Technology as an enabler of trust and collaboration in logistics

Technology as an enabler of trust and collaboration in logistics

In an industry still marked by territoriality and insufficient collaboration, SELIS (Shared European Logistics Intelligent Information Space), a €17 million flagship European Commission-funded research project, was set up to address the challenges associated with siloed logistics chains, more specifically to improve information sharing between logistics stakeholders; provide a platform that is easy to use by companies of all sizes, enabling a plug-and-play approach to sharing and analyzing supply chain data; and facilitate real-time availability of information.

Building a trusted data layer with built-in industry knowledge

The SELIS project has built a scalable and replicable platform for logistics applications, allowing a standardized exchange of data between any number of users in a supply chain community. The use of blockchain technology has created a trusted data layer, integrating multiple sources of data to provide greater transparency and visibility of supply chain transactions. Operations can be optimized using SELIS Big Data Analytics module with built-in algorithms in the form of “recipes.” Such provision of pre-packaged industry knowledge and predictive analytics matches transport demand with available resources, accurately estimates cargo’s arrival time, optimizes routes, and ultimately increases operational efficiency.

‘Living Labs’ unlock new efficiencies and improve performance

The results of eight SELIS “Living Labs” (real-life testing environments) spread across different types of logistics communities throughout Europe have showcased very positive environmental impact and measurable economic benefits. They have demonstrated how SELIS Supply Chain Nodes (SCNs) provide a solid foundation for data sharing in a trusted, safe, and transparent environment that enables all parties to maintain full control over commercially sensitive data.

For example, the SELIS Living Lab at Adria Kombi, one of the largest independent intermodal operators in Southeast Europe, has recorded more accurate predictions of late arrivals of trains and smoother rescheduling as a result of implementing innovative big data analytics. A combination of heightened visibility and response capability has improved the utilization of wagon sets by 15 percent. The subsequent modal shift from road to rail has reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per container by an estimated 10 to 20 percent. The majority of Living Labs have similarly demonstrated improvements in data reliability and transport visibility, better utilization of vehicles (be it trucks, barges, or wagons), and reduced CO2 emissions.

But where do we go from here and what challenges still remain on the path toward large-scale adoption of SELIS?

Building new corridors and facilitating inter-corridor collaboration

SELIS SCNs can be federated to facilitate not just collaboration within a logistics community, but across communities. There is always some unused capacity between communities and sharing this information between SCNs in a standardized format would further optimize supply and demand.

What emerges is great potential for a global logistics information space with strong supply chain communities driving efficiencies of existing and new transport corridors, as well as stronger cross-corridor collaboration. We have already seen evidence of this in the Port of Rotterdam Living Lab where the West-Brabant corridor is seeing a much higher degree of modal shift compared with other connections in the region, and stronger integration of deep-sea and inland waterways.

“One of the important outcomes of this Living Lab was to actually define inland reliability, as well as ways of measuring and improving it. This is a crucial aspect of running inland corridor operations and fostering cooperation between corridors,” said Donald Baan, senior business manager, logistics, at the Port of Rotterdam. “Our results are helping us initiate new projects, approach new shippers, and support the setup of new corridors. One of them is the North West Central Corridor connecting Amsterdam and Utrecht, which was established in early 2019 and which has seen several terminals joining already.”  

Synchromodality in action

Through Living Labs use cases, SELIS has also helped validate the concept of synchromodality in practice, specifically by achieving new synergies between supply chain actors with the help of technology. Synchromodality requires systematic coordination between stakeholders along the transport chain and information sharing about all available transport modalities in real time to switch between transport modes (water, rail, and road) in the most effective and environmentally friendly way.

Living Labs at the Port of Rotterdam and in northern Germany have made significant contributions toward the evolution of synchromodality by providing logistics service providers within their communities with access to reliable real-time data and predictive analytics. Such use cases are much needed to initiate new business cases which will increase the utilization of new technologies to create synchronized transport services of the future.