The Institute of Couriers was at IntraLogisteX to ask the question, "What is this thing we call ‘Express’ ?"

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The Institute of Couriers spent life on the yellow carpet at the Coventry Arena IntraLogisteX trade show, a packed full house of all things logistics in the very last days of February. Snow hit the roads of delivery to challenge final mile express delivery beyond a peak.

Meanwhile in the warm halls of Intralogistex, guests at the show who covered all streams of logistics from road, rail, air and sea were challenged wit the task of defining the term ‘Express’ . Supply chain is the well respected term of material from source to client, purchase, manufacture, storage and logistics. The term logistics defining the transport and storage of the goods. Client chain is a new term driven by e-retail as the client begins to drive the timescales, not the raw materials.


don't miss our IntraLogisteX photo-gallery - 20 exhibitor stands for you in our pre-show round-up.

IOC on the yellow carpets to ask what the term Express really means inside the logistics community.

'what does the term express mean?’  Give us your answer in 5 words or less, not using the word express. We loved K&N, 'historically better than second class', Martin at Gear4Music focused on the moment of sale and capturing the purchase with ’Capturing the retail moment.’  The top three answers below, then some excellent material follows.

Richard & Kim from Kuehne+Nagel

Historically better than 2nd class

David, Sainsbury’s,

on-time, whenever, wherever, whatever, however.’

Martin, Gear4music,

Capturing the retail moment.

Colin, DPD,

Certainty and speed of delivery.

Jeff, Comline,

The rule of the right. - ‘Right item, time and place

Mark, John Lewis

Speed, expert movement, distance, reliable.

Mike Boulton, Aldi

Delivery service within 4 hours

Paul, Muller team,

Speedy, urgent, critical, priority.

Hallmark cards team,

Fulfilled out of hours.

Simon, Nobia kitchen supply team,

Short lead time delivery expectation.’

Francis, Morrisons,

The food mile aspect delivered.

Alex, Sam & Mike, Mini BMW

Quick, convenient, reliable, flexible delivery.

Andy, JLR Jaguar Landrover,

Accuracy, on-time, quality, dependability, value.

Rebecca, Dunhelm,

Timely, accurate and cost effective.

Andrew, Wesco

On-demand, responsive and fast.’

Adrian, RICH

On-time, safe, reliable, well presented.

Linde forktruck team,

Fast, available, consistent and trustworthy.

Lee, K&N

Fast efficient, reliable and delivered.

Where does express sit within the academic literature ?

A look at Supply chain...

Supply chain is widely accepted and respected academic term that arrived in the fifties, logistics becomes defined in the seventies but what is this new term called Express, final or last mile delivery?

‘Supply chain management is a wider concept than logistics’

Emeritus prof (Cranfield) Martin Christopher ,

Logistics is essentially a planning orientation and framework that seeks to create a single plan for the flow of products and information through a business. Supply chain management builds upon this framework and seeks to achieve linkage and co-ordination between the process of other entities in the pipeline, i.e. suppliers and customers and the organisation it’s self. Thus for example one goal of supply chain management might be to reduce the, or eliminate the buffers of inventory that exists between organisations in a chain through the sharing of information regarding demand and current stock levels.

Prof Tony Hines, MMU,

The supply chain encompasses all activities associated with the flow and transformation of goods, products and services from initial design stage through the early raw materials stage, and on to the end user. Additionally, associated information and cash flows form part of the supply chain activity.

Martin Christopher goes on to explain supply chain management,

The management of upstream and downstream relationships with suppliers and customers in order to deliver superior customer value at less cost to the supply chain as a whole. A concept that the whole chain working together may bring more value than the individual parts.

Thus the focus of supply chain management is upon the management of relationships in order to achieve a more profitable outcome for all parties in the chain.


Whilst the phrase supply chain management is now widely used, Martin Christopher argues that ‘demand chain management’, would be more appropriate.

Tony Hines identifies,

competition and co-operation are uneasy partners within all economic supply chain systems. There is no such thing as either a universal supply chain strategy or an industry wide supply chain, but there are rather different types of supply chain structures, strategies and relationships, all of which must satisfy the ultimate customer.

Ian Wainwright, head of freight for TfL,

Client chain is the emerging term of a client driven purchase in the supply chain. This focus relates to the growing trend of client self-gratification in retail, the client ability to choose product and expect instant delivery...The client perception that delivery is free must be broken.

Exploring values within the supply chain identifies exceptional growth in the e-retail purchase area of supply chain. The client is encouraged to believe the final, last mile delivery, the express to home delivery is free.

Martin Christopher extends his idea that there is a position of enduring superiority over competitive advantage, customer preference may be achieved through better management of logistics.

A network of connected and interdependent organisations mutually and co-operatively working together to control, manage and improve the flow of materials and information from suppliers to end users.


Introducing the term logistics identifies the sub sector of delivery practice within the supply chain.

Logistics spans the organisations, from management of raw material through to the delivery of the final product.

Martin Christopher explains,

the mission of logistics management is to plan and co-ordinate all those activities necessary to achieve desired levels of delivered serviced at the lowest possible cost.


Rushton, Croucher & Baker explain Logistics distribution management,

only in the relatively recent past has logistics  been recognised as a major function in its own right. ‘Both the academic and the business world now accept that there is need to adopt a more holistic view of those different operations’. Individual sub-systems, modes logistics, the delivery can be identified into road, rail, air and sea.

Rushton, Croucher & Baker

Supply Chain = Suppliers + Logistics + Customers

Back in the early seventies, Hesket, Glaskowsky and Ivie approached the definition of logistics.

Logistics is… the management of all activities which facilitate movement and the co-ordination of supply and demand in the creation of time and place utility.


John Manners Bell, introduces express into logistics with his review of the origins of Express parcels from the 1970s with the first introduction of next day delivery by TNT in the UK in 1980.

The express parcels industry fulfilled a need for faster, more reliable services, which also provided customers with an increased level of supply chain visibility. Express has enabled and benefited from trends such as globalisation, e-commerce, lean inventory, management, Just in Time and customisation of mass production.

Final mile, last mile, express and express delivery are all terms identified in the client fulfilment of the supply chain ?

The logistics mode of final mile, last mile, express and express delivery is always road.

Where does road transport arrive in the literature ?

Three influences of the past which increased the use of road transport in the 1920’s for goods bought and sold (Barker T, Gerhold D 1995, Dunbar C 1981) was the road surface (infrastructure), the value of goods (the difference of the extra cost to the total cost of the product) and the urgency (speed of delivery). This gave the vehicle the ability to travel faster and carry more weight. However, the customer did not want to pay more for a faster delivery.

Today’s consumer wants it sooner rather than later.

As the literature will later show, today’s consumer wants it sooner rather than later, doesn’t want to pay ‘anything more’ than before and is also asking for a greater choice of flexibility (IoC 2016). The infrastructure of roads is an issue as the road space becomes more congested, the value of the goods is not proportionate to the cost of the delivery (buying a £1 book online but having to pay £2.80 for delivery) and the culture of urgency is to have it within 3 days. Infrastructure, goods value and speed are the influences of the business model of the express delivery service today as it was in 1920.

Last modified on Sunday, 04 March 2018 20:37