A view on cargo transport innovations

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Physical Internet / Transport innovations

Physical Internet

Cargo transport will in the future search its own way through the available means of transport and terminals and will, just like internet packages (TCP/IP), look for an error free and reliable route depending on capacity. (The physical internet). This is yet to be achieved many years from now. It finally suggests that cargo transport is offered as a commodity with strong analogies to Uber in people transport. This is a very disruptive development in transport and logistics and requires all stake holders in the chain to modify their business processes to be able to survive in the future.

As said, this development will not take place overnight and logical steps towards full implementation include Smart Hubs (through intense information exchange between shipping companies, terminals and hinterland transport reducing dwell time at the terminals), Smart Corridors (tracking the cargo on the full route and optimizing the connection times at terminals and route leg transit times with use of smart hubs), Smart Networks (communication between various Smart Corridors and Smart hubs to optimize interference effects) towards the implementation of full physical internet.

Some examples of (short term) solutions being implemented ultimately leading towards physical internet: (each with their own business case, depending on the stake holder)

  • Smart, confidential and reliable information exchange between stake holders in the supply chain using block-chain like technology (©TNO Smart Data Factory for Logistics) results in optimization of load factors of different modalities by exchanging information, not only between stake holders in a supply chain, but also with competitors. Improved load factors result in cost reduction for shipper and receiver and will increase efficiency for transport companies. (reducing assets and personnel).
  • Truck platooning will not only significantly reduce fuel consumption (10% on average) but is also the first step to autonomous trucking. In the first phase, truck platooning will create advantages in truck driving rules. The following truck(s) are semi-autonomous creating driver rest hours (depending on legislation). Dynamic platooning (on the fly creating platoons while trucks are heading for a destination) will create new business models for trucking companies (intracompany invoicing of benefits depending on location in platoon). (Implemented within 3 – 5 years)
  • The development of autonomous inland vessels and autonomous seagoing vessels is accelerating reducing personnel costs and simultaneously increasing efficiency and reliability.
  • Street turn solutions will reduce the amount of ‘empty container/ empty trailer’ rides. Although transporting an empty container might be beneficial (and even part of the company’s business model) for a trucking company, for the supply chain these empty transports have to be minimized. With advanced algorithms the import and export container loads (and other types of cargo transport) can be matched.
  • Prediction of truck arrival times at terminals through advanced predictive traffic and big data analysis will result in reduced turnaround times at the terminal and a more efficient deployment of trucks and truck drivers.
  • Drop & Swap solutions, dropping of a loaded chassis and directly picking up a ready loaded chassis, will reduce turnaround time for trucks giving the terminal means to optimize the order of in- and outbound containers. (reducing horizontal moves at the terminal).
  • Facilitating control towers for corridors give insight in the progress of cargo in the supply chain and provide suggestions for optimal arriving times of seagoing and inland vessels as well as for road- and rail-transport. Control towers will increase the load factor of all modalities and reduce turnaround times at terminals.
  • 3D printing will create a shift from container towards bulk transport as clients are producing their goods nearer to the market. This shift will significantly influence transport and logistics as bulk traditionally is a stock-commodity at terminals whereas containers contain unique assets.
  • At first at low populated areas and at sea, but almost certainly expanding to denser populated areas, the implementation of Drones will affect last mile transportation.
  • Etc. etc.

As mentioned before, these transport innovations will not all be implemented overnight but each and all result in adaptation of stake holders in the supply chain to survive. Although every individual development will lead to cost reduction and business case adaption, when all initiatives are tied together full physical internet will be the ultimate solution.