Getting Smarter About Logistics and Sustainability
In a previous Blue Yonder blog post, we defined some of the advanced technologies that are impacting the logistics industry today and provided an overview of how they’re improving companies’ cost and service outcomes.
But the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), automation, and optimization engines go beyond service and cost enhancements. Today’s innovative, intelligent technology solutions are also helping the global logistics industry address one of its biggest challenges: Maximizing sustainability and minimizing environmental impacts.
In Blue Yonder’s recent 2023 Supply Chain Executive Survey, 84% of respondents reported that their companies have increased or maintained their sustainability efforts, while 43% plan to further increase the sustainability of their upstream operations. Increasingly, companies see advanced technology as a means to measure and improve sustainability. In the 2023 study, 35% of organizations said they’re planning to invest in technology and automation specifically to drive sustainability, compared to 23% in our 2022 executive survey.
Improved sustainability is directly linked to logistics optimization. Logistics is well recognized as one of companies’ single biggest cost centers, but it’s also a key contributor to every organization’s environmental scorecard. From the first mile to the last, the decisions made by the logistics team significantly affect energy usage, emissions, waste production, and other environmental impacts.
In a panel discussion at ICON Las Vegas 2023, Chinmay Jaju, Senior Manager of Strategy for Uber Freight, summed up the tough challenge facing logistics professionals today. “Logistics has been focused for so long on operational tradeoffs and cost in transportation, and we’re suddenly throwing a new factor into the mix with sustainability,” he noted. “So suddenly you have to translate between sustainability and cost, as well as sustainability and operational tradeoffs .”
Thankfully, advanced technologies have been proven to support the world’s logistics teams as they successfully make those complex trade-offs and reduce negative impacts. Over and over, we hear from our customers that their transportation management (TMS), warehouse management (WMS) and warehouse execution solutions from Blue Yonder are making a critical difference in increasing sustainability. Today, these solutions are more powerful than ever, leveraging AI, ML and other leading-edge capabilities to optimize just about every aspect of daily logistics operations.
How exactly do warehouse and transportation management solutions contribute to solving the complex problem of sustainability?
Visibility: You Can’t Improve What You Can’t Measure
One of the most common answers we hear is that advanced solutions from Blue Yonder enable real-time, granular visibility across the end-to-end logistics network. By monitoring and measuring their miles traveled, energy used, waste produced, and other key performance indicators (KPIs), companies can understand their real environmental impacts — so they have a baseline for improvement. Our customers tell us that new level of visibility is the first step in driving long-term sustainability.
“Talking about sustainability is the first step, and our Blue Yonder transportation management platform gives us the starting place for those discussions,” said Johnny Ivanyi, Global Head of Distribution Excellence for Bayer Crop Science, during the ICON Las Vegas panel discussion. “Reducing our CO2 emissions across our global network begins with tracking our performance across rail, road, ocean and air. We couldn’t even begin that process without an advanced transportation management system that gathers and analyzes that data.”
“When we think about sustainability at Uber Freight, the goal is to eventually move to a zero emissions vehicle fleet, but the technology is not there yet. To get there, it’s critical to create accountability and transparency around our current emissions performance,” stated Jaju. “You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and visibility into emissions empowers shippers to make sustainable supply chain decisions.”
Decision Optimization: Making Sustainability Part of the Equation
Once baseline performance has been established, advanced technology solutions from Blue Yonder also provide essential decision support, so companies can improve their sustainability KPIs. Fed by real-time data streams from across the network, and enabled by AI and ML, optimization engines from Blue Yonder guide logistics teams in making better decisions that factor in sustainability, in addition to the traditional considerations of service and cost.
For example, Blue Yonder’s warehouse management solution can help select the most sustainable packaging, balancing waste with shipping costs, the risk of product damage and multiple other considerations. It can also optimize the flow of products, people and equipment in the distribution center to reduce movements and energy demands. Dynamic tasking, dynamic slotting and real-time inventory management maximize resource efficiency.
Blue Yonder’s transportation management solution helps customers decrease both emissions and fuel demands by optimizing loads and routes, minimizing the number of vehicles and drivers on the road, and exploring alternate, shared transportation modes such as ocean and rail.
Many customers are surprised by how well Blue Yonder’s AI- and ML-enabled solutions can improve multiple outcomes simultaneously. Ronald van Dodewaard, VP of Logistics, Europe, for Outokumpu, highlighted this point in an interview. “Many people think, ‘Hey, but if we need to be more sustainable, it’ll cost us more money.’ But on many occasions, it doesn’t have to,” he explained. “It’s really about optimization, optimizing your transportation. And that’s where Blue Yonder’s TMS solution helps us. What is the truck utilization, what are the capacities, which different options do we have available? Making that visible in the system will lead to make better decisions and more sustainable choices.”
Become Part of the Sustainability “Push Crew”
As governmental regulations tighten and consumers become more aware of their own environmental footprint, the pressure is only increasing for the world’s logistics teams to become more sustainable. During the ICON Las Vegas panel discussion, Josh Vyskocil, VP of Sales and Marketing for Schneider Logistics Services, emphasized that organizations should be guided by a larger sense of purpose as they pursue their sustainability initiatives.
“It’s just a ‘push-pull’ moment for everybody,” Vyskocil remarked. “You can decide to push yourself forward, or you can be pulled along by what’s going to take place in society and industry. It’s really that simple. You’re going to push yourself forward, or you’re going to get pulled. There is really no in-between. My suggestion is, be part of the push crew. That’s the group that’s going to help us within society and industry to be better than we are today.”
With a full range of advanced solutions that enable logistics teams to make more sustainable choices across warehousing and transportation, Blue Yonder is proud to be part of the “push crew.” Learn more about how your organization can start visualizing and improving its own sustainability performance today.
Join us in London 11-13 October 2023 to learn more about logistics and sustainability. Register today at blueyonder.com/iconlondon.