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Project example: Bundled deliveries

Greener shipments with bundled deliveries

In this era of online shopping, the transport of goods is running at full capacity. A model designed by the ZHAW School of Engineering shows how package deliveries could be organised much more efficiently. The idea forms the basis for a systematic identification system for optimum bundling of shipments to reduce freight traffic in urban areas.

The number of goods being shipped is high not only during the pre-Christmas season. Shopping behaviour has changed so much in general that package deliveries are constantly increasing. According to studies, Swiss online shops had 25% more turnover in 2011 than they did in 2010. This trend continued exponentially in 2012. The increase in package deliveries demands new solutions for urban goods shipments due to the current context of climate change, environmental pollution and diminishing natural resources. One possible solution could be bundling shipments from different logistics providers in the area of pick-ups and deliveries.

Innovative approaches for goods transportation

At the ZHAW School of Engineering, the Institute of Sustainable Development (INE) in cooperation with the Institute of Data Analysis and Process Design (IDP) is developing a method that will help in determining the optimum form for the bundled shipment. This would result in a reduction in freight traffic in urban areas. “Just for package deliveries alone we have various providers covering the same areas and delivering individual packages, sometimes with several delivery attempts due to recipients not being home,” Helene Schmelzer, head of the project at the INE, comments. “And when products are returned, every single customer has to go to the post office individually.” According to Schmelzer, when it comes to the area of dispatching, the bundling of shipments in urban distribution centres and a company-independent further distribution system could lead to a reduction of the distances being covered and more efficient use of the delivery vehicles – which would ideally be emission-free. For package deliveries and drop-offs, alternative delivery locations such as centrally located pick-up branches or automated package stations could contribute to bundling effects and thus reduce traffic, environmental pollution, noise and delivery costs.

“Just for package deliveries alone we have various providers covering the same areas and delivering individual packages, sometimes with several delivery attempts due to recipients not being home.”

Helene Schmelzer, project head, Institute of Sustainable Develop-ment (INE)

First-ever systematic methodology

Several cities and logistics providers around the world have already recognised the potential of bundling deliveries and implemented suitable solutions. “Studies show that these shipment consolidation projects have been able to reduce the number of delivery trips by 60 to 80 per cent on average,” Schmelzer comments. “However, there is still no systematic methodology for optimum shipment bundling in an urban environment.” Within the context of a specially financed project, the INE combined its knowledge in logistics and spatial analysis with the expertise of the IDP in the field of simulation and modelling. The first prototype was created, which – when fed with the corresponding data of the relative location – models the different alternatives and then analyses them depending on their effects in terms of costs, transport time, traffic volume and environmental aspects. Based on these, the optimum solution can then be determined for the respective city.

Concrete utilisation possible

Using the developed location potential analysis, the ideal spot for possible distribution centres or drop-off points can be determined. A model illustrates how the optimum detailed distribution should be organised. For example, the most suitable groups of goods and which vehicles are required for the delivery are worked out. “Depending on the amount of goods and the route, several electric vehicles or bike couriers might be used within the city,” Schmelzer explains. The developed prototype forms the basis for a systematic optimisation tool that should be able to be used for each city and for solving various delivery bundling problems. Partnerships have already been set up with the city of Zurich and different logistics providers who are interested in suitable solutions.

At a glance

Participating institutes and centres:

Financing: Specially financed project ZHAW School of Engineering

Project status: completed

Further project: Kooperative Logistik Zürich