Bedrijfs­wetenschappen en Economie

Profcast #46 | Roel Gevaers

about last mile, logistics and supply chain management

In our podcast-series ‘Profcast’, we talk with the professors of the Faculty of Business and Economics. This week, our guest is: Roel Gevaers.

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In 2007, professor Gevaers was one of the first to work on a PhD in innovations in last mile reverse and waste logistics. Back then, he was at the forefront of the evolving e-commerce landscape.

Roel: "Ever since I was a kid, I've always been interested in everything moved, everything that has wheels and an engine. So it's safe to say that topics like supply chain, e-commerce and logistics have always been close to my heart. So for me, it's interesting to see how much has changed in the past few decades. The rise of e-commerce has transformed how we shop, with consumers demanding fast delivery within a day or two. This shift has driven innovations in last mile delivery.

In certain countries, you can even have your products delivered within the hour. I once ordered Belgian chocolates in Abu Dhabi at 10 PM, and they were at my doorstep the next morning. Or in the Netherlands, if you order something online, it will always be delivered  at 'slipper distance', meaning within 200 to 300 meters from your home. This is all very different from 30-40 years ago, where you would have to physically drive to a store and hope your product was available." 

Recently, there has been a lot of debate on the new Temu app, an online-shopping megastore that offers just about any product you can imagine. 

Roel: "The Temu app primarily targets younger shoppers and aims to collect their data, rather than focusing on product quality or sales. It encourages its users to spend more time on the app by offering discounts, based on how frequently they use it. However, the concern lies in the fact that these data-driven apps are primarily located outside Europe, making it difficult to ensure data privacy compliance. I would advise everyone to cautious, and not spending too much time on it."

As part of the 'top team zero emission freight transports', professor Gevaers advises the Flemish government on achieving zero emissions in logistics by 2025 and 2030.

Roel: "We try to provide the government insight into the broader energy context and upcoming technologies, like hydrogen and biofuels. While electrification seems like the straightforward solution for the coming years, it's a complex decision. For instance, driving an electric car might not always the eco-friendly option if you take all things into consideration.  

Our neighbours in the Netherlands recently faced a similar 'tough decision', where they had to decide whether their electrified network would be used for fast charging devices for transportation companies, or for new rides in the Efteling amusement park. Unfortunately for the Efteling, they now received word they will have to reduce their investments. I'm happy I didn't have to be the one making that decision."