Improving “last mile” delivery
performance to retailers in hub
and spoke distribution systems
Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, UK, and
Pallex Group, Ellistown, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the “last mile” delivery link between a hub
and spoke distribution system and its customers. The proportion of retail, as opposed to non-retail
(trade) customers using this type of distribution system has been growing in the UK. The paper
shows the applicability of simulation to demonstrate changes in overall delivery policy to these
Design/methodology/approach – A case-based research method was chosen with the aim to provide
an exemplar of practice andtest the proposition that simulation can be used as a tool to investigate changes
in delivery policy.
Findings – The results indicate the potential improvement in delivery performance, speciﬁcally in
meeting timed delivery performance, that could be made by having separate retail and non-retail
delivery runs from the spoke terminal to the customer.
Research limitations/implications – The simulation study does not attempt to generate a vehicle
routing schedule but demonstrates the effects of a change on delivery performance when comparing
Practical implications – Scheduling and spreadsheet software are widely used and provide useful
assistance in the design of delivery runs and the allocation of staff to those delivery runs. This paper
demonstrates to managers the usefulness of investigating the efﬁcacy of current design rules and
presents simulation as a suitable tool for this analysis.
Originality/value – A simulation model is used in a novel application to test a change in delivery
policy in response to a changing delivery proﬁle of increased retail deliveries.
Keywords United Kingdom, Distribution management, Distribution operations, Delivery, Simulation,
Hub and spoke
Paper type Case study
The importance of partners in the supply chain on retailers performance is detailed in
Ganesan et al. (2009). One aspect of this is that there have been a number of changes
in the retail logistics sector in response to demands for time sensitive distribution.
Increased competition and eroding margins have created pressures on retailers to
improve both inventory turnover and levels of customer service (Ellram et al., 1999).
Sribbins (1994) describes that in the past, retailers were once effectively the passive
recipients of products allocated to stores by manufacturers in anticipation of demand,
but emphasises that as a result of this increased conﬁdence in the use and integration
of technology retailers have moved into a strong position to control, organise and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 10 November 2010
Revised 14 July 2011,
25 October 2011
Accepted 17 November 2011
Journal of Manufacturing Technology
Vol. 23 No. 6, 2012
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited