Amazon Lockers in Leeds

We are always interested in alternative ways for customers to get their stuff.

A new innovation are these Amazon lockers. This set appeared in the Merrion Centre last week and there are other similar sets in The Co-operative stores in Roundhay and Chapel Allerton.

Our partners, DHL, effectively operate a similar (but low tech) system with Service Points across the city, including Rymans in the Merrion Centre (just below these lockers) and another in our depot at the Safestore on Bridge Street. You can collect DHL deliveries from these Service Points, and can also bring consignments for collection by DHL. Alternatively, Last Mile Leeds would always be happy to deliver to your workplace.

New Cycle Maximus Revealed

The new prototype Cycle Maximus looks to have a space frame design

Cycles Maximus have just revealed the first pictures of their new prototype. Having chatted to them about their new offering I understand that the designer of the original Maximus is behind this latest version, but there has been a significant departure from traditional designs with integration of a space frame.

This suggests a complete rethink of the trike has taken place. For the years it was in production, the old Maximus was widely regarded as the best load carrying trike in existence. I have heard of one company who managed to break one, but they claim to have broken 17 different load carrying machines and their Maximus had covered 150,000 miles. It will be interesting to see whether these changes have indeed improved a design which few had any complaints about.

We see in the Maximus a bike with the potential to bring our plans of a delivery consolidation centre for Leeds retailers into reality. With a capacity of 250kg and able to carry the europallet, there will be few consignments that would be beyond the Maximus.

The  prototype in this photo looks to be a Pedelec (electric assist version) with the Sunstar pedelec system, which first caught our eye at the Cycle Show last year.

Why choose Safestore? A perfect place to pilot a delivery consolidation centre

Safestore Leeds Central is in a 1930’s building just 2 minutes from Vicar Lane – a perfect location for a delivery consolidation centre

We are only too aware that basing our business in a Safestore doesn’t necessarily give an impression of permanence. The nature of self-storage businesses is such that they are particularly attractive to those who want ‘space’ for an indefinite period, with no strings attached. In actual fact Safestore offers much more and there are good reasons why we expect to stay there for some time to come.

As we have begun to consider the possibility of offering Leeds retailers a delivery consolidation service, the location and manual handling equipment which seemed unnecessary when we first moved in are now looking like vital pieces of equipment the cost of which could have been severely prohibitive. Their presence makes such a project possible and could allow us to pilot the idea with very little additional preparation and next to no additional expense.

When Last Mile Leeds began operations the 4 weeks’ notice required to vacate was indeed a significant reason why we chose the  Safestore Leeds Central as our base. It was cheap and in a great location. If all went according to plan, we wouldn’t be there long.

Over the past few months of operating from there on a daily basis, I now have some real experience upon which to evaluate what has proven to be an extremely good business decision, and I suspect I will continue to operate from there for some time to come.

Safestore Leeds Central has a large off-street loading bay

Let me list some of  benefits:

  • Secure storage space for 3 cargo bikes and additional equipment
  • room to grow should we take on a larger cargo trike – likely if we do open a delivery consolidation centre
  • A location literally across the road from the planned Eastgate development and about 3 minutes from Kirkgate Market or the Victoria Quarter
  • Reception manned 8am-6pm, able to receive goods when all Last Mile staff are out
  • 24 hour access
  • Pallet trucks and goods trolleys
  • Fork-lift truck (and four licensed drivers) –able to receive palletized deliveries (all as part of the service)
  • Off-street loading and unloading bay able to accommodate up to 4 Luton vans
  • Off-street secure parking in Leeds city centre
  • High level of security, with 24hr CCTV etc
  • Insurance against loss of £6,000
  • massive flexibility to expand or contract the amount of storage space we use
  • huge goods lift with 2.5 tonne capacity, easily able to accommodate the large cargo-trikes which we are looking to purchase (should we ever take additional space above the ground floor)

And all this for about £30.00 week, with no additional bills, or rates to pay.

There are of course a few disadvantages, the main one being that office facilities are limited, though the staff are very helpful if you need to send an odd email or Fax. We don’t have electricity in the lock-up, or a telephone line. Nevertheless, so far we have been able to handle everything by mobile, and should we reach a point where this is holding back the business then I have found that Safestore are very accommodating and seem always willing to negotiate.

Overall this has proven an ideal base to grow the business and one which could see us grow significantly larger before we would ever need to move.

Loading the Bullitt

I reckoned this single shipment weighed around 40kg

35 pieces before loading

Since Last Mile began working with DHL, I have had the opportunity to test out the cargo capacity of our Bullitts in real conditions – regularly filling the cargo boxes to capacity. Most of the time the packets we deliver are small and lightweight – occasionally bulky, but not very heavy. Nevertheless, when the boxes are filled to capacity they do add up.

Last week a single large shipment gave me the opportunity to really test the capacity of the Bullitt – not just in terms of volume, but also in terms of weight. 6 boxes and 2 extra packets of exam papers, for one customer probably weighed at least 40kg. Adding another 27 smaller pieces (above)  they all fitted into the Bullitt’s cargo box, and I was able to deliver them all in a single run from our depot.

35 pieces in the cargo box (with the first 3 ready to deliver in the overflow courier bag)

So what was the Bullitt like to ride laden? The first thing I noticed was how much harder the bike was to manoeuvre when on foot. No real surprise of course when I was pushing a bike that probably weighed close to 100kg altogether. It certainly wasn’t impossible to push and I could still turn the bike around when necessary, but I avoided lifting the bike up kerbs if I could. There was a very significant degree of flex or bounce in the frame as the bike went over bumps, but it didn’t feel as though this was more than the bike was supposed to handle, rather that it was coping with the load rather well.

The second thing I noticed was that all hills were significantly steeper! That being said I still climbed the steepest gradient I faced in first gear, slowly, but without difficulty. Once on the level the Bullitt seemed to forget the load it was carrying and it was easy to accelerate up to a respectable cruising speed.

If I was expecting to carry such a large load over a significant (relatively flat) distance I would be far less concerned than carrying it on a typical delivery route, where the bike is stopping and starting, climbing kerbs or traversing cobbles and turning round in tight spots every few minutes. Given this  if I was faced with a similar situation again, I might be tempted to divide the load choosing to make the 5 minute trip back to our depot to reload,  so as to keep the bike more easily manageable at low speeds. Overall, however the Bullitt stood up well to the test, and confirmed its capability (and indeed, suitability equipped, the capability of ‘cycle couriers’ ) to handle anything that might be delivered by a man with a van.

Last Mile Leeds in partnership with DHL

About a month ago, Last Mile Leeds began a pilot with DHL. Starting with a couple of days out with two of their van drivers I got an insight into the job of a van courier.Then over the last month I have been delivering some of their smaller packets and parcels by cargo bike.

It has been a learning experience, as we work out what sort of shipments the Bullitts can comfortably carry and within which areas we can operate. So far we have taken everything they have asked us to deliver on their behalf and have extended our geographical coverage beyond the University to the Hyde Park area. Usually, all the deliveries fitted into the cargo boxes fitted to our Bullitts, but on the odd occasion when we have not been able to carry them all at oncedid not fit into the cargo box, it was easy to make a return trip to our depot, load up and make a second (or even a third) run.

Overall, the pilot has been successful, and we look set to work with DHL on into the future. More importantly it has been proof of the concept – that cargo bikes operating to fulfil last mile deliveries have something to offer the large courier firms, and specifically that they can do this in Leeds.