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4PL of Sustainable Logistics: People, Process, Technology and Infrastructure

Sustainability Outlook spoke to Mr. Tushar R. Dave, VP- Central Logistics, ACC Ltd., regarding his views on sustainable logistics in India.

What are the key drivers for sustainable logistics?

Sustainability starts with the top management commitment towards both, organizational and environmental health and safety. In my opinion, the four pillars of sustainable logistics, in the order of priority are:

  • People competency
  • Mature processes
  • Enabling technology 
  • Quality infrastructure 

Top management commitment gets fructified through a competent team. The right team can develop mature processes which in turn ensure continuity and sustainability independent of people by enabling technology. Enabling technology ensures that processes are automated and executed with minimal errors. Lastly, quality infrastructure reduces the risk of organizational and environmental health and safety hazards.


What initiatives have been undertaken by ACC to promote sustainability in logistics? 

Several initiatives have been taken by ACC to ensure organizational and environmental health and safety. The executives of each region demonstrate their commitment by auditing and reviewing logistics mechanisms at least once a month.  We have a strong and committed 125 member logistics team focusing on these issues. Strong logistics capabilities have been inculcated in the last 6 years, and we continuously work towards enhancing that. 

Technology enabling has been undertaken in terms of RFID, GPS, truck scheduling, and optimization.

We have 75 year old plants, which is why we are undertaking multiple initiatives to enhance our existing infrastructure. We are working on facility enhancement both at the plant level as well as at the distribution centers.


What impact have these initiatives had?

Logistics cost as a percent of sale is almost 25% in the cement industry. The year-on-year logistics inflation is 8-10%. Due to the multiple initiatives being undertaken, we have been able to beat down this logistics inflation. 

We are aspiring towards ‘zero harm’ both at our warehouses and factories as well as during transportation to client locations. An increased level of awareness, organization and environment, health and safety consciousness leads to a gradual reduction of the hazards that are being faced by our employees as well as our third party partners.

A strong foundation has been laid for sustaining the efforts on an ongoing basis for the coming years. The journey has just begun and I would say that we are in the first phase of our journey, which would have a total of 3 phases amounting to 36 months.


What are the challenges for India Inc. to adopt more sustainable measures for logistics?

The major challenge lies in the environment and infrastructure, whether it is internal or external to the organization. There are various challenges for sustainable logistics, some of them within an organization ecosystem, which can be addressed. These may include:

  • Inadequate infrastructure and environment, like evacuation facilities in plants, health and safety facilities in distribution centers
  • Poor quality of existing assets
  • Inadequacy in the capabilities of people in the logistics function and inability to internalize the concept of sustainability 
  • High cost IT infrastructure and solutions which will enable optimization


How do we overcome these challenges?

These challenges are mutually inclusive to both the industry and government. We can’t clearly differentiate between where the government needs to intervene and where the industry bodies need to work. A collaborative and proactive approach is needed between the government and industry bodies to overcome some of these challenges in all the four pillars mentioned above. 

Along with increased investment for improvement in infrastructure, increased awareness and enhanced knowledge amongst all stakeholders (including standard operating procedures, technology solutions etc.) is the key to overcome some of the challenges in logistics.


What learnings can be drawn from international practices?

All the initiatives undertaken by the developed economies for implementing logistics standards and improving verticals cannot simply be applied to Indian businesses as is. The learnings need to be contextualized in the Indian situation. There is no copy-paste model. The interventions need to be adopted in a phase manner across all the four pillars so that they are replicable at a price that we can afford.

Where is the future of sustainable logistics heading, in India?

Sustainable Logistics is going to be the next wave in India. The Indian industry is becoming largely supply-chain driven. There is less and less differentiation between competitors in manufacturing and the sales processes. So apart from dynamic product innovation, logistics is going to be the key differentiator. Success will be largely driven by how a company manages its supply chain and how efficient and safe the supply-chain is. 

In the Indian context, over the next one or two decades, we have to flush out all the cobwebs in the system including in-bound logistics, out-bound logistics, inter-plant logistics , i.e. all the way from source to point of consumption. 


With over 25 years of experience in the logistics industry, Mr. Dave, is currently in charge of all central logistics at ACC Ltd. A mechanical engineering graduate, Mr. Dave has had a rich experience working as an entrepreneur and Founded Anantara Solutions, a SCM and Global logistics practice in 1999. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Satyam Computer Services Limited and a General Manager at Godrej GE Appliances Limited.

Author: Sustainability Outlook
Industry Term: Sustainable Logistics