The Physical Internet Could Transform Logistics

The Physical Internet, which is a concept that would entail an open, global end-to-end logistic network, could become a reality in the next few decades.

Although logistics networks have become a lot more efficient in recent years, there is still plenty of room for improvement. For example, many freight containers and vehicles sit idle due to operational delays or end up transporting large amounts of empty space. This is certainly not the most efficient way to run businesses.

The Physical Internet aims to eradicate these shortcomings in a very similar way to how the internet has completely revolutionized the movement of information throughout the world. Think about how data was shared before the internet. The process of communicating was extremely slow and costly back then, and the “information superhighway” turned this around in one fell swoop, boosting the volume and speed of data transmission at a mind-blowing rate.

Idea is gaining traction

The Physical Internet works in a similar fashion, only physical objects are being moved and stored in this case instead of information and data. The idea was first put forth by Benoit Montreuil in 2011 and has since garnered a lot of interest. In fact, the Third Physical Internet Conference is set for this summer in Atlanta and is expected to draw hundreds of people across many industries.

The Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration (ALICE), which was launched by the European Commission (EC) in 2013, is actively working on putting the concept in motion.

To pull this off, open and shared markets for freight transportation and distribution networks will be needed. Smart technology will be utilized to keep track of everything, and products will be designed with the system in mind to make maximum use of space. Perhaps the biggest hurdle will be changing mindsets; companies will have to partner with each other in order to make this work, and that includes playing nicely with competitors.

Although a high degree of cooperation and resources will be required to create the Physical Internet, it will be well worth the effort for all parties involved.