Constructing a Shared Space for Pan-European Logistics Collaboration

By Dr. Luca Urciuoli

Logistics involves much more than managing freight movements; it also embraces the flow of financial and product information. A project called SELIS (Shared European Logistics Intelligence Information Space), is developing a cloud-based network that enables public and private entities to collaborate across the full range of logistics services and activities.

The collaborative environment that SELIS aims to create will connect logistics players – including carriers, government agencies, inland freight facilities, ports and shippers – across Europe. These organizations will form logistics communities in the network, that construct shared intelligent information spaces called SELIS Community Nodes (SCNs). The SCNs will link participants’ information systems in a secure environment, and provide the tools and platforms they need to share information and acquire/manage data.

To accomplish this feat, SELIS must overcome the cultural, functional, linguistic and operational differences that separate European logistics organizations. And it must ensure that individuals have access to the data elements that are relevant to their needs. Another challenge is maintaining data confidentiality; companies are understandably cautious about sharing commercially sensitive information with other enterprises.

The project team has identified several market segments that are particularly amenable to participating in the proposed collaborative environment. These include transportation and logistics authorities and port-based communities, that overlap because some members are active in several communities. SELIS also is promoting cross-community integration by developing Pan-European green logistics strategies such as collaborative planning and common approaches to the management of KPIs and environmental performance. Each logistics community will benefit from a customized package of these strategies.

Living Labs are providing data and technical support, and these are led by the Zaragoza Logistics Center (ZLC). In addition, ZLC is developing specific capabilities in three key areas: supply chain finance, environmental measurement and supply chain optimization.
It’s important to understand that SELIS is not an exercise in system integration, which largely entails the harmonization of protocols and processes. Rather, the project aims to achieve much higher levels of supply chain interoperability, where disparate logistics entities can seamlessly exchange information and collaborate. This will take place in a cloud-based network that is governed by access rights controlled by the network’s constituents.

The collaborative platform that SELIS is developing will unlock significant gains in the efficiency of freight networks, and improve the environmental performance of the logistics industry in Europe.

Consider, for example, a situation where an ocean vessel is due to dock and a company must organize the inland transportation leg of the supply chain. The company requires accurate, timely information on the status of the vessel and the shipments it is carrying – including input from relevant government agencies such as customs. These details enable the logistics organization to arrange the most cost-effective, environmentally sustainable combination of inland transportation services. At present, however, poor supply chain visibility and a lack of effective standards for exchanging data often frustrate these goals.

In addition to addressing these issues, SELIS ultimately aims to facilitate the creation of a collaborative environment for all logistics stakeholders in the European Union (EU). This information-sharing space will support full supply chain interoperability, help to remove barriers to joining communities, and support the EU’s policies for sustainable growth. The benefits reaped by individual logistics stakeholders will include better ways to exchange, manipulate and analyse information, and to better manage their businesses in alignment with sustainably goals while retaining absolute control over their own data.

Funded by the European Commission, the 36-month SELIS project is scheduled for completion in August 2019.

Dr. Luca Urciuoli is Associate Professor at the Zaragoza Logistics Center, Zaragoza, Spain, and Principal Investigator at the SELIS project. For more information on SELIS and ZLC’s contribution contact the author.