How Information Sharing Is Fuelling Smarter And Greener Supply Chains.

By Makis Kouloumbis, SELIS Project Manager and Program Delivery Director at Inlecom Systems

Transport represents almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in cities. While this complex issue requires a wide range of measures, an increase in the efficiency of transport systems and their optimisation remains one of the single most important ways to reduce emissions.

Most companies still rely heavily on road transportation, and modal shifts to rail and water have remained modest at best. This has so far been a missed opportunity as systematically combining multiple modes of transportation, like rail, ship, and truck not only enhances speed but can also significantly improve the environmental performance of freight transport.

Technology is set to play a key role in the shift towards lower emission transport modes by enabling a holistic view of supply chains, supporting exchange of data between different stakeholders, and driving collaboration and co-ordination. This includes the use of blockchain technology, predictive analytics and Machine Learning (ML) to support collaborative logistics models.

SELIS paves the way for a shared logistics space

SELIS (the Shared European Logistics Intelligent Information Space) is a €17 million flagship European Commission-funded R&D project which came to a close in August 2019. The three-year project has successfully demonstrated how innovative collaboration models can optimise multimodal transportation while significantly reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

In a nutshell, SELIS has created a common, open and cloud-based intelligence platform that encapsulates built-in industry knowledge while providing a trusted data sharing environment for all logistics stakeholders. The provision of pre-packaged industry knowledge and predictive analytics matches transport demand with available resources, optimises routes and ultimately increases operational efficiency and modal shift to rail and water.

The results of 26 SELIS use cases spread across a wide range of industries throughout Europe have showcased very positive environmental impact and measurable economic benefits. We will take a look at three such “Living Lab” pilots.

The Port of Rotterdam boosts integration with inland waterways

The Port of Rotterdam is Europe’s largest sea port, serving many inland freight corridors, including inland waterways. This Living Lab was conducted in collaboration with a major Rotterdam-based deep-sea terminal and various Dutch inland container terminals with the aim to create greater visibility and reliability of inland transport arriving at the Port of Rotterdam. By defining and validating a clear win-win information exchange, connecting IT systems and unlocking operational data of all stakeholders involved in the Living Lab, the Port of Rotterdam was able to collect inland navigational and logistic event data and estimate ETAs with increased accuracy. Key outcomes of the pilots include a tool to monitor container status between port and inland arrival, and a structured method to measure and improve supply chain reliability with various stakeholders.

Improvements to data reliability, real-time monitoring and predictive analytics have led to an increase in utilisation of inland vessels and optimised cargo bundling. For example, the allocated time windows for loading and unloading have been met more accurately – in fact, there have been examples of major freight corridors (e.g. West-Brabant Corridor and North West Central Corridor) achieving a 75% reduction in deviations. The Port of Rotterdam has also seen a 30% reduction in the port stays of corridor related vessels, leading to a decrease in idle time when a barge engine is kept running to provide electricity and steering control to the vessel.

Through better integration of deep-sea and inland waterways within, for example, the West-Brabant Corridor, the modal shift from road to barge has exceeded 10%, the utilisation of barges has increased by 5 – 10%, leading to an overall estimated reduction in CO2 emissions of between 5 and 10%. A pilot project with a large Dutch retailer, in collaboration with inland container terminal Utrecht and a major deep-sea terminal in Rotterdam, provided insight into historic inland reliability performance and spurred the implementation of improvement measures resulting in more reliable inland barge connections between this region and the Port of Rotterdam.

Unlocking new efficiencies at DHL Supply Chain Iberia

DHL Supply Chain Iberia provides warehouse and transport solutions along the entire supply chain for customers from a wide range of sectors. Operating with very diverse sources of historic data originating from nine different transport management systems, the company found it difficult to integrate information in order to better utilise its truck fleets and increase capacity.

SELIS Supply Chain Community Node (SCN), which offers a secure, user-friendly plug-and-play approach to sharing and analysing supply chain data, facilitated data integration and consolidation at DHL. By bringing together data on all routes and visualising this information with a route visualisation prototype, DHL has been able to reduce operational inefficiencies and increase the utilisation of its truck fleet.

While this Living Lab project is still in its pilot phase, it is estimated that increased efficiencies could lead to projected overall cost savings of several 100,000 €/year. With the information from different sectors now consolidated, DHL Supply Chain Iberia will also be able to leverage predictive analytics to assess how new or unexpected situations might affect its network, thereby improving strategic planning and decision-making.

Adria Kombi increases modal shift from road to rail

Based in Slovenia, Adria Kombi is the largest independent intermodal operator in the region, operating a comprehensive network of trains connecting Western Europe with Southeast Europe and Turkey. The Living Lab at Adria Kombi aimed to address the issues of visibility and scheduling within the rail, terminal and ports community, as well as a lack of reliable communication between stakeholders and gaps in the information shared. Its objective was also to benefit from data collected from train movements and rail traction providers to (with the help of algorithms) predict relevant traffic events and identify alternative arrangements.

SELIS provided supply chain visibility to help track the performance of rail freight. A container visibility portal was built, with a dashboard that summarises and visualises data on each container, including current location, estimated time of arrival, and the estimated contribution to CO2 emissions. An automated notification service was developed to make relevant parties aware of delays or unexpected rerouting of containers within the rail system.

The implementation of innovative big data analytics has led to more accurate predictions of late arrivals of trains and smoother rescheduling which allows for better planning, more agile management of unexpected events, and minimum disruption to cargo delivery. The rescheduling tool has improved the effectiveness of action taken in response to delays, reducing the time and resource expended on re-planning by at least 10%. A combination of heightened visibility and response capability has improved the utilisation of wagon sets by 15%. The subsequent modal shift from road to rail has reduced CO2 emissions per container by an estimated 10 to 20%.

Towards large-scale adoption

The outcomes of three years of R&D and Living Labs pilots showcase how SELIS is enabling logistics stakeholders to take a holistic view of their supply chains, breaking down old silos, and fostering data and information sharing.

The resulting emerging logistics models are promising a new era in supply chain collaboration, where new operational efficiencies, transport optimisation and cost reductions go hand in hand with greater use of rail and inland waterways, all leading to a reduced environmental footprint of freight activities. It is exciting to see that a number of follow-up testing and refinement activities are already being put in motion post Living Labs, leading towards large-scale adoption of SELIS.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Grant Agreement No 690588.

Photo Credit: photographer Shaah Shahidh

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