H.Essers: “Innovation can be the driving force for increasing the sustainability of supply chains”

29/03/2022 — minutes reading time
Container Essers2

As a prominent provider of logistics services and a major employer, H.Essers wants to take a leading role in sustainable business practices. That’s why the company expressly decided that instead of working on a sustainability strategy, it would follow a sustainable strategy. Innovation – in relation to products and services as well as processes – will play a major role in the transition. In its booth at Log!Ville, the company explains various aspects of its strategy.

Yannick Dylst, Sustainability Manager at H.Essers, explains that the company selected 19 material topics or ‘ambitions’ that form the basis for translating their sustainability goals into sustainable practice. “One of those is innovation. We interrogated our existing models to work out sustainable and innovative solutions for the supply chain of the future. As well as being a logistics partner for our clients and stakeholders, we also want to be a knowledge partner. We’re continuing this ambition in our booth at Log!Ville.”

He points out that their sustainability objectives are aligned with the United Nations SDGs. “We selected five that fit in with our corporate values, and where we believe that H.Essers can make an impact. This includes innovation, as an important driver for greater sustainability and security.”

Supply chain of the future

“In 2018,” explains Yannick, “We brought the coordination of our innovation initiatives under the name TomorrowLOG. In this context, we’re exploring and developing new sustainable and innovative solutions for the supply chain of the future. These initiatives are broad in scope.”

“TomorrowLOG gives us insight into the portfolio of innovation projects and the stages they’re at. This allows us to prepare for new developments in sustainability and other areas. Take electric lorries powered by batteries and fuel cells. As we incorporate them into our fleet, they will start to have an impact on our processes. For example, we have to take into account the impact of operating range and recharging time on our schedules.”

Avoid, Shift, Improve and Inset

Yannick explains that in their sustainable strategy, H.Essers applies the principles ‘Avoid, Shift, Improve and Inset’ wherever possible. “In this regard, innovation is an important driving force. ‘Avoid’ means driving fewer kilometres, for example. We worked with an external party to develop a powerful routing tool that enables us to optimise the use of our load-carrying capacity, and give insights to our clients that can help them optimise their networks. In addition, our ‘HVO insetting’ is an innovative way of reducing carbon emissions. In contrast to offsetting (paying for trees to be planted, for example), clients can make their supply chains carbon free by asking us to fuel our lorries with HVO, a sustainable biofuel made from plant waste.”

Intermodal transport

When people talk about innovation, they often think of entirely new products and services. “But the term can also be applied to existing, known concepts. If you want to move things from A to B in a more sustainable way, intermodal transport offers numerous possibilities. That’s not an innovation. But providing intermodal services to the pharmaceuticals sector on the other hand – that is innovative. It’s also quite complex. For example, we’ve designed the Safe Coolbox, a container we can use to carry goods – even medicines – in a chilled and secure way using intermodal transport. We’ve also found new approaches to road transport lead times.”

H.Essers is going even further, with ‘synchromodal transport’. “This vision of amodal orders is innovative in terms of sustainability: when clients transmit an order, they can specify what should be prioritised when delivering that order, i.e. emissions, cost or lead time. Thanks to our customised fleet, terminals and systems, we can use the optimum mix of modes and routes.”

More sustainable warehouses

H.Essers is also seeking greater sustainability in its warehouses. As Yannick explains, “We can do that by optimising our use of every square metre, having better insulation, and installing solar roofs and wind turbines. And most of our warehouses have multimodal access. In 2021, we raised our ambitions even higher with the decision that all new buildings would meet the requirements of a BREEAM ‘Good’ rating, at a minimum. In terms of height, we consider the future needs of the warehouse. And we’re switching to electrical intralogistics equipment wherever possible.”

Sustainable transition

“All of these examples show that H.Essers is working hard on a sustainable transition,” Yannick concludes. “Alongside the logistics concepts and the underlying infrastructure and systems, that in itself is innovative for a sector which, all too often, devises initiatives that sadly can best be described as greenwashing. We offer clients innovations and concrete solutions to make their supply chains greener. Because the supply chain of the future is a sustainable supply chain.”