The trend of Sharing Economy refers to an ecosystem in which users (businesses and consumers) temporarily share, rent, or borrow assets or services instead of buying and owning them. This peer-to-peer system is typically facilitated by digital platforms that help connect supply and demand (for example, a platform connects owners of underutilized assets with people who want to use those assets).
The sharing economy enables businesses and consumers to reduce risk, achieve greater flexibility, cut costs, and become more sustainable. Over the past decade, sharing economy platforms have benefited from increasing digitization and brought about a shift in the way we view the procurement and use of assets and services. The best-known providers are B2C sharing platforms such as Airbnb and Turo, where private individuals can rent out their apartment or car to other people for a limited period of time. However, B2B companies have now also recognized the opportunities of sharing economy platforms – take, for example, Xometry, a B2B platform for manufacturing services. This means a growing number of organizations are offering platforms for sharing resources, services, facilities, and more with other companies.
The general principles of the sharing economy offer extensive, replicable opportunities in logistics, but we here at DHL have yet to see revolutionary industry-changing solutions take off and be realized within the next 5 years as previously anticipated. This is why the Sharing Economy trend is positioned further out in this edition of the Logistics Trend Radar compared to the previous edition.
Only 6% of B2B asset sharing platforms are incumbent-driven platforms. 94% are startups new to the space.
Relevance to the Future of Logistics
According to statistics from the United Nations Population Fund, more than half of the world's population already lives in cities, and the figure is rising. A consequence of this rapid urbanization is limited space availability for storage and parking. Nevertheless, space exists in cities that is hardly used (or not used at all) due to a lack of transparency.
The principles of the sharing economy enable both private individuals and companies to increase space utilization. One example of a platform that tackles the problem is Stashbee, a UK-based company that connects people and businesses that need storage or parking space with others offering available space. The company does not limit its offer to sheds and basement space, but also provides the option of renting larger areas ranging from storage containers to entire warehouses.
This application example of the shared economy in logistics can inspire large supply chain companies to rethink the way they optimize existing unused space and develop new concepts.
With a shortage of workers in all areas of the logistics organization, from IT personnel to truck drivers and warehouse operatives, it is time to rethink traditional labor models.
One way to offer more reliable, attractive jobs to scarce talent is through labor alliances with companies in the same or in a different industry. A logistics company could work with a manufacturer, for example, allowing employees to work in the warehouse during peak periods but switch to the manufacturer’s production facility through the remainder of the year. This form of employee sharing can be extremely beneficial in times of crisis. The model was established in China during the Covid-19 pandemic, when workers from crisis-hit industries such as hospitality were able to find work in other industries such as e-commerce. With this type of shared workforce model, the original employer provides insurance and other benefits along with a share of annual salary while the other employer pays its share of the annual salary. Due to the success of this model, Alibaba's subsidiary grocery store chain Hema Fresh has opened a B2B network platform supporting employee sharing in the future.
Although this model is relatively new and not yet widespread, it offers great potential for logistics companies and could also be applied for office jobs in the area of IT or project management.
In the EU alone, about 1 in 5 of all freight transportation vehicle-kilometers in 2020 were comprised of empty runs. The sharing economy in the form of shared logistics transportation offers a solution. Although logistics marketplaces attempt to tackle empty runs by providing transparency of available vehicles and routes, they do not typically support collaborative bidding. The problem is that competing companies avoid collaborative transportation as they are reluctant to share sensitive data, such as transportation routes and volumes, with potential competitors. In the long term this may be outweighed by the advantage of shared transportation (better truck utilization) which leads to lower costs and an overall reduction of emissions.
Within the framework of a project called ‘Exchange Mechanisms in Logistics’, two Austrian universities – the University of Klagenfurt and the University of Vienna – are exploring how to remove barriers to horizontal collaboration in order to implement shared logistics transportation on a broad scale. The focus is to develop a solution for the fair and cost-effective distribution of transportation orders between logistics providers with as little information exchange as possible.
This trend should be MODERATELY monitored, with some use cases applicable today.
In general, there is significant potential in logistics to use sharing economy synergies. The benefits would be both economic and environmental. However, only a few examples can be seen in the industry so far. As companies have ever-increasing focus on cost and emissions, the shortage of warehouse space in some areas and the ongoing labor shortage, we here at DHL expect sharing economy use cases to increase in future. This development will be enabled by a growing number of platforms and larger platforms for different sharing economy purposes.
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- United Nations Population Fund (2022): Urbanization
- World Economic Forum (2020): Employee-sharing schemes are softening the blow for China’s pandemic-hit businesses
- Eurostat (2021): A fifth of road freight kilometres by empty vehicles
- DHL (2021): How a simple web application is tackling labor shortages in the warehouse
- Universität Klagenfurt (2022): EMIL – exchange mechanisms in logistics
- Verband Deutscher Wirtschaftsingenieure (2021): Sharing economy: mehr effizienz in der logistik