our office wall as a happy reminder that our mission is to bring joy, in all its forms, to people's doorsteps.


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