(By Antonio Malvestio, president Freight Leaders Council)
Lead-times have become quite a contentious issue in logistics recently. Specifically, we are referring to the period between an order being received and the goods being delivered to the customer regardless of delivery mechanism, from package orders over a smartphone through to a fully loaded truck supplying the supermarket network.
Over recent years, lead times have gradually become shorter. In large-scale retail trade organisations, the tendency has been to reduce inventories while striving to meet customer expectations of deliveries within a few hours, even in the case of promotional offers. The Industry has also invested in production capacity to reduce inventories and succeed in producing and delivering the goods on the same day. Deliveries within 24-48 hours are standard in e-commerce and those who work with fresh produce already deliver within 12 hours.
Logistics had to improve. It was too linked to antiquated rhythms, to fixed points such as intra-regional routes with obsolete plans – and change quickly it did! Thanks to the automated reading of labels with the intensive use of scanners and stock locators, exchange platforms operate with real-time transfers from the entrance doors to the exit doors. Large automated parcel sorting systems are capable of handling thousands of packages in just a few hours.
But it is exaggerated.
Who needs a book within a few hours? Who really needs to receive a pair of shoes by tomorrow? Certainly, there are some real and urgent situations: receiving a printer head in a few hours or a computer card or an interface cable. But if were to analyse what you have ordered in the last six months via a smartphone, you will find that perhaps only one of the orders was really urgent. And now that everything arrives quickly, even supermarkets expect impossible deliveries. For a back-up of a promotion, trucks are sent to the car park near the destination Distribution Centre before receiving the order. The “today for tomorrow” deliveries that cross Italy are often made with two truck drivers. However, we forget to analyse all the factors: in particular, the optimisation of the loads and the choice of suitable means for the type of transport. And so, vans weighing several tonnes leave to deliver around forty packets that weigh an average of less than two kilograms. Or a semi-trailer is used, which is capable of transporting 33 pallets or 27 net tonnes of cargo for deliveries that do not weigh even half, thereby squeezing the costs and actually pushing towards illegal driving hours, which are limited by law for safety reasons and fair compensation. The result of all this is a significant and unnecessary impact on the environment with a heavy ecological footprint and an incredibly high production of CO2 per kilogram delivered.
We forgot about the environment. We do not need to go back to the stone age to make up for this. Between black and white there is a wide range of shades of grey. Nobody wants to eliminate transport and limit the market. We just have to expect that, in addition to squaring out the apparent costs, we will study the total costs while strictly understanding the environmental impact.
After all, it is a question of delaying full truck deliveries within a few hours: lengthening the transport time from Milan to Rome of by 4-6 hours, allows railway intermodal transport to be used, thereby reducing CO2 production by 75%. Going to pick up the package at a delivery point or at a locker reduces CO2 emissions by at least 20%. Extending a maritime delivery between Genoa and Palermo by half a day can reduce the ship’s consumption by a good 40%.
The Freight Leaders Council has discussed extensively about these issues in its Quaderno (Note) 25 “La sostenibilità nei trasporti e nella logistica” (Sustainability in Transport and Logistics) and 26 “La logistica ai tempi dell’e-Commerce” (Logistics at the times of e-Commerce). We have recommended stimulating slow deliveries and thinking about careful planning of delivery points and lockers.
Think about it. Whether you are dealing with industrial logistics, or if you are simply an e-shopper: think of the grey area. Abandoning the logistics off a whim helps us work better, makes the planet greener, but also allows for savings: sustainable transport for the environment is also economically sustainable because it reduces waste.
GS1 Italy and Freight Leaders Council collaborate to promote environmental sustainability from a logistics perspective, by using Ecologistico2 – the tool that measures the environmental footprint developed in ECR Italia