The critical role smart routing and fleet optimisation technology will play in the transition to a circular economy
by Andrew Clouston, Senior Consultant, on 23-Aug-2021 09:30:00
The Industrial Revolution was one of the most significant events in history.
Unfortunately, a good two centuries later it’s still the foundation for how much of our economy operates – one where we extract resources, make products, and then just throw them away.
What economists refer to as “the linear economy”.
We are fast reaching the limits of this way of doing things and it’s clear that the current system is no longer working for businesses, people or the environment.
Enter the “circular economy”
Thankfully the “take, make and dispose” approach of the traditional linear economy is being gradually replaced by the concept of the “circular economy”.
A circular economy is one in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them and then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of their service life.
There’s growing international research and evidence that demonstrates the numerous benefits of fully embracing a circular economy over the traditional linear economy. It’s a concept that has gained a good deal of interest and momentum among policymakers and businesses locally too.
At its simplest, the concept of the circular economy is guided by these 3 key principles:
- Design out waste and pollution.
- Keep products and materials in use.
- Regenerate natural systems.
Route planning and optimisation solutions will increase sustainability within the circular economy
Smart routing and optimisation solutions will have a huge role to play in contributing to the circular economy, by helping design out waste and pollution, as well as keeping products and materials in use for longer.
I see 3 significant ways that smart routing and fleet optimisation technology will improve transport sustainability and fleet operations in the circular economy:
- Lower carbon footprint and emissions per vehicle (designing out waste and pollution).
- Vehicles completing more trips for the same milage, thereby having an extended “replacement lifetime” (keeping products and materials in use).
- The right number and type of vehicles for requirements, so operators are not overinvesting on vehicle capacity that will go unused, or adding to overproduction in vehicle manufacturing supply chains (designing out waste and pollution).
A prime example of all 3 of these value propositions in action is in the optimisation of city waste collection routes – something Critchlow Geospatial has been helping clients with for a number of years.
The optimisation of routes, frequencies and vehicle loads already results in a huge reduction in waste collection costs and carbon emissions in our cities, even with most fleets still using internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
Electric vehicles by themselves are not the whole solution
While simply “going electric” is often posited as the ultimate sustainability solution when it comes to transport and fleet operations, even fully electric vehicles can waste significant amounts of energy if they are not operated or managed optimally.
Depending on the journey (or job requirements) the most efficient route may be one that makes the best use of the topography, or one that avoids congestion and routes where the average traffic speeds are slowest.
Either way, driving the most efficient journey is a complex exercise at the best of times, exponentially so when you apply this across large vehicle fleets. And, once a fleet is a certain size, then the added complexity makes it virtually impossible to manually determine optimal routes, or balance the workload between all vehicles and territories.
This is where smart routing and optimisation solutions can help, operating at multiple levels of complexity and enabling fleet operators to balance the workload between all vehicles/territories and shift spare capacity where it is needed. Meaning businesses don’t overinvest in vehicles unnecessarily as delivery numbers or service areas increase.
Another critical aspect of fleet optimisation is using the best vehicle for the job, eg, not over capitalising on (or utilising) larger vehicles than necessary, or conversely, knowing when you should merge multiple trips together and use a larger vehicle.
For example, will two EV vans be more efficient than one large truck? Does an EV van have the range or capacity required to make the farthest pickup/delivery and return?
Having the right vehicle types and numbers for your business’s specific needs is important for adhering to the principles of “keeping products and materials in use” and “designing out waste and pollution.”
Determining the number and types of vehicles to meet our future needs is challenging though, especially with the large range of vehicle types, sizes and models. Simply comparing a vehicle's stated fuel efficiency (or range) is too simplistic, as there are many other variables to consider.
Answering these questions is exactly what SwitchMyFleet does.
SwitchMyFleet allows fleet operators to forecast the operating costs of commercial EVs using typical travel routes (as specified by the users). Operators can even test different battery sizes to determine what’s right for their specific requirements, avoiding the problem of “over-capitalising” on unnecessary battery capacity, which increases the mass of the vehicle, reduces its load capacity and adds to up-front and overall running costs.
Once you have designed/upgraded your fleet, then advanced routing continues to provide the daily operational information that make best use of your resources. This means that your organisation is fully embracing and contributing to the circular economy AND operating in the most cost-effective and productive manner possible.
A great local example of this is FreshBake in Nelson who needed to meet increased demand for their product over the Covid lockdown. They achieved this without needing to add any more vehicles or drivers, just by using Smart Routing for Small Business (SR4SB) from Critchlow Geospatial.
You can read their case study here.
Want your fleet or transport business to operate more sustainably, efficiently and profitably?
Smart routing and fleet optimisation technology solutions will have a critical role to play in the circular economy, enabling transport operators to significantly lower their emissions, reduce waste and manage their fleet for optimal lifetime performance.
Get in contact with us today if you want to learn how Critchlow Geospatial’s smart routing and fleet optimisation technology can help your fleet or transport business operate more sustainably, efficiently and profitably.