Apr 22, 2021

Supply chains are turning to green solutions for the future

Supply Chain
Tilly Kenyon
4 min
Growing sustainability concerns, along with pressure from the public and regulators, has meant that carriers are investing in greener delivery options
Growing sustainability concerns, along with pressure from the public and regulators, has meant that carriers are investing in greener delivery options...

Climate change has become a constant threat to our world and economy, that businesses are now trying to come up with solutions to help in the mission to become greener. Scope 3 emissions, which are the result of indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain, have come into the spotlight as shippers set sustainability goals. The extended supply chain is often the largest contributor to emissions yet the toughest scope to tackle.

A recent 2020 report from CPD explored the state of environmental risks in supply chains and what approaches businesses are taking to mitigate them. It found that just "37 per cent of suppliers are taking action and engaging with their own suppliers, down from 39 per cent in 2019." 

CDP also estimated that more than 1,000 companies are now working to reduce scope 3 emissions, and 94 per cent of companies with science-based targets include details on how they'll accomplish it.

FedEx plans to convert its entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet to "zero-emission electric vehicles" by 2040, the carrier announced. FedEx CEO Fred Smith said the decision was based on the increasing economic viability of sustainable solutions and concern about carbon pollution.

"Our customers are increasingly focused on this issue. They want to do business with transportation providers that are environmentally responsible," Smith said. "But we also — as a commercial enterprise — have to produce for our shareowners."

DPDgroup has announced its commitment to deliver 225 of the largest European cities with zero- and low-emission delivery means. By 2025 DPDgroup will reduce its last-mile carbon footprint in the cities targeted, decreasing its CO2 emissions by 89 per cent and pollutants by 80 per cent compared to 2020. In regards to CO2 emissions per parcel, there has been a -14 per cent reduction (vs. 2013) and by 2025 it will be -30 per cent. 

From ocean, to air, to road, to rail, carries across the supply chain are investing in green technologies and different ways to help reduce emissions and increase sustainability. 

Ocean travel

Last year, the International Maritime Organization's sulfur regulations came into force, referred to as IMO 2020, they limited the sulfur emissions from ships to 0.5 per cent mass by mass, down from 3.5 per cent.

Rodolphe Saadé, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the CMA CGM Group, a world leader in shipping and logistics, announced earlier this year that he would dedicate six liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered containerships to the U.S. market as part of the Group’s ongoing efforts to improve air quality and drive forward the energy transition of the shipping industry.

The stats that CMA CGM shares on LNG are positive: 99 per cent less in sulfur dioxide, a 91 per cent drop in particulate matter emissions, 92 per cent less nitrogen oxide emissions, and 20 per cent less CO2 than traditional fuels, according to the carrier.

Aviation emissions

Emissions from aviation are a significant contributor to climate change, and one way to reduce this is by using sustainable aviation fuels. 

British Airways’ owner has become the first European airline group to commit to powering 10 per cent of its flights with sustainable jet fuel by 2030. International Airlines Group (IAG) said it will buy a million tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel every year, enabling it to cut its annual carbon emissions by two million tonnes by the end of the decade.

The company also announced it is the world’s first airline group to extend its net-zero commitment to its supply chain.

Route optimision

Route optimisation is the process of determining the most cost-efficient route and can be very beneficial to trucking and delivery companies. It can help with providing reliable ETAs and improve customer satisfaction. Well-planned routes mean drivers spend less time driving, which reduces fuel costs and wear and tear on vehicles and can also increase both times on-site and the number of stops a driver can make in a day. Optimal route management can help improve operational costs too.

The trucking industry is aware that the supply chain is moving towards a more sustainable future, which means alternatives for diesel trucks will come into play. Battery-electric vehicles, fuel-cell-electric vehicles, and vehicles that run on renewable fuels are perhaps the most talked-about alternatives.

Battery-powered rail

Long-distance trains could run on battery power for the first time in the UK, Hitachi Rail announced

The company said Great Western Railway services between London Paddington and Penzance, Cornwall, could be powered by a combination of batteries, electricity, and diesel. Using battery power at the route's non-electrified stations will reduce fuel consumption by more than 20 per cent, improve air quality and reduce noise levels. 

Testing is expected to begin in 2022 and Hitachi Rail hopes a full-battery powered intercity train could be developed by the late 2040s.

