Supply Chain News Bites - Only from SCDigest

- Oct. 5, 2012 -


Supply Chain Graphic of the Week: Could We Really Build a Physical Internet?


The Vision: Freight Containers Move on Physical Network the Way Packets Do on the Internet


By SCDigest Editorial Staff



Certainly one of the most thought-provoking presentations at this week's CSCMP annual conference in Atlanta was on a vision for a "physical internet," primariliy presented by Russ Meller of the University of Arkansas.

Greatly simplifying the idea, the concept is this: the internet works by sending standardized data "packets" across a shared infrastructure with global standards for how those packets are handled and moved across a number of different parties from origin to destination. What if we managed freight movement in a somewhat analogous way?


What does that mean? Well, said Meller, what if some large portion of our freight (he said even as little as 25% would have a huge impact) using a series of standardized containers that were specifically designed to be combined to maximize trailer cube?


And what if rather than point-to-point, long haul trucking, these moves would involve a series of hand-offs between carriers, breaking up say a 1000-mile move into 10 or so 100 mile routes, so the driver could get back home each night? And that seeming complexity was supported by a very standardized way of communication the need for this full movement and carriers to commit to the moves?


Here is an image not from the CSCMP conference but from another recent presentation from Meller, illustrating the standard container concept.



Source: Russ Meller



There is a lot more to this thinking than we can cover here.


Interesting but totally unrealistic you say? Handling costs would swamp any other savings achieved, such as improving trailer utilization. Maybe. But Meller showed some powerful modeling with real company data that showed the concept would - believe it or not - be cheaper, faster, and help the truck driver shortage by improving their lifestyles dramatically.


Oh, and this would has sponsporship from the National Sciences Foundaion, Walgreen's, SCJohnson, JB Hunt and more than a dozen other heavy supply chain hitters.


Who knows? More on this soon from SCDigest.


Any Feedback on our Supply Chain Graphic of the Week? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

Send an Email