'The Future Logistics Hub introduces companies to the world of the Physical Internet' – Barbara Peene of POM West Flanders

23/11/2022 — minutes reading time
Barbara Peene

POM West Flanders, a Log!Ville Collaboration Partner, opened its Future Logistics Hub in the ABC building in Zeebrugge some 18 months ago. The West Flanders provincial development agency, or POM, created the interactive experience centre to keep companies, public agencies and universities informed on logistics and also to inspire them in terms of future developments in that world, particularly the Physical Internet. It is a complementary initiative to Log!Ville, and both parties are looking forward to more cooperative ventures in the future.

While the primary focus of Log!Ville is on mature technology that is not yet mainstream, in the Future Logistics Hub the Physical Internet takes centre stage. The Physical Internet is an open system of interconnected logistics hubs and services dedicated to moving, storing, delivering and using physical objects in the most efficient manner possible. Put differently, it is a network of logistics hubs within which products to be shipped and modes for shipping them are aligned with each other through the exchange of data.

Using the Physical Internet as an actual tool, as the basis for the future sustainable and synchromodal flow of goods, may still be some way off, but companies can already gain a foretaste of things to come. 'The Future Logistics Hub both informs and inspires visitors by allowing them to discover interactively what the Physical Internet is, how they can optimise their supply chain and how multimodal transport adds value,' says Barbara Peene, Program Manager Physical Internet at POM West Flanders. 'Together with them, we run through the various building blocks required for establishing that future Physical Internet.'

A serious game

Aside from targeting companies, the Future Logistics Hub also aims to get knowledge institutions, such as universities, and public agencies aboard. A tour of the interactive experience centre lasts around three hours and covers three different phases.

'The first one is a "serious game" that makes our visitors aware of the rewards to be reaped from introducing multimodal and synchromodal transportation,' Barbara explains. 'Up to twenty participants are given a tablet that they use to complete a challenge – shipping a product from point A to point B in Europe using, whenever possible, multimodal transport. They first perform the exercise on their own, then they join forces to lower both the shipping costs and the carbon footprint, and finally they compare their solution to the ideal route a system has devised.'


The next step is the guidance phase. 'We show companies how they can quickly start off on the path leading towards the Physical Internet by allowing them to discover what it's all about and how they can make full use of the capacity offered by the various modes of transport,' Barbara continues. 'We still see frequent inefficiencies in current supply chains, which means companies are not reaching their true potential. Furthermore, the entire sector has to find ways to become more efficient as part of the European Green Deal. And so, in this second part we provide them with ideas for lifting their logistical processes to the next level and show them the road to logistics 4.0.'

Five aspects are highlighted in this step: digitisation, automation, collaborative shipping (joining forces to increase multimodal shipping), value added logistics/services and last mile logistics, focusing on urban distribution.

'Out intention is to convince SMEs to dedicate themselves further to digitisation and automation and rouse their interest in new technologies. We also identify those other aspects that can help improve their supply chains. Urban distribution is a good example, where we show companies that there are various ways to serve cities, such as urban distribution hubs in the outskirts for bundling together shipments, or how to better anticipate the time slots that some cities are introducing for deliveries. We also show how the digital twin of a city or port can be used for streamlining logistical flows.'

Best practices

'In the third phase we deal with a number of best practices,' the Program Manager continues. 'Visitors get to see real-life examples of how solutions are already being employed within those five themes. Companies that have already introduced blockchain tech, AI, digital twins, AR/VR, synchromodality or automated warehouses use videos, photos and infographics to explain what they have done and what the benefits have been. Our intention is that these concrete examples will inspire SMEs and spur them to likewise make gains in efficiency.'

Among the companies showing off their best practices are Agristo, Westlandia, Oesterbank, Zoutman, Seafar and Group De Cloedt. New and innovative business cases are added every six months.

Working with Log!Ville

'The Future Logistics Hub thus not only serves as a source of inspiration for companies, it also fulfils an educational role in the sense that undergrad and postgrad university students can see how pioneering – and even futuristic – the logistics industry is. The experience here in Zeebrugge is purely a digital one, while Log!Ville ensures its visitors have a hands-on experience in its demonstration centre. That makes the initiatives complementary, and they bolster each other.'

'That is also why we are looking forward to more cooperative venture. We will initially be welcoming around 20 Log!Ville partners to Zeebrugge on 15 December to acquaint them with our Future Logistics Hub. The next step will be a visit by companies based in West Flanders to Log!Ville in February. We will use the feedback from both visits to see how we can best intensify our partnership,' Barbara concludes.

If you'd like to join Log!Ville on 15 December for a visit to the Future Logistics Hub, then please send an email to info@logiville.be