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Jun 13, 2021

Engineering skills gap challenges UK electric vehicle market

Yvonne Paige-Stimson, Global P...
5 min
Yvonne Paige-Stimson, Global Projects Director at Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence on how the engineering skills gap is challenging the UK’s EV market

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are hurrying to design and develop electric vehicles to meet the evolving regulatory deadlines. The race to do so while meeting the high consumer expectations for new products is an immense challenge – exacerbated by a shortage of key engineering skills in many national workforces.

The emergence of new engineering skillsets and capabilities needed for new automotive product introduction risks hindering the move to electrification. If unresolved this could result in failure to meet their fleet CO2 targets set for the coming decade – including the ban of all petrol and diesel car sales in the UK by 2030.

The technological transformation of cars into computers – powered by electric batteries – has created demand for a parallel transformation of the automotive engineering workforce, and a pressing requirement for new skills in software and battery engineering.

The skills of the moment

There is a huge and growing need for tech talent. In the UK alone, programming and software development jobs are growing 7.3% on average every year, and these tech roles are amongst the most in-demand jobs. Design and development engineers from either the mechanical or electronic domain, who can also programme, are the new trend. The car of the future relies heavily on programming languages such as SQL, Java, C++, and Python for development of their embedded systems and tools used in their validation. The most highly sought-after talents are those individuals who have blended to become a multi-disciplined hybrid of several specialities. 

Manufacturing also demands IT skills due to the digital transformation of the production and supply chain environments. It is now heavily reliant on Edge machine-level data processing, with cloud integration of shop-floor assets (such as robots, measurement, optical recognition, machining centres etc) all connected together with visualisation and big-data analytics. Availability of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning expertise becomes a limiting factor to organisations seeking to make real-time cloud-managed decisions governing quality control, predictive performance and optimise asset utilisation.

The trend to Model-Based System Engineering methods is a significant benefit to product development cost and time to market. Recruiting sufficient Computational Analysis Engineers (CAE) for system dynamics, fluids, structures and acoustics, fatigue and forming technologies, is a challenge. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) engineers, in particular, have an essential role in EV development: to evaluate the thermal strategy for the battery architecture and integrated cooling systems, with the mission of keeping the car functionally safe and reliable in all conditions.

Closing the gap

The top drivers of the skills gap reported by employers include strong competition for skilled candidates, a shortage of applicants with appropriate qualifications, and a lack of awareness among young people of the educational routes into engineering occupations. The development goal and long-term solution is obvious: to get more people into studying engineering and widen the diversity of this talent pool. Recent UK Government initiatives are already showing some positive impact on this challenge:

  • Significant changes in GCSEs with promotion of single-science options has led to a 17.3% increase in take-up rate of Physics
  • A-level entries are on the rise for most STEM subjects – take-up of A-level Mathematics continues to be particularly high, making up 12.0% of all entries
  • High proportions of international students, especially from India and China, are studying engineering and technology in the UK, particularly at taught and research postgraduate levels (67.7% and 59.3% of entrants respectively). 

Universities are adapting to supply the future talent for the electrified automotive industry, many now offering combined degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering with dual accreditation. Degrees in Controls and Systems engineering are also gaining in popularity, teaching future engineers to work on holistic problems where there are conflicting needs and complex interactions. Given the time it takes to train a new engineer and for them to become effective in the workplace, the sector is therefore challenged to wait for this influx and mobilisation of in-demand skills to be realised.

Instead, focus turns to being ‘employer of choice’, and companies aim to attract the highest calibre new hires to staff their teams. Despite the distraction to business continuity due to COVID-19, there is no time for complacency regarding the employee culture. The most highly skilled (especially in ADAS, functional safety, system controls, CFD, electromagnetic and power electronics) can literally cherry-pick their next employer with ease, aided by the transparency of website platforms like GlassDoor and LinkedIn. 

Partnering on development

Onboarding of software and tools can significantly help alleviate the engineering skills gap – by embedding know-how, others have developed into their digital multi-physics offerings. Engineers can be assisted in getting the workflows and design rules right, creating an immediate and tactical solution to ease the product development challenges.

We can also seek collaborations and technology partnerships by working with specialist service partners locally and globally in a new ecosystem. The ability to achieve the leap to develop IP, leverage experienced resources for global teams, and offload the risks associated with finding and training the skilled engineers in-house – often gives the best of both worlds.

The unprecedented pressure on the world of engineering to develop new EV models will require collaboration on a new scale. While many countries are pushing to grow and diversify the engineering workforce, the skills gap needs to be closed now to avoid disruptive delays for the global market. As a central part of the evolution to e-mobility for our customers, the urgency of this task is starkly clear, and encouraging novel partnerships to close the skills gap will be vital to ensure our industry meets this historic goal.


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