Improving energy efficiency in logistics systems: On the road to environmental sustainability
Doctoral thesis, 2020
Logistics are essential to efficiently managing the flow of materials and products between various nodes that operate in multiple systems. In that process, the activities of moving and storing materials and products, especially through road freight transport, consume significant energy resources and emit greenhouse gases that harm the environment. To develop logistics systems in an environmentally sustainable way, a holistic approach to logistics remains necessary. In response, this thesis seeks to expand current understandings of how environmentally sustainable development can be facilitated by improving the energy efficiency of logistics systems.
The thesis draws from a series of five studies in order to critically examine road freight transport before expanding focus to logistics at the point of consumption and, in turn, to post-consumption flow of household waste. First, as a basis for the research, logistics system levels suitable for improving energy efficiency are identified, and the flow of goods towards the point of consumption is investigated, especially in terms of underutilised capacity and means of mitigation. Second, the fulfilment of logistics in the last mile before consumption is analysed, particularly concerning the end consumer’s role, by pinpointing the characteristics of energy efficiency that various fulfilment options afford. Third, the transformation of logistics service providers into environmentally sustainable actors is evaluated, along with their maturity in those roles. Fourth, focussing on the post-consumption flow of household waste, the logistics of waste collection are assessed. Therein, the household is viewed as a co-producer of the waste collection service that can increase the value of waste as a resource and boost energy efficiency during waste collection. Fifth and last, by using modularity as a concept and service blueprinting as a tool for improving energy efficiency, the design of logistics services is analysed by disassembling services for waste collection into their various components and modules.
In sum, the thesis compiles five papers based on three semi-structured interview studies and two case studies. Multiple qualitative methods were applied in conjunction with data collection via site visits, brainstorming sessions and a focus group as well as secondary data collection addressing the flow of goods to the point of consumption and in the post-consumption flow of household waste. By mapping current industrial activities performed by multiple actors in different logistics systems, the thesis proposes opportunities for improving energy efficiency in logistics systems and for contributing to environmentally sustainable development. Viewed from a systems perspective, logistics systems are examined as operating in steady interaction with their environments, and service logic is applied to understand the provider and customer ends of logistics services and their interaction.
road freight transport
point of consumption