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Claudio Di Ciccio

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Claudio Di Ciccio

Researcher of the Month

In­nov­a­tion in freight lo­gist­ics: Less wasted mileage and CO2 emis­sions

In freight lo­gist­ics, delayed and di­ver­ted flights can res­ult in massive ad­di­tional costs and or­gan­iz­a­tional hassles for trans­port com­pan­ies. The en­vir­on­ment pays a price, as well. Often, trucks are dis­patched to the wrong air­ports to wait to col­lect freight con­tain­ers and then have to be re-routed. At WU’s In­sti­tute for In­form­a­tion Busi­ness, Clau­dio Di Cic­cio and his team have developed an early alert sys­tem to help in­form lo­gist­ics pro­viders ahead of time about changes in flight plans. Thanks to this EU pro­ject, trans­port­a­tion com­pan­ies will be able to re­duce the num­ber of un­ne­ces­sary kilo­met­ers driven, and CO2 emis­sions in Europe could be re­duced by 6.5 mil­lion tons.

In Europe and around the world, the ef­fects of the trans­port­a­tion in­dustry on the en­vir­on­ment are a huge prob­lem. The volume of trans­por­ted goods is rising con­stantly due to in­creas­ing glob­al­iz­a­tion, and lo­gist­ics are a ma­jor source of CO2 emis­sions. One large freight plane can carry between 80 and 115 tons of cargo. Up to 30 trucks can be needed to de­liver these goods to their fi­nal des­tin­a­tions. When flights get di­ver­ted on short notice due to in­clement weather or other un­fa­vor­able con­di­tions, trucks end up wait­ing at the wrong air­port, cre­at­ing ma­jor prob­lems for trans­port­a­tion com­pan­ies. Until now, truck­ing com­pan­ies have al­ways planned their pro­cesses based on flights’ sched­uled de­par­ture and ar­rival times, and they are not in­formed of de­vi­ations from these plans until the air­craft has already been di­ver­ted to an­other air­port. Aside from the ex­tra costs in­curred by the lo­gist­ics pro­viders, this also causes ad­di­tional dam­age to the en­vir­on­ment, be­cause trucks are driv­ing ex­tra kilo­met­ers and pro­du­cing even more emis­sions. Stud­ies have shown that around 20% of the dis­tances driven by trucks are “empty miles.” As part of the EU-­fun­ded GET ser­vice pro­ject, Clau­dio Di Cic­cio from WU’s In­sti­tute for In­form­a­tion Busi­ness and a team of in­ter­na­tional col­leagues have developed an al­gorithm that can pre­dict de­vi­ations from sched­uled flight plans and op­tim­ize lo­gist­ics pro­cesses. The sys­tem is in­ten­ded to help com­pan­ies avoid “empty miles” and make pro­cesses much more ef­fi­cient.

Real-­time data

In their work, Di Cic­cio and his team used only data that is pub­licly ac­cess­ible and avail­able to trans­port­a­tion com­pan­ies, like planes’ cur­rent pos­i­tion, speed, alti­tude, time stamp, and more. Based on this data, they developed a self-learn­ing al­gorithm and “trained” it us­ing global flight data – both on-sched­ule flight routes and de­vi­ations from sched­uled routes. “With the help of our al­gorithm and by pro­cessing real-­time data, trans­port­a­tion com­pan­ies can now use soft­ware to get early alerts in the event of air­craft di­ver­sions and other ir­reg­u­lar­it­ies,” ex­plains Di Cic­cio, con­tinu­ing, “The sooner lo­gist­ics pro­viders are in­formed of de­vi­ations, the faster they can re­act and ad­just the lo­gist­ics pro­cess ac­cord­ingly.”

Pro­tect­ing the en­vir­on­ment, lower­ing costs

The new soft­ware brings nu­mer­ous ad­vant­ages both for trans­port­a­tion com­pan­ies and for the en­vir­on­ment. “First, CO2 emis­sions can be ef­fi­ciently re­duced be­cause un­ne­ces­sary trips and empty miles can be min­im­ized. Second, both fuel use and trans­port­a­tion times will drop, and these are money-sav­ing factors for com­pan­ies,” says Di Cic­cio. Long term, the GET Ser­vice pro­ject is ex­pec­ted to lower fuel use in trans­port­a­tion by 2.3 mil­lion liters of diesel fuel while lower­ing CO2 emis­sions by a total of 6.5 mil­lion tons.