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New Google last mile offerings focus on smoothing out processes for fleet operators

Earlier today, global technology giant Google said it has rolled out two new offerings—entitled Cloud Fleet Routing API and Last Mile Fleet Solution— which focus on helping logistics and retail fleet operators to see gains in delivery success and optimizing fleet performance through what it described as an integrated suite of mapping, routing and analytics capabilities.

Cloud Fleet Routing API addresses the route planning phase of delivery and allows fleet operators to perform advanced fleet-wide optimization, to perform tasks like determining the allocation of packages to delivery vans, as well as the sequencing of the related delivery tasks, according to Google. The company added that by being natively integrated with Google Maps routes data, the offering is able to solve simple route planning requests in real time and also scale to what it called the most demanding workloads with parallelized request batching. The offering can also specify various constraints, for fleet operators, including time windows, package weights, and vehicle capabilities while running on the industry’s cleanest cloud and also assist fleet operators achieve sustainability goals in various ways, such as reducing distance traveled, number of delivery vans, and CO2 output from computing.

And the new Last Mile Fleet Solution addresses delivery execution and enables fleet operators “to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, from e-commerce order to doorstep delivery.” Google also said that it leverages the company’s Google Maps Platform On-demand Rides & Deliveries mobility offering used by global ride-hailing and on-demand delivery operators.

Hans Thalbauer, Managing Director, Global Supply Chain & Logistics Industries, for Google, told LM that the need for these offerings was driven by the ongoing acceleration of e-commerce throughout the course of the pandemic.

“Customers’ expectations are rising as are expectations in speed of delivery and visibility in wanting to know where an order is being extremely high,” he said. “At the same time, when you look at last mile delivery services, they are estimated to make up more than half of the total shipping costs. Fleet operators have demanding expectations and are a driving factor for [these offerings] for these solutions that are needed in the market. We are addressing the logistics industry and also the retail industry and everyone that deals with the last mile problem through these solutions, which provide an end-to-end process.”

Google Group Product Manage Shalin Mantri observed how the Google Maps Platform has been around for more than 15 years and has exposed APIs and SDKs for developers in more than 250 markets to “get the best of Google Maps” and use it to improve their user experiences and business processes.

“This is built on top of the consumer [Google] maps platform, which has more than 1 billion monthly active users…and showing the power of its data freshness, global coverage, and scalability to our enterprise customers is a big opportunity now in the mobility, specifically the last mile, space,” he said.

Mantri explained that since its inception Google has enabled industries that may not have been possible without democratizing Google Maps’ data, including ride sharing and on-demand delivery, adding it is amazing to the innovation and acceleration in those markets.

And he said these new offerings, as it relates to the workflow, from the e-commerce order to doorstep delivery, represents an opportunity for digital transformation, as well as location intelligence, optimizing experiences, and business processes.

“When someone places an order on a website, and then how do we capture and validate an accurate address, that can basically make or break the downstream delivery experience and the success of it,” said Mantri. “That capture moment, oftentimes for fleet operators, is a broken workflow, as fleet operators are not there to capture the information, they are given the information. We are providing better tools for fleet operators to validate and cleanse those addresses. This applies for everything from route planning to optimization. If I have a bunch of packages at my last mile depot and I am the operator and need to know who I assign these packages to and in what order should the drivers do those tasks. With Cloud Fleet Routing API and Google Maps Platform, they are bringing new capabilities, for the first time, to the market to enable that optimization.”

In terms of execution, he explained that when drivers are out in the field doing those deliveries, things do not always go according to plan, with things coming up, including new pickup requests, increased traffic levels, or businesses they are delivering to are soon closing for the day. But with Google Maps navigation integrated within the driver experience those drivers are using from fleet operators makes for what Mantri called a better and more seamless, distraction-free experience and also provides the context to be productive and handle real-time scenarios.    

From a competitive perspective, while there are a number of companies that offer SaaS products in the last mile space, Mantri said some key differentiators Google provides are how it is targeting businesses with flexible API and SDK (software developer kits) and do not have a one size fits all user application.

“We are providing a toolkit that gives flexibility in which API and SDK empower customers and are embedded in their applications,” he said. “And we enable our customers to build on top of that. The second point is cloud scalability, which is where Google Cloud’s reach and scale and expertise in AI comes in. The third one is data freshness, with more than 1 billion users on Google Maps, we have an extraordinarily [amount] of fresh traffic data that can go into making better, more real-time routing decisions…for the last mile delivery process.”

And from a fleet routing and AI perspective, Thalbauer said that the ability of the offerings’ approach to handle massive volumes, in the form of both thousands of trucks and thousands of orders, and getting needed answers via AI in a matter of seconds and not hours is advantageous. 

“That is one of the key elements for planning and intraday planning processes,” he said. “You are not only optimizing towards costs, as there are quite a number of variables. It is also very important to understand you need to have speed and costs in mind but also sustainability, as the carbon footprint is another important aspect, which is being addressed through these offerings.  

Google officials said that when meshed, Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API allows businesses to optimize across every stage of the last-mile delivery journey, with various features, including:

  • Address capture to help obtain an accurate address and location for each pickup or delivery;
  • Route optimization to help ensure drivers are provided with routes that optimize around the fleet's constraints—including delivery time windows—and adapt based on real-time traffic;
  • Driver routing & navigation to deliver a seamless driver experience and improve route compliance with in-app navigation powered by Google Maps;
  • Shipment tracking to keep consumers updated with live, day-of shipment tracking, including up-to-date location and arrival times of customer packages; and 
  • Fleet performance to enable visibility into real-time route progress and shipment insights for operations teams

Looking ahead to next steps for Google’s last mile-focused offerings, Thalbauer said the company’s vision and strategy goes beyond the last mile shipment processes, noting it wants to address middle mile and first mile processes and not only provide AI capabilities but also provide full visibility into both supply chain and logistics processes.

“We do that with Google Cloud Supply Chain Twin [which optimizes planning and decision-making by orchestrating supply chain data from enterprise business systems, partners, and public sources and enables shippers to bring together data from multiple sources and require less partner integration time than traditional API-based integration] and also with track and trace information so that shippers and logistics services providers have full visibility on both ends, for shipment modes and shipment activities,” he said. “We really focus on the data and the intelligence, too.”

Mantri said that with both the Last Mile Fleet Solution and Cloud Fleet Routing API, Google’s primary focus is on getting these new capabilities out to the market and to learn from how the ecosystem adopts them and uses them to improve the business processes from that point.

“We are making product investments,” he said. “As we think about the middle mile, we are better able to come to the table with the right products for that space. There is still a tremendous opportunity in the last mile, so between these solutions, the goal is really to enable the entire ecosystem and to make them generally available.”

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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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