The Physical Internet (PI) brings innovation and forward thinking to the supply chain industry of today where lack of interoperability and actors’ lack of cross-collaborations very often bring inefficiencies and high costs. The ICONET project has emphasised from the beginning the need for a testing ecosystem, where technical solution providers and users can research, design, apply and validate ideas, technologies and concepts which when tested in real-life will bring benefit to the Transport and Logistics industry and beyond.
This need resulted in the setting-up of four Living Labs (LLs). The LLs set up conditions and overall planning had some clear objectives from the beginning which are:-
- to reveal the key aspects for future R&D in the PI domain
- to identify opportunities and also barriers for long term investments and therefore preparing the way for the first operational PI network
- Lastly to measure, demonstrate and quantify business added-value and innovation with participating partners in real-world industrial deployment validating the designed framework and findings along the way.
The four LLs represent the key PI defined capabilities namely a PI Hub, a PI Corridor, a PI Urban Logistics network and e-Warehousing as a service supporting all and at the same time testing and refining the ICONET Proof of Concept. What effectively resulted through the LLs design was a PI Supply Chain Network with all stages, characteristics, events and processes, modelled through a Generic Physical Internet Case Study (GPICS) with interrelated components including all those elements crucial for a PI Container to flow seamlessly and efficiently through the PI network. The GPICS provided the basis for the simulation models, dynamic software modelling tools recreating Logistics scenarios evaluating performance and behaviour through well prepared business cases for each LL. Simulation will in turn test and prove the benefits and use of the LLs defined PI Services and Optimization algorithms in line with the Open Logistics Interconnection architectural model of the PI.
The GPICS also provided the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as the business metrics which remain the main output of the LLs to date and will be the justification not only of the success of the LLs design elements but will also prove the key-attractors to Logistics operators as users in the future PI arena. Reduction of the impact to the Logistics industry to the environment and cost minimisation of Logistics operations while preserving or even improving the client service levels remain at the core of the performance targets in all LLs and the simulation modelling remains a uniform, systematic and analytic methodology in achieving them.
Risks and challenges identified early on included the complexity of business practises and processes and simulation modelling thereafter, the lack of interoperability of systems and lack of information sharing amongst users, a characteristic of Supply Chain industries. Mitigation measures demanded close monitoring of results, innovative technological solutions, strong communication between partners enhancing common understanding and swift addressing of emerging problems.
The ICONET project’s LLs remain at the epicentre of the work and the test bed of the PI concepts and innovation. Close collaboration of the LL leaders, technology partners, users and stakeholders will ensure the relevance and added benefit to the Supply Chain Network.