Why ePIcenter? - Universidad de La Sabana

Each month one of the ePIcenter partners explains why they participate in the ePIcenter project. This month David L. Cortés, William J. Guerrero and Jairo R. Montoya from Universidad de La Sabana (Colombia) explain their role and interest in the ePIcenter project.

Logistics performance in the Latin-American region

Colombia cartagena

Two indicators provide significant insights into the logistics performance in Latin America and the Caribbean. First, when looking at the logistics costs represented as a percentage of GDP, for Latin American countries, this ratio is between 50% and 100% higher than in developed countries.

Second, the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) shows that, in the last decade, most of the countries in the region are ranked below the 50th position out of 150. This shows that the region’s logistics performance is low. According to the Inter-American Development Bank [1,2], the most critical components where there is room for improvement in the region are related to extensions and conditions of roads network, the performance of road freight transportation, and the current operations at ports and freight railways.

Logistics city transportmodes

The main drivers to enhance the improvement of these components are infrastructure development and technology implementation. For this reason, the region needs to be at the forefront of all initiatives, projects, and technological innovations. In this way, considering the socio-economic conditions of the region, governments and companies can make strategic decisions in favour of logistics development in Latin America.

Universidad de La Sabana

Universidad de La Sabana, located in Colombia, is actively proposing solutions to support these technological initiatives. The university seeks to act as a facilitator and promoter of the development of logistics systems in Colombia and the region. For this purpose, the Logistics Systems Research Group offers engineering tools that optimise logistics decision-making in sectors such as agribusiness, manufacturing, and services.

The models and algorithms developed allow the planning of supply chain operations, optimising production, transport, distribution, location, inventory, and storage decisions. The aim is to improve customer service indicators, costs, delivery times, resource utilisation, and quality in organisations and government entities.

In recent years, the research group has paid more attention to global initiatives of highly interconnected logistics chains, such as the Physical Internet. This group believes that developing around initiatives like the physical internet is changing the way the world does logistics.

The physical internet: Drawing the future of logistics

The Physical Internet (PI) is an emerging concept conceived in the early 2010s. This initiative aims to mitigate current logistics and supply chain practices that are inefficient and unsustainable in the long term. PI is expected to work by organising the transport of physical goods in the same way that packets of data are transported on the digital Internet.

City digitallayer

The scientific literature describes the physical Internet as the application of the principles of the digital Internet to logistics networks. In this sense, the development and combination of disruptive technologies are essential to creating this highly collaborative logistics network that represents a radical change in the way logistics is done.

Why ePIcenter?

The ePicenter project, funded by the European Union, is an initiative that explores opportunities to use artificial intelligence, digitalisation, automation, and innovation in freight transport management to create powerful solutions that increase the resilience, efficiency, and sustainability of supply chains. This project strengthens the path towards the development of the PI initiative which is expected to have functional applications by 2050.

This initiative is built upon international collaboration between partners in several countries worldwide. Indeed, this includes Latin American partners that contribute insights on the future of the trade between the EU and Latin America. This is especially important since the EU is Latin America’s most important development partner, and the value of trade with Latin America is growing significantly in 2021.

Physical internet

Universidad de La Sabana is contributing to the discussion on the link between Artificial Intelligence, transportation and smart cities and how future transportation systems will be designed. In addition, we participate in the development of AI, optimisation, and simulation-based tools to identify the impacts of new transactional routes, new logistics network configurations or new technologies on global trade. Further, this collaboration encompasses a global vision of the future of trade with Latin America that considers the quickly changing geopolitical environment and the disruption generated by new technologies.

State of the art of PI and disruptive technologies

Today, our researchers have made progress in identifying the state of the art of disruptive and Industry 4.0 technologies that are increasing the efficiency of logistics services, along with algorithms for optimising the design decisions of these new systems. Because Industry 4.0 and disruptive technologies are topics with many contributions and applications, all Systematic Literature reviews on the topic have been analysed, concluding that there are still significant opportunities for building prescriptive algorithms to optimise logistics decisions in the Physical Internet world.

International Impact

Universidad de La Sabana is also conducting research on the challenges and constraints that organizations involved in global trade are facing when adopting technology-based solutions for supply chain optimisation.

Logistics global

Initially, we want to focus on non-European markets to get an understanding of:

  • The interests of organisations operating in developing regions/countries in technology-based solutions for supply chain optimisation.
  • The status of implementation/uptake of technology-based solutions for supply chain optimisation in developing regions/countries.
  • The applicability of the ePIcenter-solutions for these regions/countries.

As a result, it is expected to provide inputs and iterative developments of the ePIcenter solutions concerning the requirements of users on non-European markets. Also, this will result in a detailed analysis of ePIcenter impact (and corresponding exploitation plan).

Optimising highly interconnected networks

Finally, we are in the initial phase of the development of optimisation algorithms for decision-making and analysing location decisions of hubs or logistic platforms in the context of highly interconnected and shared distribution networks. Up to date, little information is available on significant discussions on how logistics decisions are affected in a PI environment. Moreover, we want to explore different systems and technologies that help companies to make decisions in large-scale problems.


[1] Barbero, J. A. (2010). Freight logistics in Latin America and the Caribbean: An agenda to improve performance. Editorial Committee, 57.

[2] Vassallo, J. M., & Bueno, P. C. (2019). Transport Challenges in Latin American Cities: Lessons Learnt from Policy Experiences (Vol. 692). Inter-American Development Bank.