The Green Route: How AI is Powering Sustainable Logistics

McKinsey published a study on January 2, 2021, that made predictions of logistics. According to the McKinsey analysis, by 2030, autonomous cars will drive through production halls, warehouse supervisors will wear AR outfits, and AI automation will enable real-time inventory monitoring. Since McKinsey’s study was published about four years ago, it is appropriate to assess our progress to date. And how much might AI support decarbonization in the logistics sector during these crucial ten years?

It is integral to address transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, as they comprise more than 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions inside the European Union. By 2025, DHL Group plans to invest €2bn in digitization. As part of this investment, 5,000 robotic couriers will be introduced to its worldwide network, increasing picking efficiency by 180% and freeing up staff time for other priorities.

AI-based technologies, such as DHL’s OptiCarton software, optimize container space, reminiscent of the game Tetris, reducing unnecessary shipment space by up to 50% and subsequently cutting truckloads and associated emissions. Transmetrics, based in Bulgaria, leverages AI tools to enhance data quality, offering forecasting and optimization services that intricately link logistics, efficiency, and sustainability.

Route optimization is crucial in addressing the joint goals of efficiency and emission reduction. Transmetrics claims its solutions can save one liter of fuel per 100km, leading to substantial savings when applied to entire fleets. Additionally, autonomous delivery trucks, like those from California-based Gatik, are making strides in the industry, potentially reducing emissions by operating up to 78% of the time compared to traditional trucks’ 29% utilization.

AI is not confined to land-based logistics; it has permeated sea-based operations as well. DeepSea, a Greece-based company founded in 2017, employs AI to increase efficiency and reduce fuel consumption in vessels, addressing the variability and uncertainty associated with shipping decisions. DeepSea’s tools have achieved approximately 10% fuel consumption reduction on hundreds of vessels, including a significant deal with Wallenius Wilhelmsen.

As the International Maritime Organization commits to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, AI becomes a fundamental tool for companies like DeepSea, not just for profitability but also to meet stringent regulations. The expansion of the EU and the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and new legally binding measures, including the Energy Efficiency Index for Existing Ships (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Index (CII), reflect a fundamental shift towards decarbonization of the maritime industry.


In conclusion, artificial intelligence and automation are at the heart of a rapidly evolving logistics paradigm that offers not only operational efficiency but also sustainable progress in a carbon-free world.


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