Delivery is the process of transporting goods. Most goods are delivered through a transportation network. Cargo (physical goods) are primarily delivered via roads and railroads on land, shipping lanes on the sea and airline networks in the air. Certain specialized goods may be delivered via other networks, such as pipelines for liquid goods, power grids for electrical power and computer networks such as the Internet or broadcast networks for electronic information.
The general process of delivering goods is known as distribution. The study of effective processes for delivery and disposition of goods and personnel is called logistics. Firms that specialize in delivering commercial goods from point of production or storage to point of sale are generally known as distributors, while those that specialize in the delivery of goods from point of sale to the consumer are known as delivery services. Postal, courier, and relocation services also deliver goods for commercial and private interests.
Consumer goods delivery
Most consumer goods are delivered from a point of production (factory or farm) through one or more points of storage (warehouses) to a point of sale (retail store), where the consumer buys the good and is responsible for its transportation to point of consumption. There are many variations on this model for specific types of goods and modes of sale. Products sold via catalogue or the Internet may be delivered directly from the manufacturer or warehouse to the consumer's home, or to an automated delivery booth. Small manufacturers may deliver their products directly to retail stores without warehousing. Some manufacturers maintain factory outlets which serve as both warehouse and retail store, selling products directly to consumers at wholesale prices (although many retail stores falsely advertise as factory outlets). Building, construction, landscaping and like materials are generally delivered to the consumer by a contractor as part of another service. Some highly perishable or hazardous goods, such as radioisotopes used in medical imaging, are delivered directly from manufacturer to consumer. Home delivery is often available for fast food and other convenience products, e.g. pizza delivery. Sometimes home delivery of supermarket goods is possible. A milk float is a small battery electric vehicle (BEV), specifically designed for the delivery of fresh milk.
Vehicles are often specialized to deliver different types of goods. On land, semi-trailers are outfitted with various trailers such as box trailers, flatbeds, car carriers, tanks and other specialized trailers, while railroad trains include similarly specialized cars. Armored cars, dump trucks and concrete mixers are examples of vehicles specialized for delivery of specific types of goods. On the sea, merchant ships come in various forms, such as cargo ships, oil tankers and fishing boats. Freight aircraft are used to deliver cargo.
Often, passenger vehicles are used for delivery of goods. These include busses, vans, pick-ups, cars (e.g., for mail or pizza delivery), motorcycles and bicycles (e.g., for newspaper delivery). A significant amount of freight is carried in the cargo holds of passenger ships and aircraft. Everyday travelers, known as a casual courier, can also be used to deliver goods.
Delivery to remote, primitive or inhospitable areas may be accomplished using small aircraft, snowmobiles, horse-drawn vehicles, dog sleds, pack animals, on foot, or by a variety of other transport methods.
Some products are delivered to consumers on a periodic schedule. Historically, home delivery of many goods was much more common in urban centres of the developed world. At the beginning of the 20th century, perishable farm items such as milk, eggs and ice, were delivered weekly or even daily to customers by local farms. Milkmen delivered milk and other farm produce. With the advent of home refrigeration and better distribution methods, these products are today largely delivered through the same retail distribution systems as other food products. icemen delivered ice for iceboxes until the popularization of home refrigerator rendered them obsolete in most places. Similarly, laundry was once picked up and washed at a commercial laundry before being delivered to middle class homes until the appearance of the washing machine and dryer (the lower classes washed their own and the upper classes had live-in servants). Likewise deliveries of coal and wood for home heating were more common until they were replaced in many areas by natural gas, oil, or electric heating. Some products, most notably home heating oil, are still delivered periodically.
Milk delivery continued until the mid-twentieth century across North America. For example, the last milk delivery by horse-and-wagon in Edmonton was in 1961. Cultural references to affairs between housewives and delivery men are common. A recurrent cartoon theme was that of a family whose children resembled a visiting milkman. This also explains the following lines of Jeannie C. Riley's 1968 hit song Harper Valley PTA:
There's old Bobby Taylor sitting there, and seven times he's asked me for a date,
And Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lot of ice whenever he's away.
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