60 seconds with Greg Aimi, Gartner
Title: Research director, Gartner
Location: Boston, Mass.
Experience: 18 years in supply chain and logistics
Primary Focus: Research related to strategies and best practices in logistics for Gartner’s supply chain division.
Modern: Last fall, you and your colleagues published a study on the “Evolution of Logistics Sustainability” How is this area evolving?
Aimi: One of the early indications in our research was that when it comes to sustainable logistics, there is a divide between people who own and operate physical transportation assets, such as transportation firms that move freight and shippers that don’t own their assets. Shippers were doing things that may have been sustainable, but really were just good business practices, like optimizing routes and redesigning their packaging to ship less air.
They were trying to do more with less, which is a good idea anyway. We also saw shippers doing some evaluation of mode shifting, or balancing service level requirements against the cost of the service. An example of that might be shifting from air freight, which is fast but expensive, to truck, intermodal, pure rail or vessel. And, we saw some shift to slow steaming where the ship slowed down to save fuel, but took longer to make a delivery.
Modern: How are things changing for transportation firms that own assets?
Aimi: On that side of the business, we’re seeing a lot more work that was physical in nature. We see interest in the EPA’s SmartWay program (epa.gov/smartway), and that will help owners become greener transportation logistics providers.
Companies are focusing on better performance from a sustainability and emissions standpoint. So, for instance, we’re seeing more alternative power units to control the temperature in the sleeper unit instead of running the diesel motor.
There’s a whole laundry list of things a firm can do to make a vehicle more efficient. We’re also seeing that some major consumer product goods (CPG) companies are including the SmartWay program as part of their selection criteria. All things being equal, they would rather source from a green transportation provider.
Modern: Is the interest in sustainable logistics being driven by the consumer or by the board room?
Aimi: It may be a little of both and it often depends on the type of industry you’re discussing. One of the things we have found is that companies that are more connected to the consumer, like a CPG company, are interested in their sustainability profile because there was some indication that consumer buying habits were being changed by the reputation of the company they were buying a product or service from.
That was less the case when you were talking about an industrial company supplying components or raw materials to another manufacturer, like an industrial
supplier of parts.