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Sustainable supply chain: How can we balance commercial need with mobility?

This Concordia researcher uses math and big data to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector
September 24, 2018
By Jasmine Stuart

20180806-Anjali-Aswathi---CAPSTONE-017-hero Anjali Awasthi wants to improve mobility in our cities and curtail the amount of vehicles on the road.

The numbers can often seem overwhelming. In 2015, Environment Canada reported that the transportation sector was the second largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for 24 per cent of the nation’s total. Between 1990 and 2015, emissions in the industry actually rose by 42 per cent.

Anjali Awasthi, associate professor in the Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering, wants to improve these statistics. Working with a team of eight doctoral and nine master’s students, she uses modelling, simulation, data mining and optimization tools to develop sustainability solutions in supply chain management and transform mobility in our cities.

“I want to know how goods can be distributed in an urban area in ways that minimally harm community life and the environment,” explains Awasthi.

In a recent NSERC Engage project, Awasthi aimed to mitigate GHG emissions by reducing the amount of time transport trucks spend idling while waiting to deliver goods at inland ports. She and her students assessed the whole system, looking at what procedures and technologies all parties were using. Their solution was a simple one: set appointments for trucks to make deliveries and a process that ensures drivers do not wait when they arrive.

Awasthi is also interested in systems of shared mobility and ways to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. She has worked with Communauto since 2009 and looks at innovative ways to reduce GHG emissions related to transportation. The initiative also aims to curtail the number of vehicles on the road through car sharing and public transportation, as well as ensure that company cars run on clean technologies such as electric and hybrid cars.

“Sustainability solutions all have a trade off,” explains Awasthi. “They need to be developed strategically, collaboratively and implemented in consultation with all stakeholders.” For Awasthi, optimal solutions are those that combine personal and organizational decision-making, have systems that encourage behavioural changes, and include policies that incentivize these modifications.

In addition to her impressive teaching and research portfolios, Awasthi recently received the Eldon Gunn Service Award from the Canadian Operational Research Society (CORS) for her outstanding contributions to the society since 2007. Currently the education chair and national coordinator for CORS Diploma, she previously served as a program coordinator, judge for the student paper competition and chair of the CORS student paper competition’s undergraduate category.

Up next for Awasthi is determining how pervasive computing technologies, such as the Internet of Things, can mitigate congestion on the roads using self-driving fleets and smart traffic systems!

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