Zero-Emissions Delivery Brings Positive Change to Newcastle
When Rob and his friend Nick founded ZMOVE, they wanted to do their part in making Newcastle a better place to live. Both keen cyclists and outdoors people, they decided to contribute to their community by starting a zero-emissions delivery service. Their mission was simple: help Newcastle’s poor air quality and give equal, legal employment opportunities to the local community.
Two years later, ZMOVE is set to expand and make zero-emissions the standard of delivery across the country. Having relied on Track-POD from the start, ZMOVE shares the biggest lessons of using a last-mile delivery tool to build a sustainable, scalable business.
ZMOVE is a zero-emissions delivery company born in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the North East of England. It powers local businesses and healthcare providers by running deliveries on cargo bikes and an electric van. ZMOVE delivers 6 days a week and employs a diverse staff of riders and drivers, many of whom are women. A big part of the philosophy behind ZMOVE is providing equal employment opportunities to the people who want something different from sitting in an office.
In the beginning, ZMOVE was doing shuttle services for local businesses and healthcare providers. Now, the company works with a wide range of businesses – from artisan producers to bakeries – to deliver wholesale and on-demand. Home delivery is a new thing ZMOVE embraced during the pandemic, mainly for the sake of its biggest client, a local hospital trust with several sites around Newcastle.
Because of the lockdown, ZMOVE had to halt its expansion plans, switching the focus to staff and clients’ safety. Now, ZMOVE delivers infrastructure and powers local businesses to grow past-pandemic. Still with a community view on the world, the company’s founders see potential in expanding beyond Newcastle and are therefore looking for suitable investment. Throughout the years, Track-POD has been an enabler of ZMOVE’s growth.
A year before ZMOVE came into being, Rob and Nick were looking at last-mile delivery tools that would optimize the routine of a zero-emissions delivery business. Unlike mature delivery businesses that relied on trucks, ZMOVE had to find something flexible enough to work with cargo bikes as well as vans.
The biggest challenge ZMOVE faced as a startup was finding a logistics solution that would fit the bill and offer flexibility. Thanks to Rob’s software development background, he could really look into the software and make a choice that would pay off. After benchmarking some tools, Track-POD with its flexible pricing model came out on top.
In the course of using Track-POD, ZMOVE encountered new challenges specific to their business. For example, fully automated routing was not optimal for a delivery business that relied on cargo bikes. More often than not, Google Maps lacks the local knowledge that a human cyclist would have, i.e. routing would need to be manual in part.
Another recurring issue was order import. The biggest challenge with B2B clients was getting clean, consistent data in spreadsheets. When working with retail clients, on the other hand, ZMOVE found Track-POD’s built-in integrations with Shopify and WooCommerce a big help, as setting up order import takes only a few clicks.
Two years into using Track-POD for scaling a zero-emissions delivery business, ZMOVE uses a semi-automated workflow. On average, the company delivers for 4-5 clients daily. Some of them are regular runs, for which ZMOVE simply duplicates orders in Track-POD. Meanwhile, up to 150 home delivery orders for the local hospital fund still need to be routed. Here’s how it works.
In the morning, ZMOVE gets order data from the hospital, drops it into a spreadsheet and imports everything to Track-POD. There’s quite a bit of data cleaning involved as the data received from the hospital requires sanitization. All orders are then dropped into a single route, optimized for a bike, and routed. At this point, a layer of local knowledge is applied: orders are manually rearranged among the routes, new routes are added, and afterwards the whole thing is re-optimized.
ZMOVE then publishes loading and route sheets in PDF and Excel, including analytics data with ETAs, and shares everything with the hospital. The client’s preference is to call every home delivery address personally. After a series of cost-cutting measures on the hospital’s behalf, Track-POD’s SMS notifications with ETA and a live tracking link are paused for the time being. Because the rate of successful delivery dropped shortly after, ZMOVE plans to bring SMS notifications back.
ZMOVE riders and drivers got used to Track-POD’s mobile app quickly, and the app is now adapted to most common delivery scenarios. For example, ZMOVE is using custom reasons for rejection that are the most prevalent in home deliveries. Even though there are some technical bumps along the way, Track-POD has proved to be a working solution.
Even though ZMOVE growth was halted because of the pandemic, the company has big plans for the future. Already in the top-20 best employers in Newcastle, ZMOVE is projected to be in the top-3 biggest zero-emissions delivery services in the UK in the next 5 years. To get to that point, ZMOVE requires suitable investment. Track-POD, being a flexible last-mile delivery tool, will keep powering ZMOVE’s growth.
Even though some of Track-POD’s last-mile delivery features have yet to be explored, ZMOVE is set to use them as the delivery operation gets bigger. Adding drivers and growing the number of orders in the system is only a matter of adjusting the workflow, not changing it. With a few more Enterprise clients, a handful of local artisan producers and some on-demand home deliveries, ZMOVE’s growth potential is huge.
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