Online boom versus environmental protection – how digitization accelerates sustainability in logistics – eCommerce magazine

Of the Online trade has grown many times over in the last year. But that not only has advantages, it also has consequences. Packaging, shipping and delivery have a huge impact on that CO2 balance of an order and thus on the environment. What about sustainability in logistics?

The status quo in sustainability in logistics

Some companies have already taken initiatives to improve their environmental footprint – for example through Compensation for deliveries or through sustainable packaging material. But despite the many measures taken, the environment continues to suffer. Because the parcels not only have to be packed, dispatched and delivered, but in some cases also have to be transported over hundreds of kilometers – and that mainly by means of road freight transport.

What is often not taken into account: the trucks lined up for kilometers on the highways are often hardly or only sparsely loaded. In fact, according to data from the Federal Association of Freight Transport, Logistics and Disposal, almost a fifth of trips are empty trips. As a result, in 2018 155.4 million of all Truck trips in Germany were not fully loaded. That results in a total of 6.595 billion empty kilometers per year in Germany – and the trend is clearly rising. These admittedly somewhat abstract figures harbor a deep-seated problem for the entire logistics industry: the lack of digital transformation.

Logistics is under-digitized

In many cases the industry is still working as it was 20 years ago – without the use of digital tools. This digitization backlog leads to a lack of transparency in the entire logistics industry and also has serious effects on the environment. Because due to the lack of use of technical solutions, orders are still placed manually in most cases. And so dispatchers have the highly complex task of utilizing a large number of trucks using Excel tables – instead of using relieving algorithms and digital solutions.

This ultimately leads to a large number of subcontractors who place orders by telephone or e-mail – without it being clear to the client at the end of the day which specific truck which company takes over the delivery. Concrete and detailed information on where the delivery is located or when it will be delivered is rarely possible. There is currently no central networking of all those involved in a delivery. As a result, efficiency and the environment suffer in equal measure and so too often empty trucks instead of fully loaded trucks cover hundreds of kilometers.

Sustainability in logistics: the solution is obvious

The digitization of logistics processes enables the much-needed transparency about who is involved, when and how. In this context, digital platforms that network everyone involved are helpful. For example, the dispatcher can enter the location online where a load is needed. An algorithm finds the right hits and software solutions enable further communication and processing of the orders. Matching tools can also help to book follow-up loads. The exact truck location is transmitted via GPS tracking and additional suitable cargo that is close to the delivery location or on the way there can be used for better utilization.

Win-win situation for the entire industry

The digitization of processes in logistics is a win-win situation for the entire industry and therefore also for online trading. Trucks are not only optimally used, the tools also help to achieve more transparency. Instead of thousands of kilometers of empty journeys, digital solutions would mean that almost only fully loaded trucks would move on an optimally thought-out route network – and not least, this would also improve the carbon footprint in e-commerce.

Sustainability in logistics
Image: Cargonexx

About the author: Tom Krause is CEO of the Hamburg logistics technology company Cargonexx. The company connects freight carriers with shipping companies from the logistics sector and thus contributes to greater efficiency and fewer empty trips. Krause previously worked as Director Logistics Operations at Delivery Hero, where he was responsible for the logistics area at foodora – in particular for data-driven automation in supply chain management and operational performance optimization.

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