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Improving transport and distribution operations

The logistics of the agricultural and food sectors covers 19% of transport within the EU and 25% of the international EU transport according to Eurostat. The primary function of efficient transport and logistics operations is the safe and punctual delivery of merchandise from suppliers to the manufacturer. Another function is the efficient transport from the manufacturer to customers, typically retailers' distribution centres and stores. These 2 functions are instrumental to the commercial success of food and drink manufacturers and can be either carried out internally or outsourced in whole or part to third-party-logistics service providers. Furthermore, these 2 functions can also be carried out by either suppliers or customers themselves depending on individual arrangements.

This best practice focusses on transport and logistics operations, which include the storage of goods in warehouses and other facilities. Energy use in storage facilities, makes a small but significant contribution to the environmental impact of transport and logistics operations, and can be minimised by the implementation of many of the measures outlined in the best practices on refrigeration and energy management. The specific best practice on improving packaging is also of relevance to this best practice.

Therefore this best practice covers a number of areas that are focused on the improvement of the transport and logistics function, from a strategic/general level down to operational considerations:

  • T1 green procurement and environmental requirements for transport providers,
  • T2 efficiency monitoring and reporting for all transport and logistic operations,
  • T3 integration of transport efficiency into sourcing decisions and packaging design,
  • T4 shift towards more efficient transport modes (e.g. rail, maritime),
  • T5 optimisation of warehousing (i.e. thermal insulation, location, management),
  • T6 route optimisation (for road transport): optimisation of route network, route planning, use of telematics and driver training,
  • T7 minimisation of the environmental impact of road vehicles through purchasing decisions and retrofit modifications (e.g. purchase of electric vehicles for local deliveries or conversion of engines to natural gas and biogas in larger trucks).

Depending to what extent the scope of their transport and logistics operations is covered internally vs. outsourced to third parties, the different measures above mentioned will be more or less relevant to individual manufacturers (e.g. by and large, while T1, T2, T3 and T5 are applicable to most situations, T4, T6 and T7 are especially relevant for manufacturers who operate their own transport fleet). The Figure below highlights the areas of relevance in the logistics chain considered within this best practices' techniques. Many products have long and complex value chains, and it is important to consider the impact of transport when assessing overall product impacts to inform sourcing decisions and improvement options. There is however considerable opportunity for manufacturers to optimise T&L operations through integration with supplier and customer T&L operations.

Overall, this best practice is broadly applicable to all food and drink manufacturers although some of the above specific measures may not be relevant if the company does not manage or have any influence on the related specific activities in the field of transport and logistics.

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