Competition starts on the shelves, not in the trucks. To live up to this golden rule of efficient retail logistics, all links in the supply chain need trust. That’s not easy in a sector where margins are thin and negotiations tough. Low margins may increase the appetite for smart logistics as the potential gains are impressive. Reduced costs and improved product availability all contribute to the bottom line of suppliers and retailers.
Not only financial, also environmental gains are impressive if suppliers and retailers succeed in redesigning their operations and supply chains. An interesting example is the Dutch SMILE project which merges supply chains to reduce empty truck loads. Refresco – a European bottler of soft drinks for retailers and A-brands – collaborates with hygiene products supplier SCA Group and Unilever. In conjunction with IT- and transport companies, these SMILE-partners created a platform which enables logistic service suppliers to maximize their scale and optimize the use of their logistic capacity.
20 million km less
Key success factors of SMILE are its neutrality – as there is no need to disclose commercially sensitive data – and the fact that it is easily applicable for logistic service suppliers. SMILE is the stepping stone for a further, even more ambitious logistic platform which aims for an annual reduction of 20 million transport kilometres by 2020. That is a huge impact for a small and densely populated country like the Netherlands. When successful, it promises interesting perspectives when such platforms are designed on a larger scale and in other countries as well.
Otto drives itself
Logistic collaboration is a requirement when retailers want to be supplied more often and in lower drop sizes. Also city logistics lead to interesting challenges involving small electric vans. This results in less congestion, less noise and clean air. Now and in the future, new technology leads to smart and even smarter logistic solutions. In robotics that impact warehouse efficiency and in self driving trucks. An example is Otto. This is a San Francisco-based self-driving truck company that was acquired by Uber in August 2016. October 20 last year, Otto delivered its first truckload of canned beer. The driver only drove the truck to and from the highway, where the truck drove itself.
Cargo sous terrain
Another interesting example is Cargo Sous Terrain, or Cargo Underground, in Switzerland. This is a multi-billion Swiss Franc project, executed by an industry consortium including Coop Switzerland. Estimating that freight traffic in this Alpine country will increase by 45 percent between 2010 and 2030, Cargo Underground intends to build an underground network of tubes where driverless electric wagons transport pallets of product items at a speed of 30 to 60 kilometres per hour. The network connects to strategically located hubs to unload and offload cargo, while some hubs connect to smart logistic networks in city centres.