Revealing environmental aspects of logistics

The main part of my research ever since being a PhD student has addressed three different themes. Roughly, the different themes relate to certain periods of my career. The common denominator for my research is that all themes address the research field of green logistics and all themes have a clear connection to various business aspects.

My present research can be described as two major themes, and they clearly overlap:
  • Green business models for logistics service providers
  • Green technology for logistics service providers

Green business models for logistics service providers

The first theme relates to continued research within the frame of “green business models for logistics service providers” and “the role of logistics service providers in green supply chain management”. Based on the identification of green-wise proactive logistics service providers (LSP) we develop knowledge, hypotheses and models of how LSPs can become more competitive and greener. This research takes both a strategic and management approach in which we study more operational issues and relate them to strategic efforts and long-term consequences. For LSPs as well as for shippers in the supply chain, a strategic as well as operative alignment is crucial for green efforts to have the desired effects, and we continue this research through dyadic research. This is also applicable to the area of city logistics/urban distribution, where dyadic and supply chain collaborations must become more effective also among non-company organisations. 

Our prior research has been explorative to its nature, and a multitude of theoretical approaches have been taken to increase the understanding of the phenomenon. At this stage of knowledge building, it is becoming increasingly relevant to address the research challenges with purer theoretical perspectives and to take a more deductive approach to the research. 

Green technology for logistics service providers

The second theme stems from the research described above. As we have come to understand the business making among logistics service providers in general, and their business with their customers in “ordinary supply chains” in more specific, a new challenge has surfaced. With respect to transportation there are many possibilities for making them greener in developing technology. New fuels, motor standards, aerodynamic design of the vehicles as well as new and supporting IT-applications promise considerable improvements. In addition, there is increasing insight that behavioural aspects such as eco-driving can contribute both to decreasing the environmental stress and increasing the economic efficiency in transports. 

Still, although these measures are well known and not very complicated, their application spread at a surprisingly slow speed from technology providers into use in transport- and logistics services. One hypothesis that we pursue is whether it can be the business making between companies that set barriers to the development. Prior research has shown that the short time frames    of contracts strongly delimits LSPs’ willingness to invest in new technology or knowledge, even though the pay-off time is short – however far beyond the contract time frames. This is one of many possible explanations that need to be further investigated.

A number of recent initiatives address the “slowness of technology and knowledge spread and up-take” in the transport- and supply chains. Taking a deeper grip into the technological details, and understanding their business consequences constitutes a new challenge for us as logistics researchers. At the same time, we bring a broad knowledge and understanding of business making in the logistics- and transport industry. This intersection of technology and business making is both necessary - if we want to decrease the negative sides of transports, and a challenge!

Logistics Systems for Recycling - Research as a PhD student

Recycling is a means of saving resources in a world with restricted access to new (virgin) material. Reverse logistics is a core concept in green logistics, and through efficient and effective management of reverse flows logistics can contribute both to improving the environment and reducing costs and resource waste of many kinds. Logistics Systems for Recycling (LSR) was the theme for my research leading to a PhD in 2002 (Huge-Brodin, 2002). My approach to this research challenge was a wide-spanning systems analysis of LSR regarding product properties, logistics structures and management, interorganisational relationships and power.  In extension to the “traditional” logistics system I, together with my former supervisor, developed the concept of including the consumer into the industrial recycling system, where we challenged the role of the consumer as a logistics provider, and extended the value stream mapping in a supply chain to include the consumer in a circular setting.

Environmental Consequences of Structural changes in logistics - Research as an Assistant professor

This research focused on the trend of changing logistics structures, e.g. centralisation of distribution systems, and added the environmental consequences of such changes, alongside its effects on costs and delivery service.  This theme has evolved and later I have, together with fellow researchers, studied large structural changes playing with system boundaries. The way you set the logistics system’s boundaries in research have a very strong influence on the results you can assess. Solutions that may appear as attractive in a narrow environment may even prove harmful when expanding the system boundaries. 

Competitive and Green business models for logistics service provision - Research as an Associate professor

A large research grant in 2008 from VINNOVA (Sweden’s Innovation Agency) was the starting point for my group’s research into greening the business models for logistics service providers and also into the relationships between logistics service providers and their customers in the supply chain.  We have studied different aspects of business models for logistics service providers (LSPs). LSPs approach the increasing environmental demands in sometimes similar, and sometimes different ways. Parts of our research has attempted to understand why those companies take on this strategic challenge in the way they do. We have studied this development on the Swedish market as well as comparing different countries in Europe, through case studies and questionnaire survey. Among various LSPs we found the most pro-active among small and medium sized players, however pro-activity is not very common. Many LSPs struggle with the financial side of environmentally related investments, as the demand from customers is still fairly low and in particular the customer’s interest in paying for environmental improvement. 

We have also studied the greening of logistics service provision from the buyer perspective, and to complement the two sides a dyadic perspective was applied, in which we analysed the actual interaction in relationships between logistics service providers and their customers. 


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CV

  • MSC in Mechanical Engineering, 1991
  • PhD in Logistics, 2002
  • Docent in Logistics, 2008
  • Professor in Green Logistics Management, 2014

Networking & collaboration

  • Strategic collaboration development LiU and Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute – VTI (chair)
  • Initiator and coordinator of LENS, a Swedish network for researchers in green logistics
  • Regular participation in the research networks NOFOMA (Nordic logistics research) and LRN (Logistics Research Network, the UK)
  • Research on take-up of green logistics measures and technology, with Prof Matts Karlsson, Applied thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics.
  • Research leader of green logistics research at LiU


International partnership

  • Research collaboration on supply chain alignment for greening logistics, with: Prof Edward Sweeney, Aston Uni, Birmingham, UK; and Dr Pietro Evangelista, IRISS/CNR, Napoli, Italy
  • Research on logistics service providers’ business models and green considerations, with: Prof Lars Huemer, BI Oslo; Prof Jan Stentoft Arlbjørn and Dr Jesper Kronborg Jensen, Syddansk Universitet i Kolding.

Research leader of green logistics research at LiU
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Publications
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2019

2018