Growth is the key issue for Italy.
Among the many causes of the current crisis in competitiveness, an aspect which emerges and clashes with the role and geographical position of Italy, is the under-optimization of its logistics system.
Efficient circulation of merchandise has always been a fundamental component of development. This is even more true in the current scenario where supply and production systems have developed on the basis of value chains that are heavily delocalized and—in most cases—distant from the end-consumer markets.
It is estimated that in Italy, over the next 20 years, the flow of merchandise will increase by 50%. This clashes with the problems of the national logistics system: inadequate infrastructure; lack of rail-road integration; last mile costs and absence of suitable city logistic structures; lack of accessibility and integration of port platforms and lack of interaction between ports and cargo storage areas; saturation of cross-Alp transit routes; no overall tracing of merchandise flows, etc.
The analysis and studies conducted in the past have highlighted the diseconomies in logistics: inefficiency costing in the neighborhood of 50 billion euros per year (3% of GDP), failure to create nearly 500,000 direct jobs and negative external factors in terms of excess energy consumption and pollution.
The complexity and importance of these issues demand a decisive qualitative/quantitative leap in the country’s strategic activity. What is required is to bring to the fore a number of basic choices decision-makers must make, focusing—in a very concrete way—on the prospects and operational requirements of the system, the attributes of the demand to be satisfied, the strategic development policies, the concrete opportunities for intermodality and supply chain integration.
The areas requiring action are infrastructure development and transport service management.
In terms of the former—infrastructure—this is the area where action is normally concentrated. But the problems are well-known: difficulty finding alternatives to public financing, the time frames involved and social acceptability of the works.
In addition, creating or upgrading infrastructure does not necessarily mean improving logistics in the specific region involved. On the other hand, intervening on the transport services available, on the infrastructure itself, can result in major improvements in the short term and at reasonable cost.
Today, much can be done thanks to the availability of new technologies.
Specifically, one of the solutions that could be implemented—including in the wake of experiences being developed in countries such as the United States, France and Germany—is equipping the national logistics system with flexible and integratable telematic instruments to improve flow planning, design, running, maintenance and management.
These instruments can answer the needs of Italian logistics in light of its special characteristics: an overriding use of road transport (71% of the total); a complex network of ports and freight terminals distributed throughout the country; a limited level of intermodality; and high level of fragmentation among haulage companies, with a significant presence of small, self-owned vehicles.
Within this context, an initiative launched by the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport is taking shape. It is being developed by UIRNet as the sole implementer and, in the short-term, should result in the creation of the primary telematic system for managing the national logistics network (Piattaforma Logistica Nazionale—National Logistics Platform).
This platform—through interfacing and connecting haulers, node operators and other players in the supply chain—is aimed at offering services (information in real time, instruments for managing trips and loading/unloading operations, etc.) to improve integration of operational processes by optimizing time and costs to increase the “smartness” of the system and promote more efficient interaction between players. This project was included in the 2012 national strategic infrastructure program and, through structural improvements and greater efficiency, should result in benefits worth 2.5 billion euros per year.
To-date, the testing phase of the platform has been completed and a bid tender has been issued which, by the end of 2014, will decide the system Service Provider.
Long-term growth and new jobs can also be pursued through the relaunching of the efficiency and competiveness of the logistics sector, and implementation of “smart” transport management systems is certainly a means for creating efficiency, stimulating competitiveness and freeing national resources.