Sustainable Supply Chain Management Based on Digital Platform

Sustainable Supply Chain Management Based on Digital Platform

Katarzyna Nowicka (SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1196-1.ch004
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The aim of the chapter is to analyze transport management (mainly planning, but also monitoring and executing) of the international supply chains based on digital platform model. This case study analyzes platform that supports the information sharing on different modes of the transport available mainly within Europe area. It should be underlined that multimodal network accessed by the platform supports both sustainable transport development within the company and its supply chains and meets requirements of digital economy. This subject of analysis is part of the ChemMultimodal project implemented under Interreg Central Europe Programme between 2016 and 2019. The analyses are done on the case of chemical sector supply chain and its ability to response for challenges of sustainability within logistics activities. The developed platform (Intermodal Links) helped supply chains being more sustainable by supporting usage of multimodality and—as a consequence—decreasing CO2 emissions caused by transport by more than 50%.
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Supply chains are driven by the demand and their management concentrates on planning and executing flows of the goods in the fastest and the cheapest possible manner. Each of the company belongs to several supply chains where they are supplier, customer or some other intermediary. All of those supply chains create a network of complicated flows of the information, goods and money. There used to be a conviction or even some authors proved that integrated supply chains based on collaboration and information sharing between each other are more competitive than others. However, today companies are facing different reality that is developed by digital economy. Digital economy changes all of the current rules not only in the area of technology, but also in terms of economy, regulations, policy, social, environmental or demographic aspects. At the same time digital economy creates the same conditions for all of the companies. It “supports” them by digital tools and “expects” to be used by them in the widespread manner. This situation covers also supply chains or better – demand networks. Therefore one can argue that today neither companies nor supply chains compete. The most sufficient solution seems to be a platform model. It connects directly all of the partners interested in concreate product flows management. The second important problem of competitive company management is its sustainable development. Sustainability means fulfilling economic goals of the company and being at the same time in line with natural environment and social development.

At the same time digital economy is starting to challenge supply chain managers in terms of sustainability, innovation and shorten lead times. This is due to the fact that digital economy and the digital technologies – that are the base for digital economy development – started to be a permanent element of business environment and customers expect companies to support their distribution and communication channels by the digital solutions (Nowicka, 2019).

One can admit, that nowadays managers have a possibility to use digital tools in different activities and business processes within the company and between them – for supply chains management purposes. However supply chain – as the ‘megaprocess’ – consists of many processes, sub-processes and interrelated activities. Therefore, due to its complexity, it still creates many challenges to gain competitive advantage by its proper management.

One of the most important process in the supply chain management is transport. Its importance is a result of the fact that decisions and their modifications (concerning i.e. modes of the transport) impacts on total costs of the supply chain and lead times – so two the most important criteria when diagnosing supply chain competitiveness (Nowicka, 2019). At the same time, transport management process within supply chain is supported by different types of tools helping managers to achieve supply chain goals to gain on competitiveness and/or sustainable development. However, transport operations are rarely indicated as those that add value to the company in the area of sustainability. This is mainly due to the fact, that the road transport is the most popular mode helping to achieve supply chain goals (i.e. improving flexibility, shortening time to market or decreasing costs).

All of the above circumstances are the reasons to study and develop transport management tools that are or will be able to support the increase use of environmental friendly transport modes – like railway or inland transport. However in most of the cases freight transport requires using different type of modes when delivering goods along one supply chain, especially when considering international trade. These complex multimodal connections can be planned in advance with the help of information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions, i.e. digital platforms. Some of such a platforms are available by the internet as an open access portals and can be used freely by any company. However they might be not sufficient for multimodal transport management – especially for the planning phase when managers are considering different scenarios of freight transport.

The aim of this chapter is to present the digital solution (the Intermodal Links Platform) for transport planning and improving usage of multimodality in transport activities. Today digital solutions can be considered as one of the most important factor impacting improvement of the supply chain sustainability by influencing on decisions within transport modes or any other processes or activities.

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