MAN Truck & Bus
Nothing endures but change, and thus it is essential to set the course for an opportunity-rich future at an early stage. This is a topic that also concerns logistics experts. After all, ever more densely populated living spaces must be serviced and provided for, without negatively impacting the residents’ quality of life due to fine dust and nitrous oxide emissions, for example. This is no small undertaking, considering this century’s challenges such as urbanisation, changing mobility patterns and a new energy era. Smart ideas are needed, ideas that will allow for the harmonious interaction of urban logistics and city life. Therefore, not just economical forces, but also local authorities and citizens alike are facing immense challenges.
As these can only be met and mastered on the basis of cooperation, a group of more than 30 participants – comprising citizens, political decision-makers and experts – attended a number of co-creation workshops after being asked by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and MAN Truck & Bus to devise potential strategies for the year 2030. This joint effort resulted in the study “What Cities Want”, four exciting scenarios illustrating how logistics of the future can be shaped in a way that is in the interest of customers, the environment and energy-saving strategies alike.
Joachim Drees, Chairman of the Board of Management at MAN Truck & Bus, is well aware that the implementation of such strategies also requires the participation of the business world: “In our role as manufacturer, it behooves us to configure the transport of people and goods in a more sustainable fashion,” explains Drees. According to the CEO, especially in the area of freight transport, various topics are now addressed simultaneously, among them the cloud-based platform Loadfox, which is manufacturer-independent. It ensures that any parties involved in the logistics ecosystem remain continuously connected with each other. “Thus, the flow of goods has become truly transparent for the very first time,” says Drees. “With this service, we increase the capacity utilisation of trucks and avoid empty runs.” Reducing overall traffic volume, however, is also a central cornerstone in passenger transport. “As bus manufacturers, we regard buses as one of the most efficient means of transport and continuously expand our range through attractive products and solutions.”
In any event, excellent ideas are already open to debate. The study’s first scenario, for instance, investigates the municipal management of deliveries, which handles delivery operations through an urban logistics service. In this model, the competition of courier service providers would be removed, with logistics becoming a public responsibility, akin to the power supply or city cleaning. Before consignments reach their final destination, they would first be sent to “maxi-logistics-centres” and sorted by city quarters and street groups via the assistance of radio chips. The delivery process would then take place through an electrically powered and fully loaded delivery vehicle. As this scenario is based on already established technology, it could be realised quickly and quite cost-effectively.
In the second scenario of the study, civic activity plays a crucial part. City councils would establish incentives to encourage the collaboration of purchasers and suppliers – perhaps through higher taxes imposed on uncooperative delivery services, or rewards when residents choose to submit group orders. When such orders are placed, cooperative delivery companies would supply mini-centres in the various urban districts, from which the goods would be carried to their destination by e-bike, or else picked up from the delivery centre in person. Indeed a clever idea, as it involves the utilisation of already existing resources, increasingly backed up by small-scale solutions, such as mini-hubs and delivery bicycles.
In our role as manufacturer, it behooves us to configure the transport of people and goods in a more sustainable fashion.
in Germany will be living in urban areas by 2030. On a worldwide scale, city populations will make up 60%.
generated by e-commerce in Germany in 2017 came from communities with fewer than 50,000 residents. Online shopping is especially important for small towns.
Also intriguing is the third futuristic sketch, which combines passenger and goods transport. In this scenario, cities and municipalities would join together and commission commercial vehicle manufacturers to supply them with a solution and new vehicles to match. These would ultimately improve the public transport of passengers and goods, by combining what both have to offer. Autonomously moving short-distance vehicles could also be used for goods deliveries, for example. As soon as the vehicle reaches an intermediate depot, the packages would be automatically unloaded at great speed. Courier services would then take the packages to their intended destinations. A practical side effect would be the expansion of public passenger transport, as the vehicles are deployed more frequently and cover an increased area. Even private purchases would no longer need to be carried home – the shopping could be dropped into the system at the stopping points, to be delivered to the recipient directly.
Truly futuristic is the fourth scenario, whereby persons and goods would be carried underground, disappearing from the surface altogether. The crucial element here is the municipal underground system, which would be managed and continuously extended by a central office. Deliveries would be carried to the most convenient underground station or even transported to the recipient’s basement, ready for collection. It becomes much quieter on the surface: buses will be abolished, with the streets left to bicycles, e-bikes and a few private taxis. A radical idea, certainly. As for its feasibility, rather an open question.
Nonetheless, these formulated scenarios show just how much can be achieved by teamwork and bringing together different schools of thought. They also highlight the essential importance of cooperation for bringing about a better future. “Personally, I like living in the city,” says Drees, “and I enjoy all of its opportunities. And the outcome of this study pinpoints exactly that no matter what the challenges, living in an urban setting is still a very attractive option.”