Date: Thursday, February 2, 2023
Source: Sourcing Journal
Electrification, automation and digitization were at the heart of discussions at the Manifest logistics conference on Tuesday.
Now in its second year, the event drew more than 3,000 attendees including tech startups, third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and brand executives to Las Vegas to discuss the industry’s advancements and pain points.
After nearly three years of supply chain disruptions, logistics has become both the sector to watch and many organizations’ biggest ongoing headache. But across panels and presentations, the focus centered on cementing a more sustainable and tech-driven future for logistics and the companies that depend on it.
At a panel discussion on fleet autonomy and electrification, trucking and last-mile experts spoke to the need to improve efficiencies while reducing carbon emissions. Steve Hornyak, general manager and chief commercial officer with BrightDrop, said the two-year-old General Motors subsidiary is growing its ecosystem of electric light commercial vehicles (LCVs) to meet burgeoning demand from companies looking to “decarbonize and optimize last mile product movement.”
The rising interest in the sector has made BrightDrop “one of the fastest companies to go from zero to $1 billion in history of America,” Hornyak said. “It really shows you the focus and the product-market fit between electric light commercial vehicles, what the market is asking for, and what’s being delivered.” The company recently acquired a 2-million-square-foot production facility in Canada, with output volume on products like the Zevo 600, a vehicle made for goods delivery over long ranges, to exceed 50,000 units by 2025.
“With electrification, everybody has been talking about how ‘This is great for the planet, but if you look at some of the other factors—No. 1, it’s incredible for your balance sheet and your P&L,” Hornyak said. Companies can save thousands of dollars in operating costs each month, “and in addition to that, the comfort and the safety that’s provided with these next-generation vehicles… is what you expect and demand from large, luxury SUVs,” he added. The more drivers enjoy operating the vehicles, the greater their job satisfaction, ultimately leading to greater worker retention, he pointed out.
Adam Buttgenbach, director of fleet engineering and sustainability at PepsiCo, added that the beverage company has been evaluating solutions that will help it reach its long-term goal: “The end-to-end decarbonization of our supply chain.”
“We’ve committed to hitting a net-zero target by 2040, and in addition, getting a little more aggressive and hitting a 75 percent reduction on Scope One and Scope Two emissions by 2030,” he said. To get there, the company is employing “a combination of solutions that include electrification, renewable fuels, including renewable natural gas and renewable diesels,” each used strategically across functions and processes. “A lot of our warehouse equipment, a lot of our yard equipment, a lot of our urban-delivery and last-mile-delivery equipment goes towards electric vehicles,” he said. PepsiCo also transitioned to low carbon intensity and renewable natural gas and diesel across some of its regional distribution.
“It’s important to invest in technology that propels both economics and sustainability,” said Niklas Reinedahl, North America general manager of Einride, a Swedish maker of electric and self-driving vehicles known as Einride pods, which are controlled remotely.
“Battery electric, or direct electrification, is the dominating technology of the future for freight,” Reinedahl said. “If you combine technology with sustainable technology—autonomous and electric—I think it will definitely provide an accelerated transition into more sustainable freight.”
Meanwhile, experts at another panel on the implementation of 5G networks said the technology isn’t just for smartphones. Use cases range from autonomous trucks to asset-tracking.
Port of Virginia director of motor carrier experience Mark Higgins said that the Portsmouth, Va. gateway was the first in the country to build a semi-automated terminal. The port has now secured a grant from the Federal Highway Administration to explore use cases for 5G. “We’ve partnered with Verizon to install a proof of concept, and the possible end game is a complete overhaul of our network,” he said during a talk moderated by Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman. For now, it is working to see how the fifth generation mobile network can improve operations at its gates, stacking areas and main terminal operations.
“Where we see challenges in the supply chain from a data perspective is around multimodal points where there’s a handover of equipment,” said Andrew Scott, CEO and founder of QuayChain, which implements secure private LTE or 5G wireless networks at ports, rail yards, chassis yards, airports and similar facilities. The company installs cameras equipped with edge-computing capabilities to recognize pieces of equipment like containers, trucks and chassis within “harsh outdoor environments,” allowing stakeholders to manage operations digitally. The speed and control of 5G is essential for industrial operations, he said. “When we’re looking at automating certain events in the supply chain, you need that reliable connectivity.”