The shipping and logistics industry is changing. Cloud computing is making it easier for companies at different levels of the supply chain to communicate and collaborate with one another. Self-driving vehicle technologies are poised to make shipping faster and more cost effective than ever. Amazon is getting closer to making its drone delivery service a reality.
Last mile shipping, in particular, has become increasingly complex with the advent of e-commerce. With more and more companies shipping products to our homes and businesses, the last mile shipping infrastructure in many cities has proven itself to be fragmented and inefficient. That’s why the University of Washington is teaming up with retailers, freight carriers, urban planners, city officials and logistics experts to find creative new solutions to common problems in last mile shipping operations.
The City of Seattle is contributing $285,000 to kick start UW’s new Urban Freight Lab, and the school has signed on UPS, Nordstrom and Costco as its first industry collaborators. The lab will be operated by the school’s Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics department (SCTL). The researchers’ first task will be to map the existing freight infrastructure in Seattle and gain a comprehensive picture of how deliveries are processed throughout the city. Then, they’ll use computer simulations and real-world testing to assign “Freight Scores” to various locations around the city. These scores will be based on how easy it is for truck drivers to access drop-off points in the area.
Once the lab has identified problem areas in Seattle, they’ll work with the city and private stakeholders to improve truck access and find more efficient delivery routes for freight carriers. If the Urban Freight Lab is able to improve last mile shipping efficiency in Seattle, the researchers’ ideas may be adopted in other cities as well. As they expand their network of industry partners, they’ll be able to gain even more insights into the potential pitfalls of last mile shipping infrastructures in the future. Before too long, we might even be putting their ideas to work right here in Buffalo!