Friday, 26 October 2012

Project consortium demonstrates technology for sustainable logistics

The Efficient and Reliable Transportation of Consignments (ERTOC) project has delivered a prototype system that allows carbon tracking down to individual consignments. It is seen as a significant step forward in logistics management technology, enabling highly granular optimisation of both environmental and financial costs

The ERTOC system under demonstration in a 7.5 tonne truckERTOC is a two-year research collaboration between Ricardo, GS1 UK, Unipart Logistics, IRIS Technology and Coventry University. It’s part funded by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, with the aim of demonstrating technology capable of driving business improvement and sustainability throughout the supply chain.

Existing logistics tracking systems are generally not integrated with other utilities and provide limited vehicle level information such as, for example, the fuel consumption attributable to any given journey or load. ERTOC has created an open architecture through which route planning and consignment tracking systems can be integrated with vehicle level information, including real-time fuel consumption, location and loading. The prototype system has the potential to optimise the cost and carbon dioxide emissions down to an individual consignment level.

The system enables logistics companies to plan their load manifests and routes to minimise the carbon emissions and cost and to report the figures for each consignment. It means that fleet managers, drivers and logistics customers can optimise operations through the use of intelligent route planning and load sharing for maximum financial return and environmental benefit. The detailed data at the consignment level for each leg of the journey means that analysis can be carried out for hubs and depots down to individual vehicles, drivers and cargo types.

The system has been demonstrated in a 7.5 tonne truck, but the open data architecture is capable of application across many modes of transport, including road, rail, air and sea, even internationally.


Review:  It’s good to be able to report progress in the use of technology to minimise logistic emissions and, perhaps just as significantly, enable the reporting of emissions down to individual consignments. One of the problems with product footprinting is the variability in the delivery part of the calculations – the ERTOC solution could help overcome that hurdle.

The Smart 2020 report pointed out that ‘The transport sector is a large and growing emitter of GHGs (greenhouse gases), responsible for 14% of global emissions. The majority of logistics emissions come from transport and storage. Optimising logistics using ICT could result in a 16% reduction in transport emissions and a 27% reduction in storage emissions globally (by 2020)’. There has been quite a lot of technology applied to reducing the emissions from individual vehicles and in optimising routes, but I’m not aware of anything that provides this sort of comprehensive, detailed analysis. I assume that, at least in theory, storage facilities could also be included in the CO2 calculations (if they aren’t already).

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