CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 15, 2017
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Amazon launches mobile app to hire part-time couriers

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"Amazon Flex" rolls out in Seattle to support one-hour deliveries.

In a bid to recruit couriers for its one-hour package-delivery service, Amazon.com Inc. will bypass traditional carriers like FedEx Corp., UPS Inc., and the U.S. Postal Service and pay citizen drivers $25 per hour to deliver parcels to e-commerce customers, the company announced today.

Dubbed "Amazon Flex," the initiative has been rolled out in Seattle, Amazon's home base, and involves directing a network of self-selected citizen couriers with a mobile app, said Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service. The delivery service will support the e-tailing giant's "Prime Now" service, which began last month with the promise of letting shoppers use a dedicated app to gain access to accelerated deliveries priced at $7.99 for one-hour service, and free of charge for a two-hour delivery window. That service is an upgrade of the company's subscription "Amazon Prime" offering, which offers unlimited, free two-day shipping on a broad list of items.

The "Amazon Flex" app allows users to register their names, drive to a distribution center, scan outgoing packages with their camera phones, receive turn-by-turn driving directions to buyers' homes, and receive payment when they have delivered each parcel.

Drivers must submit their driver licenses and other data to undergo a 48-hour background check before receiving their first assignments, Clark said, keynoting the second day of the annual conference of the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) in San Diego.

According to Clark, "Amazon Flex" is an inexpensive way to support the "Prime Now" offering, allowing the company to manage the variability of customer demand by hiring temporary delivery agents instead of building a permanent infrastructure that could suffer from underutilized capacity during slow times.

The system is also a good business opportunity for interested drivers who want to earn extra money in their free time, Clark said. "The `Amazon Flex' program is great for people who want to be their own boss, and take control over the hours they work and the income they earn," Clark told the group.

The announcement confirmed earlier media reports that Amazon was developing a network of independent contractors, code-named "On My Way," that would be similar to the on-demand taxi service offered by Uber Technologies Inc.

Ben Ames is Editor at Large and a Senior Editor at Supply Chain Quarterly’s sister publication, DC Velocity.

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