Many commercial and manufacturing enterprises are now actively concerned with issues such as carbon emissions, environmentally compatible supply chains and alternative drive technologies. The transportation and logistics segment summarizes these activities under the term “green logistics.” Usually this means individual measures taken by logistics service providers or shipping alliances to optimize transportation processes. “Energy-efficient Logistics,” a project initiated by the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability (SLN) in Sinsheim, Germany, takes things a step further, leveraging the synergies between businesses, vocational schools and vocational training programs. Vocational trainers, instructors and trainees are being educated in ways to improve energy efficiency in the transportation and logistics sector. The initiative is being funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt - DBU).
Actions taken under the initiative focus on different fields of work. Instructors attend continuing professional development courses based on train-the-trainer principles. In the vocational schools, the sequence of instruction is based on a corresponding educational concept. And a third field of action focuses on educating and supporting sustainability teams, which consist of the vocational trainer, one or more trainees, and the instructor.
The continuing professional development courses for instructors place a spotlight on issues such as green accounting, carbon footprints, and environmentally compatible supply chains. The objective is to narrow or close gaps in participants’ understanding of sustainability and energy efficiency. To date some 100 teachers have participated in the project-specific events.
The Steinbeis team provides regular rounds of instruction at the partner schools. They use topic-specific teaching materials which have now reached more than 300 students.
The different sustainability teams focus their work on specific issues affecting their business. They receive training in the form of on-site workshops. In the case of one project partner in the Lalendorf district of Rostock, the sustainability team is looking at innovative rail logistics with the goal of developing a more energy-efficient customer solution. The starting point for the team’s hands-on assignment is an actual transportation contract being fulfilled by the logistic service provider which employs the two trainees. Currently the provider almost exclusively uses road transport, but in the future the company is aiming to offer customers a solution that includes rail transport between northeastern and southern Germany.
A team from Kehl am Rhein is focusing on environmentally compatible supply chains. The goal here is to improve energy efficiency by using a weight-optimized semitrailer. The trainees threw their full energy into the challenge, conducting research and calculations before submitting a proposal to management. Today the weight-optimized semitrailer is in operation. As a special highlight for the trainees, the truck tarp bears the name of the project and the German Federal Environmental Foundation.
The project is already a complete success. The project partners have continued to step up their efforts, while intensive networking has allowed concrete sustainability measures to take root among the trainers in the companies as well as the instructors in the participating vocational schools. In October 2013, the initiative was honored by the German National Committee of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, receiving recognition for its contribution to the Learning Sustainability alliance.