77 percent of all Germans live in cities. Within the next 10 years, another 1.6 million inhabitants will be added. Thus, the proportion will rise to almost 80 percent. Still, all these people want to be mobile and need to be supplied with goods. Urban transport planning is one of the great social challenges of our time. Accordingly, the public debate is rather controversial. The focus is clearly on urban mobility and passenger traffic. The subject of urban logistics, by comparison, receives only little attention, even though it is essential for the provision of care and has a determining effect on the quality of life in cities in general.
For this reason, the Federal Logistics Association (BVL) promotes public and scientific examination of the flow of goods within urban areas. In 2017, the topic “Urban Logistics” was launched. Stakeholders and players of urban logistics are brought together for discussion and conversation.
One study, which was created in co-operation with the BVL, is “Urbane logistics 2030 in Germany. Stronger together: Keep the Wild West scenario at bay with cooperation” by Roland Berger. logistik aktuell makes this study the starting point of a series on urban development and logistics.
From the “Wild West” to the “Coexistence of the Great”
Why is this study our starting point? Because it makes a good basis for discussion. First, it provides a description of the initial situation, because it explains current trends in retail that are driving supply growth. Second, the study systematically examines two important framework conditions that influence the development of urban logistics. These are, on the one hand, the long-term development of the regulation of urban logistics (increase or decrease in municipal traffic control). On the other hand, it is about whether either intelligent individual solutions or cooperative systems will prevail.
The direction in which these framework conditions are developing is not clear yet. Consequently, there is not only one possible scenario. Roland Berger describes four directions into which urban logistics can develop.
The initial situation outlined by Roland Berger and the four scenarios are briefly presented below.
Urban transport needs are increasing
In addition to the growth of cities, three trends are causing an increase in urban flows of goods:
- E-commerce: With annual growth rates of just under 8 percent, online commerce is driving the growth in courier, express and parcel delivery.
- Customer requirements: Increasing transparency in the retail sector is increasingly fueling competitive pressure for ever faster and more individualized delivery.
- Retail requirements: The trend towards more flexible and smaller orders with decreasing storage capacity is leading to an increase in urban deliveries.
The increase in delivery traffic is putting pressure on inner-city traffic routes and accounts for about 19 percent of harmful nitrogen oxide emissions in German cities.
Four scenarios for 2030 – What must be done?
What does the future look like? The study describes four scenarios along the dimensions of “regulation” and “cooperation”.
1. Low regulation / individual solutions: Wild West
In the case of barely regulated merchandise traffic, individual solutions that allow only limited cooperation due to a lack of standardization will dominate. The inner-city logistics traffic continues to increase massively. Despite higher availability of goods, the attractiveness of urban space is severely limited.
2. Strong regulation / individual solutions: Regulated Diversity
The city controls and reduces traffic with regulatory means such as city tolls, regulated access times for logistics traffic or active parking space management. Strong competition between providers prevents the introduction of cooperation and standards.
3. Strong regulation / cooperative solution: City Platform
All urban supply capacities converge on a single platform, which bundles the flows of goods across multiple providers and uses distributed warehouses to bundle supplies to the last mile. This platform is operated by the city itself, a city-owned company, or in the form of a public-private partnership.
4. Low regulation / cooperative solution: Coexistence of the Big Ones
There are few large, competing private platforms that dominate urban logistics. With an increasing number of users and an increased delivery volume, the platforms can bundle logistics traffic more efficiently. The city trusts in a market-based self-regulation.
Finally, the study asks about the current need for action. In order to prevent the clearly unwanted scenario 1 (“Wild West”), the course has to be set today. Depending on the desired scenario, different tasks arise for both the public sector and the companies.
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The detailed description of the four scenarios and the recommendations for action can be found in the study “Urban Logistics 2030 in Germany. Stronger together: Keep the Wild West scenario at bay with cooperation” by Roland Berger.