What is the middle mile?

Middle mile is a start-up term more commonly used as local delivery. This action globally consists of the movement of goods between warehouses. This has direct impacts on the supply chain, especially the last mile of the supply chain.

It is precisely at this step that companies should be thinking about optimizing, not the first mile or the last mile, as it is for this phase of considerable communication between distribution centers (DCs) that justifies accurate stock management and ingenious supply organization.

Giants such as Amazon and Walmart have already started to use this concept. Other smaller retailers are also starting to familiarize themselves with this process.

Supply chain

Decathlon, a large French company specializing in the distribution of sports and entertainment, is the perfect example of the middle mile. In a region in the east of England, Decathlon has a picking rack in one of its warehouses. In this way, it covers the country’s in-store and online demand in parallel. The sports equipment group receives an average of 250 pallets per day of products from the central warehouses based in France and Spain. The collected items are then arranged and stored in their corresponding location, considering the size and the level of demand for the product.



2. Middle mile VS Last mile

The idea of the middle mile is not yet well known to companies, unlike the last mile, which has become quite common in business since the expansion of e-commerce in recent years. The main reason for separating these two stages of the supply chain is the destination of the products. The middle mile delivery consists of the movement of goods between warehouses, the goods are then still in a B2B concept, while the last mile delivery admits the movement of the goods to its ultimate point which is the delivery location chosen by the customer.

Last mile delivery is known for its complexity within the supply chain; the management of transport to physical points of sale and then into the hands of customers requires several detours before it reaches its destination. Whereas the middle mile only needs to worry about the main warehouse and the various shipping points.

Balance: Last Mile VS Middle Mile

3. How does the middle mile works ?

For perfect management, the middle mile requires total transparency between the warehouses – product deliveries must be made according to the available storage capacity and the schedule of the receiving facility. Meanwhile, the last mile requires clear communication between the warehouses and the transportation agencies, as well as with the final customers. So that the operations carried out in the warehouses simplify the task of collection for the transporters when receiving goods, thanks to the organization of the orders ready for delivery based on the criteria of the transport itinerary or the transport delivering the orders in advance.    

4. Optimise Middle mile delivery

Multi-site inventory management companies have realized the benefit that middle mile organizations can bring to their process because of their evaluation of the impact of the entire supply chain. The American online retail giant Amazon has invested heavily in the middle mile by setting up a specialized division with the intention of finding the best option for arranging packages between suppliers and distribution centers. This department is known as Middle Mile Planning Research and Optimization Science.

To improve the logistics of the middle mile, it is essential to accelerate warehouse performance. This requires special software for storage strategies, solutions, and technologies. This type of tool makes it possible to manage the entire process, from the reception to the dispatch of goods in the warehouse.

The automation of some or all of the tasks in the middle mile process is essential to boost transfers between warehouses. Such options can include a truck unloading system and/or a pallet conveyor system, allowing for an efficient and error-free process flow, increased interim deliveries, and improved competitiveness.

The only remaining concern is the management of sea routes. There are software programs that address this issue in coordination with your warehouse management software.


5. The benefits of the Intermediate mile

  • Reduces inefficiencies, helps you take full control, and generates savings. Because it controls both ends of the supply chain.
  • Reducing costs through intermediate delivery allows companies to offer products to their customers at even lower prices than digital retailers.
  • As third-party multimodal companies adopt midstream delivery strategies; they begin to control both the trucking and long-haul segments. This helps them adapt to change more quickly

What does the companies think ?

Companies are starting to take an interest in middle-mile delivery. Companies with multiple warehouses need to make the most of the last link in their supply chain to claim a noble business. If you are interested in more information, you can read our article on last mile.