By Assistant Professor Pramatari Aikaterini
Department of Management Science & Technology

e-SAVE: Energy Efficiency in the Supply Chain through Collaboration, Advanced Decision Support and Automatic Sensing

Project Objectives

Climate change and its significant consequences have raised an imperative need for wise management of energy resources and industrial environmental performance. The Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry, while having the biggest share of the total environmental burden caused by consumer products, still lacks the management methods and systems that can effectively assist this effort.

The e-SAVE project aims to develop the information infrastructure, applications and decision support tools to support operations and supply chain management and design decisions, taking into account environmental KPIs and the dynamic energy profile of products and processes. Furthermore, the project will support efficient information sharing and collaboration among supply chain partners in order to enable an end-to-end information flow, spanning a product’s life cycle. Moreover, the possibility to automatically capture data regarding the dynamic energy profile of processes and unique product instances, through sensors, automatic identification technologies etc. will also be investigated.

The goal is to contribute to an energy-efficient supply chain by providing the system, services, collaboration platform and management tools that will help companies monitor, manage and share energy use and carbon footprint data in order to support operational as well as strategic decision making and design decisions. Decisions will be supported both alone and in collaboration with supply chain partners, so that energy consumption and carbon footprint of products and processes is minimized.

More specifically, the project has the following general aims:

  • To design and develop a powerful datamiddleware to efficiently and automatically capture and link energy-use data and carbon emissions to supply chain processes and product instances.
  • To facilitate the efficient collaboration and seamless communication of product life cycle and process energy performancedata among supply chain partners.
  • To extend carbon footprint and Life-Cycle-Assessment tools and integrate them into ERP and supply chain management systems by using input coming automatically from various data sources (ERP system, collaborating supply chain partners, sensors etc.) but also providing various energy-efficiency KPIs as output to a green supply chain management toolset.
  • To build an energy-efficient supply chain management toolset, incorporating new optimization and operations management logic that uses environmental as well as other KPIs to support managers achieve a profitable balance between environmental and operations efficiency in areas such as inventory management, logistics and distribution planning, vehicle rooting etc.
  • To develop tools and applications to support the simulation of alternative supply chain configurations, taking into account the environmental KPIs to be delivered by the e-SAVE platform in addition to other business KPIs, in order to support strategic and sustainable supply chain design decisions.
  • To empowerconsumers monitor dynamic product footprints and energy-profiles, by supporting a dynamic energy-efficiency product label and respective consumer services, such as, for example, smart-phone applications “interrogating” products at the point-of-sales about their energy profile, and measuring the impact of such services on consumer perceptions and actual demand.

Overall, the e-SAVE project aims to deliver a modular and extensible information, collaboration and management support infrastructure that does not only capture and deliver the data required for effectively monitoring energy use and other environmental Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but also provides the management tools that utilize these KPIs and support managerial decisions and every day operations for improving energy and environmental performance.

Τhe e-SAVE Approach

e-SAVE will rely on the latest technological developments in the various fields and on a layered architecture in order to meet the aforementioned objectives. A distributed Service-Oriented-Architecture will be employed giving the possibility to interconnect the various system modules in a seamless way, enabling interoperability both internally and among supply chain partners.

Figure 1 gives a conceptual representation of the proposed project architecture, consisting of the following layers:

  • The Data Layer integrates the various data sources, offering the necessary abstraction to the higher layers of the architecture and allowing for future extensibility and integration with more data sources as they become available. The following technologies are employed by this layer:
    • Energy sensors. More specifically e-SAVE will utilize a flexible built-in-smart energy sensor infrastructure (i-Box smart device of the INTELEN partner in e-SAVE) where positioning and sensor constellation will be totally flexible and adaptable to the progress of technology, miniaturization, supply and cost options, etc.
    • Inkjet-Printed Paper/Polymer-Based “Green” RFID and Wireless Sensor Nodes. The e-SAVE project will examine the possibility to use this technology for automatic product identification, a technology responding to the need of consumer goods manufacturers for cheap and environmental-friendly automatic identification. Prof. Tentzeris from Georgia Tech USA, leading worldwide research in this area, participates in e-SAVE as member of the Scientific-Technology Advisory Committee.
    • RFID middleware software, providing unique product instance identification information. For RFID implementation, the prevailing approach used in the FMCG industry is employed, that is an RFID tag with an Electronic Product Code (EPC) is attached to a product (either item or product container, such as case or pallet) and RFID readers in fixed locations are associated with specific process steps (e.g. product out of the production line, receiving at the warehouse, etc.).
    • Web Services, acting as wrappers for ERP and legacy systems but also for communication with supply chain partners.

Figure 1. Conceptual architecture of the e-SAVE project

The data provided will include both average energy consumption, some stream data mine statistics as well as meta-data, e.g. location, name of the energy provider, etc., to enable the computation of the average carbon content per energy provider, hence of the consumed energy. The average carbon content of energy will be computed for the main energy provider and/or will be based on average country energy mixes from existing Life Cycle Inventories. The middleware will be following the cloud philosophy (IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service) and the connectivity with the rest of the system and applications will be done by APIs and Web 2.0 interfaces (XML, SOA).

  • The Energy Monitoring and Life Cycle Assessment Layer utilises the data provided through the data layer to monitor the energy profile of products and processes. This layer builds on the Quantis Suite 2.0 software, which is a leading software worldwide for life cycle assessment and environmental footprint monitoring, integrated with the Meter Data Management system of Intelen. Generic energy efficiency monitoring modules are built and existing software functionality is extended through both integration with the Data Layer, for the automatic data input, and integration with the application layer, for exploiting the calculated energy-profile and environmental KPIs in various applications and management tools. The output of this layer, apart from being fed to the Application Layer, can be directly used by managers or directed to ERPs and other process management platforms (BPL) as well, since it is a tool that can drive decision at a corporate level and relate energy values and consumptions, with life cycle analysis. The communication is going to use XML and SOA approach with several APIs that will and can be incorporated in existing ERP connectors or other supply chain and performance management platforms.
  • The Application Layeron top hosts various applications that support:
    • The monitoring of energy consumption, carbon-footprint and other environmental performance indicators of operations and/ or products through analysis, reporting and collaborative business intelligence.
    • Day-to-day operations and supply chain management decisions (such as inventory management, logistics and distribution planning, vehicle rooting etc.).
    • Strategic supply chain planning through simulation, giving the possibility to managers to simulate alternative supply chain configurations and evaluate them, using energy efficiency as well as cost and benefit KPIs.
    • Green consumer services, informing consumers about the environmental footprint of products in the form of a dynamic energy-efficiency label, e.g. through smart-phone applications, in order to stimulate green consumer demand.

Through this approach, the proposed project aims to deliver an infrastructure that can be used to monitor the energy performance of industrial operations as well as to measure the impact of FMCG products from “cradle to grave” or even from “cradle to cradle”. This information will then be used to optimize this performance through the use of management support tools that take into account both the firm’s energy profile and its operational efficiency. Finally, the outputs of this project can be used to stimulate greener consumer demand by delivering credible and meaningful environmental information to the final consumer and redefine inter-organisational relations in a way that these take into account each firm’s environmental profile.

The e-SAVE Consortium

Participant no. Project Participants – Organisation Name Part. short name Country