The 2017 edition of the MHI Annual Industry Report introduced the topic of Smart City Logistics. As a reminder, that document defined a Smart City as “an urban area that uses information to design policies and procedures that benefit its citizens.” It further describes Smart City Logistics as “the idea that logistics providers can leverage many innovations and technologies…to find solutions to this issue that work for government, businesses, consumers and the environment.”
A year later, the 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Innovation,” offered an update to the progress made by the various stakeholders in forming partnerships and collaborations to address issues such as traffic congestion, increased air and noise pollution and more. Just how far have city governments and agencies, businesses, academia, environmental organizations, transportation providers, consultants and public policy strategists come in forming those relationships and making the vision of Smart City Logistics a reality?
In a nutshell, not very far.
The 2018 survey notes that only 12% of respondents have actively begun to seek out such collaborative partnerships with cities, urban planners, other firms and even competitors as part of their development strategy. As for the other 88%, their strategies include:
- Engage with a multi-capability partner, such as a third-party logistics (3PL) solutions provider (22%)
- Pursue single capability through traditional technology and/or providers such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. (14%)
- Invest internally (10%)
- No planned investment or development (42%)
And that’s unfortunate, notes the report, because forming those relationships to guide the development of Smart Cities is the precursor to stimulating and promoting wider adoption of key technologies that support smoother, more efficient last-mile urban deliveries. By leveraging sensors, robotics, automation, drones, wearable devices and the Internet of Things, Smart City stakeholders can collect and share digital information that allows supply chains to dramatically improve service to city dwelling customers while minimizing congestion and pollution.
The report includes perspective from Barbara Ivanov, Director of the University of Washington’s Urban Freight Lab. She says that in order for partnerships to first form—then develop and pilot innovations for tackling last-mile logistics challenges—companies must be engaged, and cities must understand that their urban delivery problems are not unique.
“Without a common problem statement, and therefore no common market for innovation, technology providers have no economic incentive to build solutions,” she explains. “If cities want technology solution partners to collaborate, they must find enough commonality in their problems to attract partners.”
The findings of Ivanov’s recent research study, “The Final 50 Feet of The Urban Goods Delivery System,” are also shared in the report. Offered as a model of how metro areas and companies can begin to collaborate to use technology as the foundation of Smart City logistics, the study pulled together four large, community-conscious companies, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and the Urban Freight Lab team to determine the logistical barriers faced by drivers making real-world deliveries within that metropolitan area.
It also outlined an upcoming pilot program led by the Urban Freight Lab team to test the efficacy of utilizing smart lockers in the loading bay of the 62-story Seattle Municipal Tower. The lockers will allow multiple delivery drivers to securely leave packages in the vestibule, then notify tenants of deliveries by text or email along with a unique code that gives access to their parcels.
“Reducing the number of failed delivery attempts, as well as the amount of time a delivery truck is parked in a loading space, could reduce congestion and free up curb space for cars, buses, bicycles and other people who need to use that shared public space,” Ivanov explains. “Those efficiencies have the added benefit of saving retailers and delivery services money, and getting orders into the hands of customers faster.”
To download a free copy of the 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, click here.