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Fast, faster – shortest delivery times


In the world of logistics, the criterion of speed of service delivery is not always the most important. Much more often customers put reliability, safety and predictability first. So, do the shortest delivery times matter at all?

Many supply chains, including just-in-time ones, can be organized to take place without rushing. How do you plan for the shortest delivery times?

It is important that the goods are delivered exactly when they are needed. If an extended time for some stage of delivery is expected, it can be compensated by agreeing on an earlier shipping date.

Shortest delivery times – special circumstances and characteristics of the shipment

There are many exceptions to this rule. They usually arise either from the special circumstances of carrying out the service, or from the specifics of the shipment to be delivered. Circumstances forcing a rush may be hazardous conditions (transport of drugs, tissues, samples for research, equipment for the elimination of the consequences of accidents, natural disasters, etc.).

The same is true for special characteristics of the shipment. These include, for example, short shelf life. This category includes food (such as fresh fish of rare species), but also medicines and radioactive substances used in medicine, technology and science.

Internet pushes for acceleration

A separate category is deliveries made for e-commerce. Stores selling online compete with each other on many levels. If they can’t lower prices, they try to attract customers with lightning-fast delivery. Next-day delivery is becoming the norm, and increasingly shoppers expect to receive their shipments in just a few hours after placing an order. Amazon, for example, has adapted to these expectations by offering next-day delivery by 9pm in its Prime service.

Keeping track of the changes forced by increasing customer expectations can be a source of much inspiration and a stimulus for development. To meet these emerging demands, one must:

  • seek faster means of transportation;
  • build warehouses closer to potential customers;
  • reduce shipment preparation time (either by hiring more employees or by advanced robotization of the process).


The execution of a transportation service, where time is a critical parameter, is generally outsourced to specialized companies with adequate transportation facilities and qualified employees. Regardless of the incentive, the possibilities for reducing transportation time are limited. You can’t drive, fly or sail faster than conditions beyond your control allow. These include weather, traffic congestion, restrictions due to vehicle design, traffic control procedures, etc.

Unmanned solutions

A surge in the speed of transportation over short distances may be possible, assuming we carry out a sizable volume of deliveries using either cargo drones or underground railroads, insensitive to traffic within urban areas. However, the question arises about coordinating the movement of multiple unmanned light aircraft in a confined urban space. It may be that such services will emerge in the near future, but they are likely to have more impact on corporate branding rather than on the average delivery time for many customers.

If deliveries are made periodically, over short distances, it may be advisable to create a special means of transport dedicated to a particular product. In some industrial and scientific applications, pneumatic mail is still a good solution, used, for example, to deliver radioisotopes from a radiochemistry lab to the hospital wards where they are administered to patients.

Cheetahs among aircrafts

Undoubtedly, the military has the greatest potential when it comes to organizing rapid deliveries. In theory, the fastest, though at the same time the most expensive means of transportation, are fighter aircraft, whose maximum speeds are twice the speed of sound. In practice, this would be a rather short-range transport, since flight at supersonic speeds consumes huge amounts of fuel. In fact, the flight at top speed lasts a short time and is supposed to increase the chances of survival in air combat.

In logistics practice, the fastest means of transportation may be small executive-class jets, such as the Cessna Citation X, which can reach a cruising speed of 976 kilometers per hour.

If we add to this the ability to load and unload quickly, preparation times much shorter than for large cargo jets, and the ability to land in limited spaces closer to the locations of both the sender and recipient in comparison with large airports, we may have a real record-breaker. Unfortunately, it will also be a record-breaker in the category of price-to-weight ratio… The shortest delivery times always come at a price.

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