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Large subsidy for Professor Roodbergen: innovative logistics for online shops

20 December 2016

A lot can still be optimised in respect of online orders: too much traffic congestion caused by delivery vans in residential areas, boxes by far too big for the ordered goods and above all Dutch online shops that still do not compete enough internationally. Professor Kees Jan Roodbergen of the Centre for Operational Excellence ( COPE ) of the Faculty Economics and Business is in charge of a research project of the RUG together with Fontys and twenty companies and organisations. The NWO ( Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research ) is granting a subsidy of 963.000 Euros.

The research group, E-Global, wants to develop innovative concepts for the logistics of online shops. A specific objective is the strengthening of the Netherlands as a hotspot for the distribution of online orders to other countries. The project (2017-2018) fits in with the priorities of the national Topsector Logistics . The method consists of various part projects where knowledge organisations, companies and organisations strengthen each other.

Becoming internationally competitive

Dutch online shops are unable to sufficiently compete on price and service due large distances and limited possibilities to organise the entire door-to-door dispatch in Europe. Improvement is possible with shorter throughput times, more delivery options and a final no-later- than delivery time. This can be done by bundling the movements of goods from the Netherlands to specific regions in Europe and by making use of regional distribution networks locally.

Transporting ‘less air’

Many online goods are sent in boxes that are far too big because online shops choose to use a limited number of box sizes and this way benefit from quantity rebates of packaging suppliers. And because freight costs are based on weight anyway and not on size. This way a lot of air is transported unnecessarily. New packaging technologies make packaging without air quite possible. In addition the boxes can have prints on them and serve as marketing instruments.

Combining logistics of an online shop and a physical shop

Many online shops that also have a physical shop use two strictly separated underlying logistical processes. A so-called omni-channel approach seems to offer many opportunities so as to reach higher service levels and lower costs. Complexity is only set to increase due to fast growth and change of line of goods, promotions, the unpredictable demand and product returns.

Smart warehouses

Online orders require warehouse concepts that are, for instance, flexible and are able to deal with busy periods while integrating the movement of returns. Also computerization is relatively new in this sector because large-scale online shops have become active only recently. The objective of this part project is a more efficient and effective chain.

Traffic congestion due to delivery vans

The number of delivery vans in residential areas and cities is increasing all the time due to the persistent increase of online orders. This is the last bit in the chain from company to client and has also large similarities with the first part of the chain of returns. Combining these streams or alternative models will contribute to sustainability objectives and the quality of life in the city.

Organising large online shop platforms

More and more online orders are done via large platforms of various suppliers, such as, or Amazon instead of specialised online shops. There are, however, still no clear guidelines for the organisational form of such a platform. They do not know of traditional supplier-buyer relationships, but have continually changing suppliers and product lines. How do you organise such a dynamic ecosystem?

For more information

Professor Kees Jan Roodbergen

Last modified:16 September 2019 11.46 a.m.
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