Lack of innovation in logistics, especially vehicle logistics, is an old complaint. One OEM executive told me that if you Google his name, you’ll find a quote from 2003 – probably from one of our conferences – in which he decried the lack of such progress. His opinion hasn’t changed in a decade.

Toyota’s Levent Yuksel has said that his calls in Europe for more multimodal transport and integration between inbound and outbound have been met mostly with stunned silence.

In this issue, we explore areas in which the industry has longed for innovation, including track-and-trace (p56) and fuel efficiency (p60), to find that progress is underwhelming next to expectations – there is still little prospect of Amazon-style vehicle tracking in near to real time, for example.

Daimler’s Egon Christ, another long-time critic of the sector’s inventiveness, has made it a personal mission to encourage change. He raised the issue during joint meetings of the ECG and ACEA, to which the ECG has responded with a new innovation module in its Academy course (see p14). At Daimler’s 2012 European Carrier Day, the OEM also inaugurated an award for innovation, which went to commercial vehicle carrier, Vega International (see p26).

Hopefully these initiatives will not only encourage innovation, but also help LSPs and carmakers to recognise it when they see it. I accept that change has been slow – one consultant recently pointed out that even the basic ‘decoupling’ of transport equipment from tractor or rail engines, as is common for intermodal movements, is nowhere to be found in vehicle logistics. But there are important, if small, examples of innovation that are easy to miss if you only look for what one Ford executive used to call the ‘big bang’.

Vega received its award, for example, in part for creative driver training, including a film on axle deliveries. For track-and-trace, there are a number of web-based and telematics systems that can better integrate much of the delivery chain.

It’s important to recognise what is really innovative not only to judge awards but to guide stakeholders on investments or to get them to accept longer timelines for a return on investment, as it is the lack of such willingness that currently holds back extensive developments in things like track-and-trace.

Innovation is also scaleable. In India, Prem Verma describes how Tata Motors has switched from delivering chassis on their own wheels, to using specialised trailers (p18). It has also introduced a hub-and-spoke system with milkrun deliveries for rural areas. Neither idea is ‘new’ but they should be recognised as bold in their context.

Christopher Ludwig, Editor
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