I collaborated with Dr. Barbara Tocco and Prof. Matthew Gorton from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) to successfully address the food hub distribution issue faced by community interest company, and NICRE’s innovation partner, Food and Drink North East (FADNE). During the Covid-19 pandemic, FADNE introduced Local Heroes, which aimed to provide an e-commerce platform for more than 150 local and regional producers to sell their food and drink products to customers.
Our research focused on improving the operational and environmental efficiency of food hubs by minimising transport costs and carbon emissions. It involved using Microsoft Power BI to analyse a large data set obtained from FADNE to obtain useful insights regarding the quantities sold and number of customers served. Furthermore, the research work also involved development of an AI model using the underlying theory of Mathematical Optimisation to address the complex logistics and inventory operations involving different, stakeholders such as producers, hub and customers. The AI model was solved through adopting optimisation software IBM CPLEX which is widely used in industry.
Our empirical results show that horizontal collaboration in logistics between producers contributes to improving vehicle utilisation which, in turn, can significantly reduce carbon emissions by up to 16%. Additionally, by switching to electric vehicles, transport costs can be reduced by 31.5%, helping to optimise operational costs and reduce environmental impacts. Our findings provide useful evidence for improving logistics strategies which could benefit those managing food hubs. It also demonstrates that data visualisation software and tools can play an important role in better understanding performance metrics and optimising logistics solutions.