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‘I hope that suppliers will compete with their logistics concept’

Interview with Susanne Balm, project leader sustainable city logistics at AUAS

The University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences together have a gigantic procurement volume. Susanne Balm is working on making this more sustainable: by reducing delivery locations, changing procurement policy and behavior and bundling at the source. It is a transition with bumps in the road, but at the same time it is also making considerable progress.

The best moment in the transition so far? Susanne Balm, project leader sustainable city logistics at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, does not have to think long about this. “The press conference in 2017, where we publicly announced that we were not only researching sustainable city logistics but also working hard on sustainable supplies for the AUAS-UvA. The Executive Board was also present and we called on other parties within the Knowledge Mile to join itself. For me a lot came together that day.”

You have been working on this subject at the AUAS since 2014. Before that, you were a sustainable transport and logistics consultant at TNO. What do you like about this topic?

“Logistics and the city have always been my interest. How do you divide supply and demand around mobility and public space as effectively as possible? I find that a very interesting issue. I live near the Knowledge Mile myself and switched from TNO to the AUAS to be able to focus more on my own city.”

“The concept that you can bundle goods at a hub and then transport them from there to different locations has been around for a long time and a lot of research has already been done on this.”

In the report Getting started with sustainable supplies  you report on five years of research into sustainable logistics for the UvA-AUAS. The number of reduced kilometers for deliveries is between 50,000 and 100,000 kilometers per year. The number of delivery times has been reduced by 15 to 20 percent. This is partly because you now have five product groups delivered to a central point, which are further distributed from there. You have dubbed this the UvA-AUAS model. What is the core of that model?

“The concept that you can bundle goods at a hub and then transport them from there to different locations has been around for a long time and a lot of research has already been done. The essence of our model is that we, as a major purchaser, have asked our suppliers to do this and put them in touch with parties who could help them, but that we did not arrange anything else for them. Our assignment was: it does not necessarily have to be cheaper, but more sustainable. That was a quest for some parties, others thought it was good that we asked. They needed this extra push. We have met some suppliers: for example by relaxing other delivery conditions or by temporarily paying them a little more. ”

What other result are you proud of?

“The fact that buyers of the AUAS-UvA are now thinking about the logistical impact of what they purchase. What helped is that the Facility Services director was enthusiastic about this from the start. That commitment from above – so also that the Executive Board is press moment was present – this is a basic condition for such a transition, otherwise it will be difficult to maintain the urgency. That commitment enabled me to work well with the buyers and contract managers who write the tender criteria. ”

“What I also find special is that we were able to do this without internal and external subsidies. I actually wanted to apply for an internal budget, but at Facility Services they said: that money should go to education. Moreover, the goal was that there would simply come a business case for this way of working. Without all those subsidies, we had a lot of freedom and we could make continuous adjustments if the transition required it. We did not have to ask for signatures or submit progress reports all the time. ”

“You can use figures to show how extensive the logistical impact actually is. In some organizations you get this kind of data out in a conversation of an hour, sometimes you have to carefully examine all purchasing flows.”

Numerous sub-studies have been carried out for the transition you are going through. For example, you carried out a supplier survey with the help of students, which showed that suppliers drive 2.8 million kilometers annually to deliver goods and services to the UvA-AUAS.

“That’s right. You need these kinds of figures to create awareness within your organization. With figures you can show how extensive the logistical impact actually is. With some organizations you get this kind of data up in a conversation of an hour, sometimes you have to carefully examine all purchasing flows. During our transition, many of those studies were done by students. That was of course easy for us as a university of applied sciences, but other organizations can also use students for this type of research. These are then guided by us and so we can accumulate and develop knowledge. Please feel free to discuss this contact me . ”

What would you do differently with today’s knowledge?

“When bundling the flow of goods, we primarily focused on distribution to the door. In doing so, we ignored the fact that indoor distribution is also an important process. We did get some negative reactions about that: you have to be able to put those things in the elevator, in the storage cupboards. At the municipality of Amsterdam we started a project in which we included this. Students investigated the optimal delivery frequency : it depends on the location, the layout of the street, but also on the building itself. So that’s quite a puzzle. ”

“I think that in addition to its role as initiator of the Green Deal SIX can also play a major role in the MRA. “

As a large institution in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, you can create a lot of mass. What steps do you think are necessary to give High Impact Procurement in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area a further impulse?

“In general, people don’t think much of logistics, which makes this a difficult topic. I also notice this with sustainability managers at large companies. They prefer to do something with solar panels or arrange their catering locally. Hotels prefer to do sustainable things that are immediately visible to guests. We need compelling examples to be shared. I think that, in addition to its role as initiator of the Green Deal Zero Emission City Logistics can also play a major role in the MRA.

“It also helps if we focus on areas where accessibility is poor – temporarily or otherwise – and / or where the municipality has plans for low-traffic areas. Buyers will feel more urgent to get started there than in the places in the city that are easily accessible. ”

“As a purchaser, we still too often have to demand certain things. I would like to see sustainable logistics no longer a must for suppliers, but that they compete with each other on the basis of their logistics concept.”

When was the UvA-AUAS purchasing transition successful for you?

“As a purchaser, we still too often have to demand certain things. I would like to see sustainable logistics no longer a must for suppliers, but that they compete with each other on the basis of their logistics concept.”

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Participate in purchasing sustainable products & services in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and join our network to ensure sufficient scale, joint purchasing processes and sharing experiences. Interested? Please contact Richard Hoving or Claire Teurlings

High Impact Procurement

With every euro that you spend as an organization on products and services, you have the choice for the more sustainable, fairer or more innovative alternative. This makes procurement an important driver for a smart, green and healthy future for the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. Systems and habits are thus broken. ‘

Read more

This is part 4 of a series of articles about High Impact Procurement

Read more about why the Board encourages procurement differently
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