VBD - Villes et Bâtiments Durables

Decision making for designing sustainable urban logistics solutions – ANNONA

Decision suppport for developing sustainable urban logistic patterns

In order to promote and manage innovative urban freight transport solutions, the public authorities should be able to forecast the related economic sustainability and environmental and societal benefits of these. The ANNONA project intends to provide decision-makers with the means to assess a priori urban logistics improvement policies via an IT tool based on a geographic information system.

To help design sustainable logistic systems adapted to the urban environment

Previous studies on the issues related to UFT have given rise to a base of knowledge on the best practices in urban logistics. This base does nonetheless remain rather unfocused and fragmented to date. As a consequence, designing relevant urban logistic solutions remains a somewhat complex exercise for public decision-makers, particularly when it comes to forecasting the economic sustainability and environmental and societal benefits of the different scenarios envisioned. The next step of tangibly bringing urban areas to forms of logistics and delivery services that are more environment- and user-friendly therefore entails pooling this knowledge into an integrated and systemic approach. The ANNONA project contributes to this objective by proposing to provide decision-makers with a means to assess ex ante their urban logistic improvement policies according to a «solution« approach .<br />This solution approach would come in the form of a scenario simulator designed to assess freight distribution and logistics real estate development policies. This simulator should be seen as a facilitating tool for the thought and collective decision-making processes behind UFT projects. There is never a single optimum solution for this type of project but only «satisfactory« solutions; the advantages and inconveniences of which should be made apparent to the stakeholders.

The ANNONA project tackles the issue of designing urban logistic patterns through the development of an IT tool used as a support in meetings when solutions (urban freight delivery, vehicle fleet, regulations, etc) are to be collectively built between the different stakeholders (city, urban area, chamber of commerce and industry, carriers, retailers, etc). This tool is consistent with a philosophy of exploration of solutions proposed by players in a “What happens if…” type of simulation logic. The development of the simulation tool designed to incorporate different dimensions (logistic flows, traffic, transport demand, environmental, societal or economic impacts, etc) is the basis of the project. To overcome the major obstacle of interdisciplinarity (interaction between models in particular), we chose an «agile« development where the different functions of the end tool will be developed repetitively and incrementally through cases of varying degrees of complexity («user cases«). These cases may take the form of real experimental studies (Saint-Etienne urban freight delivery, Cours Lafayette in Lyons, etc) or more theoretical analyses. The objective is to avoid the pitfall of developing an individual specification for each discipline calling for matching at the end of the project. Here, we opt for requiring the partners to cooperate on cases in order to co-develop modules that will become more complex in due course.
At the end of the project, we should have a tool that will run on a web interface capable of avoiding potential user installation and maintenance problems. This open form should also allow for better distribution of the work.

The first obstacle relates to designing a representation of the urban space including the freight transport players and users, the freight flows generated, the transport networks and the infrastructures and the ambient road traffic. To our knowledge, there is currently no integrated model with a sufficiently accurate mesh to feed the decision making with detailed urban logistic scenarios on a town centre scale.
The second obstacle relates to pooling available knowledge on the innovative initiatives in terms of UFT and the characterisation of their consequences and interactions with respect to the economy, environment and society. Building an open, upgradeable library of the basic component bricks of a UFT scenario is an major challenge. A basic brick could be of the real estate type (e.g.: creation of an Urban Logistics Space (ULS), transport initiatives (e.g.: implementation of a fleet of electric vehicles) or governance (e.g.: prohibited access, tonnage limitation).
The third obstacle entails producing a simulation model to design and assess global logistic patterns at a town centre scale. The objective is to allow for dual use of such a tool: manual (the computer gives a response in terms of multicriteria performance given the selection of initiatives composed by the users) and/or semi-automatic (this is not at this point about replacing the decision-makers but broadening their horizons by exploring combinations of initiatives not yet envisioned and for which the multi-criteria performance could outperform previous scenarios).

The project comes with a significant communication section through initiatives such as the organisation of public UFT days with carriers and inhabitants as well as development initiatives targeting training in engineering schools.

In terms of the economy, the ability to forward think the impact of urban logistic patterns may represent a development track for logistic professionals having trouble finding sustainable economic models. Corollary, the political pressure related to environmental protection and social enhancement will continue to increase. Due to this, assessment of the external factors of UFT and their integration into certain decision processes will form a major challenge for the territories and industrials alike. Conceptualisation and generalisation of best practices would allow for optimum dissemination.
In scientific terms, this project creates a consistent and dynamic interdisciplinary skill centre based on the sustainable control issue of urban logistic areas. The results will also concern the prospects of international projects.

This project is resolutely tuned to a solution approach. Its conceptual success depends on the opening of the previously identified scientific and technological obstacles:
-designing of an integrated urban area model including the players, users and freight transport flows,
-pooling and characterisation of innovative and heterogeneous UFT initiatives in the same multi-criteria standard,
- designing of algorithms for the operation of the simulator
We set ourselves the objective of 3 scientific articles.

The objective would not be fully achieved unless the relevance of a UFT scenario simulator type decision support is demonstrated by an operational prototype. We have set ourselves visibility and communication challenges via this prototype, connectable on line. The success criterion here is the ability to provide a prototype of the decision support tool (models + SIG type interface).

ANNONA project (Decision making tool for sustainable city logistics) is an Industrial oriented research program. It aims at producing new knowledge and methods in the domain of city freight. This project is motivated by the need of decision making tools to help institutional decision makers when designing innovative logistics solutions in city centers. It addresses item ‘smart-cities’ within axis 1 of the ‘Ville et Bâtiments Durables’ call for projects.

City freight is often seen as a need for necessary evil, although it has been constantly improved since a few decades. However, most approaches to implement urban logistics are based on benchmarks. This leads to systematize what has been decided for referent cities, and select on-shelves solutions. As a consequence, such empirical approaches rarely meet the needs of all the concerned stakeholders.

There is a lack for methods and tools aiming at predicting the impacts of innovative freight solutions at the very early design step. To fill this gap, ANNONA will address a major lockup: evaluating ex ante the multi-criteria impacts of urban logistics strategies. It will focus on a principal question: where and how to design and implement freight facilities and logistics areas in cities, with respect to sustainable objectives. To do so, new theoretical models will be proposed to deal with complexity of urban freight. A prototype of dashboard to assess the performances of logistics scenarii will be built. This prototype will be based on Geographic Information Systems so as to be used in a very interactive and visual way by decision makers and stakeholders. It will predict the consequences of freight policies on economic, environmental and social dimensions.

ANNONA project team is composed of scientists in logistics, environment sciences, economics of transports, and dynamic modeling of traffic. Multi-disciplinary has been favored so as to fully address the multiple dimensions of urban freight problematic. International partnership with South America is a contributing factor to enlarge the vision of cities beyond the borders of Europa. Last but not least, institutional partners will bring their own know how to make sure the proposed solutions are relevant in the field.

Project coordination

Jesus Gonzalez-Feliu (ARMINES Institut FAYOL de l'Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne) – jesus.gonzalez-feliu@emse.fr

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


FNTR 42 Fédération Nationale des Transports Routiers, dpt 42
SEM Saint-Etienne Métropole
LICIT Laboratoire Ingénierie Circulation Transport
LET Laboratoire d'Economie des Transports
LNI-US Equipe de recherche en logistique et business international, Université de La Sabana (Bogota, Colombie)
EPURES Agence d’urbanisme de la région Stéphanoise
ARMINES - FAYOL ARMINES Institut FAYOL de l'Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne

Help of the ANR 552,448 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2013 - 42 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter