»A city is brought to life by its inhabitants and their supply infrastructure.«

Already today, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. It is estimated that a further 2.5 billion people will be crowding cities by 2050. The figures contained in the UN report ‘World Urbanization Prospects 2018’ raise the question of how urbanization can be shaped successfully for all involved.

“A city can be considered as ‘smart’ if it is worth living in,” says Dr. Christian Baur, CEO of Swisslog Logistics Automation. In his opinion, the cities of the future have to be one thing above all else: sustainable. “A city is brought to life by its inhabitants and their supply infrastructure. Residents want to consume goods and the goods that they consume have to be delivered. As quickly as possible and without major effort. This delivery process naturally entails heavy traffic and thus noise and air pollution. In order to make the cities of the future a habitat worth living in, we thus need new concepts for city logistics.”

More deliveries, new challenges

That is also the view of Dr. Christian Jacobi, Managing Partner of management consultants agiplan, Board Member of the German Logistics Association (BVL) and spokesman of the BVL working group on urban logistics: “The urban logistics sector does not merely share responsibility for ensuring that the city of the future simply functions, but is also challenged to provide a healthy habitat worth living in.” For this, the movement of goods must be reorganized.

“This must be achieved in such a way that there is no impact on trade, emissions are reduced, and raised customer expectations, such as same-day delivery and punctual fresh food deliveries, are met.”

This is a major challenge for cities. After all, according to an online survey on the topic of city logistics conducted by real estate consultancy Colliers International, almost 10 million packages are delivered daily in Germany alone. By 2021, the German Package and Express Logistics Association expects this figure to rise to 4.15 billion consignments annually. Demand for fast and, above all, customized deliveries will increase and distribution logistics will face new challenges.

Faster and more flexible with urban logistics

“That is where we come in. We want to exploit our know-how as a logistics expert and integrate our concepts into the smart cities of the future,” affirms Baur. The Swisslog SynQ software that is already used for warehouse management worldwide could be deployed, for example, in so-called urban distribution centers. Goods could be produced, stored and shipped from municipal warehouses shared by different vendors.

Furthermore, work is being done on local delivery hubs which will be set up like large parcel drop-off points at central locations in the city, such as major companies or universities, where parcels can be picked up and returned. Everything will run fully autonomously – controlled once again by the SynQ software.

New concepts with project partners in the postal sector

Swisslog expert, Paul Douglas: “The idea is to set up small warehouses in larger cities to take over the so-called ‘last mile’ delivery. The QTainers will be located at important junctions where many people pass by and where the infrastructure for delivery is available.”



Marc Hasler, Head of Product and Market Development at PostLogistics, is responsible for city logistics at the Swiss Post Office: “There are many different approaches in city logistics: one possible approach is to use stationary or mobile transfer sites – so-called hubs. Hubs are set up at central points in Swiss cities and used by one or more different logistics service providers.”

Within the cities, final distribution could be carried out collectively by a single logistics service provider – rather than each provider acting separately. “The goal is to achieve minimal impact on the road network together with fast and flexible delivery despite peak traffic times. The Swiss Post Office already successfully tested this approach last year in Zurich.”

The important thing to note with regard to smart cities is that there is no single concept that will function universally in the same way in every city of the world. What is clear in every case, however, is that every concept invariably has repercussions for municipal infrastructure. This infrastructure must become smart, particularly with a view to making life in the city attractive in the future. City logistics is a central element in achieving this objective. After all, a city is brought to life by its inhabitants – and they need an adequate supply infrastructure.



Source Pictures: iStock, johanson/Ronstik

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