Digital Twins enhance low-emission last mile logistics for on-demand economy


LEAD is an EU-funded project under the CIVITAS Initiative that created Digital Twins of urban logistics networks in six cities (Madrid – Spain, The Hague – Netherlands, Budapest – Hungary, Lyon – France, Oslo – Norway and Porto – Portugal) to support experimentation and decision making with on-demand logistics operations in a public-private urban setting.

One of the Living Lab’s was led by MC Sonae, the food retailer leader in Portugal. Its main goals were oriented to support the planned upcoming electrification strategy of the Physical Internet MC’s Network through simulating, optimising, and testing in real-life through a dedicated Digital Twin developed within LEAD, considering three different scenarios.
The goal of the third scenario, specifically, was to test if a certain electric motorbike type can be used for the MC’s ‘small’ volume orders service and/or a potential rescheduling service, deeply aligned with market needs (flexibility and quickness to solve identified intra-days problems) and the expectations from Society (at environmental, social and economic levels) regarding MC’s high-impact operations and innovative culture. MC posed the business question, “Should we expand the use of electric vehicles to some of our ‘small’ volume and rescheduling orders?”, which was successfully answered.



KEY ACTIVITIES: A success story

Throughout the planning and implementation of the Living Lab, several activities were performed to best adjust the pilot with MC’s goals and achieve satisfactory results: scenarios’ definition and modelling, configuration of the Digital Twin, data collection and anonymisation, definition of modelling conditions, among others. The Digital Twin verification and validation process was conducted through user acceptance within the Community of Practice of Porto.

The project had positive results, both from the simulations and real experimentation perspective, which might be fully applied in MC’s business. Its implementation was a success and was facilitated by working closely with all partners, both from the consortium and from the Community of Practice of Porto, highlighting the importance of public-private cooperation for urban logistics.

The results showed the potential and  impact that can be achieved by rolling out a green network to MC, based on economic feasibility and potential replication post-project, including the social and environmental dimensions (the energy consumption savings per delivery is 1.4MJ/delivery and 57gCO2e/delivery). Based on project results, MC will develop a systemic approach for the deployment of the concept of green logistics in the region for food delivery in a way that could be replicated in other transportation/distribution contexts, which leads to a higher societal impact.

On the Digital Modelling and Twinning side, to further assist the real-world experimentation and the transition to electromobility, a combination of traditional Mathematical Optimisation and Routing models with modern Internet Communication Technologies (ICT) Digital Twin platforms was used. Through the adaptation of the Vehicle Routing model to the specific Electric Delivery Vehicles (EDVs) to be used by MC in real-world deliveries, the necessary delivery fleet resources (i.e., number of vehicles, delivery rounds, distance), as well as CO2 emissions were estimated based on historical data. Based on these newly available metrics, MC was able to perform a techno-economic analysis and assist the business planning of the delivery services using previously unavailable information.

While green innovation assets and tools are central to making last-mile logistics more environmentally friendly, digital decision support tools and modern vehicle technologies are the first steps towards making the last-mile more environmentally friendly. Effective communication and understanding between all stakeholders in the last-mile ecosystem are required to adopt and deploy innovations in practice. The digital tools that were developed for the Porto area, as well as the underlying datasets used, are now being exploited in other research projects and are assisting other European cities and hubs towards the transition to electromobility.

“The clean energy transition is a necessary adjustment our people and businesses must take for the sake of the planet and our future generations.”

Marlos Silva
 Area Leader Digital & Innovation – MC Sonae

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