Physical Internet: When Science meets Industry

Sergio Barbarino, research fellow of P&G Research & Development organization, about the Physical Internet.

Sergio Barbarino, research fellow of P&G Research & Development organization, about the Physical Internet.

Procter & Gamble is the largest international consumer goods company. Their products are marketed in more than 180 countries around the world and used by over 4 billion people every day. In order to improve the lives of the world’s consumers P&G’s aim is to innovate sustainably – and is thus very interested in turning the Physical Internet from vision to reality. Sergio Barbarino, research fellow of P&G Research & Development organization, talks about the trade and industry’s views and aspects concerning the Physical Internet.

Sergio is involved in many logistics projects, such as the EU project MODULUSHCA, which was coordinated by PTV. It is the first project towards the implementation of the Physical Internet. Sergio is also the Chairman of ALICE, the Alliance for Logistics Innovations through Collaboration in Europe. In our interview, he talks about the trade and industry’s views and outlines important aspects concerning the Physical Internet.

Compass: When did you first hear about Benoit Montreuil’s vision of a Physical Internet and how did you become involved as a big supporter on behalf of P&G?

Sergio Barbarino: Back in 2010, I was researching the subject on Horizontal Collaboration and one of my colleagues showed me an article by Prof. Eric Ballot. We invited him to speak at a P&G event on future trends and it was there that he mentioned the Physical Internet and Prof. Montreuil.

Compass: How do you assess the response from industry players to the idea of a Physical Internet? Actually, all processes need to be rethought – from manufacturing to delivery – and above all the way of joining forces in order to make the vison of a Physical Internet come true.

Sergio Barbarino: I think a lot of people working in the logistics field have perfectly understood the opportunity (much better assets utilization). The real difficulty is to create a new viable business model in order to drive assets sharing and to accept that a certain way of operating is no longer suitable.

Compass: How long do you think will it still take to shape and finally implement a Physical Internet globally? What should be the next steps? And can you tell us something about P&G’s next steps towards a Physical Internet?

Sergio Barbarino: The roadmap of ALICE indicates 2050, but this date originates from a colloquium in Tallinn at the TEN T days in October 2013, where the Director General from the European Commission MOVE suggested that the Physical Internet could be set as the objective for the 2050 roadmap. We started a discussion that 2030 would be a more likely and engaging horizon.

At P&G, we welcome any sustainable solution that eliminates structural inefficiencies. We have already engaged in several logistic assets sharing initiatives and we have recently kicked off a EU co-funded project (CLUSTERS 2.0), involving several intermodal terminals and a trusted data sharing solution. The aim is to develop more and more frequent intermodal connections on the busiest EU trade lanes …the start of a PI backbone. Another thing to watch is the legacy of MODULUSHCA project … just recently, at GS1 Germany, there has been an agreement on a Universal Box (3 in fact) for FMCG. If this proposed standard is widely adopted, it could really drive a lot of the innovation foreseen by the PI model.