The neighbour brings your groceries

I recently came across the new term “Crowd Logistics”, coined by Deutsche Post DHL Solutions & Innovations launching their MyWays service in Stockholm. This platform “facilitates last-mile deliveries throughout Stockholm by involving the city’s residents”. Similarly, Wal-Mart is also thinking of last-mile crowdsourcing as a business model of potential use. In its case the concept could be realised by having customers delivering packages.

All interesting concepts that are getting more and more researched by companies. Open difficult issues that need to be handled are related to legal considerations, insurance and security. Security in general is an issue which needs to be overcome somehow, as in the case of Wal-Mart neighbours are delivering your groceries and not the qualified Logistics Service Provider.

This idea of crowd logistics or crowdsourcing in Logistics is tempting. I also feel that it is somehow related to the broader research are of the Internet of Things or the Physical Internet Initiative.

Just as small bits of data travel virtually over the Internet using multiple routes to reach their destination, the ‘physical Internet’ would package goods differently so they travel in standardized, eco-friendly containers to optimize available space on a truck or rail car (How to move products without destroying the earth, 2012).

This is claimed to be a game changer in supply chains, that has the potential of changing the way we handle, store, package and transport goods across the supply chain. The physical internet, or Pi, intends to mimic the way information is packaged, distributed and stored in the virtual world to improve the real physical processes.

In the Smart Logistics Lab, some of our projects are already loosely connected to the Pi approach. Think of the delivery points in the different bus and train stations we are setting up in the Cargo Hitching projects. These are the needed hubs (nodes) in the Pi network. Combinations of two distinct networks (freight and people) to let packages flow in smaller volumes but at the same time making use of the unused capacity, is a similar thought. The key difference is that we are still mainly working in the offline mode (i.e. the beforehand planning) rather than the online mode (during execution). The last one is more natural towards Pi. In 2014, I intend to start exploring the Pi “philosophy” more with some Master students, PhD students and companies. Let’s see where this will get us.

Interested to participate? Let me know.

Categories: Crowd Logistics, Logistics

2 replies

  1. This concept is not new. In the developing countries, particularly in the middle east, involvement of neighbors have been there for many years. You see a local community where residents have mutual interests and ‘trust’ in each other, in the way that they share many tasks including shopping and grocery delivery. However, the residents of such (local) communities follow particular social behaviors which in the developed countries (especially with an economy based on capitalism) does not exist.
    Such studies and project need to include relevant social aspects as well. Economic measure might not provide a practical picture.

    • Very true, but the key idea is here that this should be organised in a systematic way, rather than ad hoc within strong communities. What I do take away from your comment is that there is more than only economic value and the social aspect is important as well. Think of the retired person living in the neighbourhood receiving all online deliveries…

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