Micro-fulfilment centres could have major impact on urban congestion and air emissions

New study sees big potential reductions in emissions if there is a pivot towards micro-fulfilment centres and click-and-collect options

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Accenture and Frontier Economics’ The Sustainable Last Mile: Faster. Greaner. Cheaper report has found that last mile emissions could be significantly cut through the use of Micro-Fulfilment Centres (MFCs).

The report said that in the cases of Chicago, London and Sydney, using MFCs to fulfil half of the e-commerce orders in those cities would significantly reduce traffic volume and harmful air emissions. They estimate that last-mile supply chains using MFCs could lower delivery vehicle-related emissions 16% - 26% by 2025.

Of the three cities included in the study, London would likely see the largest delivery traffic reduction from the use of MFCs and enhanced distribution systems, including in-store click-and-collect points, automated locker storage facilities and stand-alone micro-warehouse facilities. The estimated reduction from would be 13%, which would equate to around 320 million fewer miles travelled by delivery vehicles.

Chicago’s delivery traffic could also be reduced by 13%, equal to 127 million fewer miles travelled across Cook County.

However, the report calculated a much more modest 2% reduction in delivery traffic for Sydney, or about 16 million miles of reduced vehicle traffic across the Greater Sydney region.

The study also identified achievable, but substantial reductions in the emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides arising from a reduction in delivery vehicle volumes, due to the increased use of MFCs. London would again see the greatest reduction, with 144,000 tons of CO₂, followed by Chicago (68,000 tons) and Sydney (52,000 tons).

Deploying route optimisation technologies alongside MFCs was also found to reduce delivery traffic by an additional 3-4% across the three cities. The additional reduction in vehicle travel would be highest for London (87 million miles), followed by Chicago (38 million miles) and Sydney (34 million miles).

The report noted that offering ‘click-and-collect’ options would reduce environmental impact, but only if done by low- or zero emission, or on foot.

“The carbon footprint of the last mile has long been an environmental and societal challenge,” said André Pharand, a managing director at Accenture who leads the company’s postal & parcel practice. “It’s time to take action and make the last mile supply chain more efficient, less expensive, and more sustainable. Organizations with innovative local fulfilment strategies and that lead in digital adoption and sustainable business practices will become tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

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