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Utrecht Tests Solutions for Urban Perishable Food Freight Distribution

Author: CIVITAS Support
Posted on: Friday, March 4, 2011 - 12:45
Utrecht , MIMOSA

Fresh food distribution is not suitable for bundling concepts of the ‘traditional’ urban distribution centre. Utrecht is researching two innovative solutions: Cross Docking and a Web Portal System. They have the potential to improve the efficiency and sustainability of fresh and perishable food product transportation into the city centre.

Perishable food produce has always been considered a cumbersome category within freight distribution. Keen to solve this problem, Utrecht, a frontrunner in the field of clean freight logistics, is researching 2 innovative solutions within the CIVITAS MIMOSA programme: Cross Docking and the Web Portal System.Fresh food distribution is not suitable for bundling concepts of the ‘traditional’ urban distribution centre. Reasons include: strict demands on hygiene, special conditions for stocking and forwarding as well as delivery time windows not matching up with restaurant opening hours. As a result, fresh produce transporters along with catering businesses are encountering delivery problems and high costs. According to the research carried out in Utrecht, 2 solutions of Cross Docking and a Web Portal System have been identified as having the potential to improve the efficiency and sustainability of fresh and perishable food product transportation into the city centre.In the case of cross-docking, large transporters carry smaller transporters' and suppliers' cargo using existing infrastructure and vehicles. With this concept, the small supplier is still in direct contact with their customer and there is no competition from other products. However, the large transporters usually charge a distribution fee and there can be additional legal and financial commitments. Trust between participants is an important precondition.The web portal system concept is aimed mainly at small and middle-sized suppliers, a group that is capable of high energy efficiency improvements. A new online selling system would be provided by an independent transporter. Catering businesses can find food-products from various suppliers on the web portal and order them through there. Freight will be collected from the various suppliers at one central location at the edge of the city and then brought to the catering business in one delivery. This way, a wider audience can be reached and technical solutions will be possible to still keep supplier-customer contact.Under the CIVITAS MIMOSA framework, Utrecht will set up a pilot project based on one of these two concepts. At this point in time, the cross-docking system is the preferable option. Customers will be asked to order their goods which will be delivered to a large supplier instead of their own address. Utrecht City Council will provide financial support for a 3 week duration whilst the system is being evaluated allowing target groups the chance to experience a different way of distribution. If these experiences are positive, a follow-up can be the set up of structural cross-docking and/or the web portal system. Stakeholder liaison and support between all actors is crucial to now make this innovative initiative a success.

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