Returnable transport items (RTI) ensure efficient material flows in the supply chain. Since RTIs are used several times depending on treatment and transported goods, they must be returned to an upstream location in the supply chain after they have completed the delivery (customer receives goods on pallets).
About the study
In this paper, a fictitious cross-actor pallet exchange platform is analyzed, which manages pallet debts and receivables between the different actors of a supply chain.
For that, an agent-based supply chain simulation model is used, which is ideally suited for use in RTI management: various actors with individual interaction among each other and the environment are considered.
The simulation modeling method is suitable in the context of RTI management because different concepts such as organizational structures can be compared with each other easily, quickly, and without large investments for implementing real-world systems (e.g., pallet exchange platforms).
In this work, a supply chain model of a randomly generated network of 50 nodes in a field measuring 100 km by 100 km was created. The nodes represent the locations of 50 actors: 5 forwarders, 5 shippers, 37 consignees, and 3 pallet shops.
The edges between the actors correspond to road links that the trucks use to reach the different actors. The trucks use the shortest route between start and destination via the different edges. A matrix, which lists the shortest distances over the different edges from all nodes to all nodes, is used for the route planning algorithm.
In this paper, the researchers have built a supply chain simulation model. With it, they have shown that the actor pallet exchange network, where pallet debts and receivables are aggregated in a common system, leads to fewer detours for the forwarder to supply empty pallets.
Such a system, therefore, has great potential to improve the management of pallets or other shared RTIs in a supply chain. As a result, the distances traveled for managing RTIs have been significantly reduced, thus saving both costs and emissions.