Slimme stadslogistiek

Smart urban freight logistics is all about teamwork

These are challenging times for logistics companies, not least due to the unstoppable emergence of online retailers with new e-fulfilment challenges, as well as due to emission-free cities and the attendant transition of road transport. According to Johan Ruijten, Lead Route Optimisation Specialist at Geodan, these radical changes call for an all-new approach. Tomorrow’s realities require technological innovation, alternative procedures and new models of collaboration.

‘I’ve noticed that some of our customers struggle to manage their day-to-day operations, and while many tend to focus on their business’ short-term needs, it is becoming more important than ever to create a long-term vision. We need new solutions for issues such as sustainability, changing customer expectations, and quality of life. Examples of such solutions include innovative new technologies, the integration of new business models, and future-proofing your organisation. These solutions require that we apply the tried-and-tested method of collaboration.'

'The introduction of zero-emission zones has radically changed urban freight distribution as we know it. I’ve found that the demarcation of these zones has further increased the need for collaboration. For example, there are suppliers who handle their own transport but who have trouble managing the last mile. In addition to possibly investing in electric vehicles, they should also consider new models of cooperation in the changing world of urban freight logistics.’

Sharing together

‘How can I make maximum use of a city hub? How will we design the transition to electric vehicles, and are we prepared to cooperate in this process? I’m noticing a growing interdependence in various parts of the transport supply chain. However, successful partnerships start with reliable information and data. Sharing data, in particular, provides insight into all the links of the transport supply chain: from traffic conditions to storage to journey planning.
But we’re not quite at that stage yet, as everyone currently still uses their own planning and scheduling systems and there’s very little sharing of data. But in the near future this will no longer be the case, and people will need to factor in new restrictions in their planning and scheduling. If your delivery address is located in a zero-emission zone, you may be dependent on a city hub or friendly competitor for the last mile. How those hubs will operate exactly is impossible to say at this point, but it’s clear that we’ll be seeing new partnerships in addition to a logical integration of cargo flows.’

Who will take the lead?

‘Although they are quite aware of the necessity involved, I’m finding that many businesses are holding back when it comes to collaboration, out of fear that the current (secure) system will need to be overhauled. This could potentially require large investments and radical operational, organisational and technological changes. In order to increase trust in a shared future (and identify what such a future collaboration would involve), TLN, being the industry association, is taking the lead. This includes bringing the various stakeholders together.’


Successful partnerships start with reliable information and data

Linkable and flexible

‘I’m noticing that a growing number of logistics companies are making deals with each other. You can only work together successfully if your IT department is set up to accommodate this. Working in the cloud and using APIs makes it easy to share data and information. It also becomes easier to link distribution flows together, something which is tricky and error-prone with the current on-premise systems.'



Flexibility in your planning and scheduling is crucial for successful collaboration at the operational level. For example, one provider will only deliver parcels, while another will both collect and deliver them (e.g. cleaning companies), and others again will use refrigerated vehicles. In some cases, the size of the product itself determines the choice of vehicle. This wide spectrum of needs and restrictions cannot be processed using the current standard journey planning systems.

Further information

Changes in logistics systems are set to become more palpable over the next few years, coupled with a growing urgency to collaborate. Companies will start partnering together on projects of different sizes and at different levels. And those who wait too long risk missing the boat... and losing their business. If you’d like to know more about what technological solutions will help you face these challenges successfully, I’ll be happy to meet you for a coffee in the boardroom or the distribution centre.’