Posts by Carmen Humplik

Winds of change in freight transportation supply chain: Platooning technology

CarmenHumplik

Freight transportationEvery year, the city of Ottawa hosts an event called Doors Open Ottawa. Approximately 150 historically, culturally, and functionally significant buildings open their doors to the public. If you’re a resident of the city, it’s a great way to explore your own backyard as it allows you to gain access to buildings that are normally closed to the public.

This year, my family and I decided to take advantage of the event and visit National Research Council (NRC), Canada’s 9 m wind tunnel testing facility. This is the third largest wind tunnel testing facility in the world. Their testing spans across many industries including aerospace, automotive, surface transportation, construction, energy, and sports.

Our tour guide, one of the researchers at the facility, was speaking about both their past and current projects. I found it interesting to discover that one of their current projects has direct impact on supply chains; more specifically, on freight transportation. They are currently testing the aerodynamics of trucks driving in a peloton formation, which is also known as platooning.

Platooning is a technique that is similar to those employed in cycling road races where cyclists ride in close formation to help them conserve energy and reduce drag. When you reduce the distance between trucks (somewhere around 5 to 10 meters), you can also reduce drag, and, as a result, save on fuel and lower C02 emissions. Advocates for truck platooning also claim that it could have the added benefit of improving highway safety because it better controls speed and could help reduce chain collisions.

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Can you win with a broken chain?

CarmenHumplik

close-up of bicycle chain and gears

If you’re not familiar with the sport of downhill mountain biking, it basically involves racing down a mountain on a steep, narrow, and gnarly track to reach the finish line as fast as possible. Currently, one of the most dominant riders on the downhill racing scene is an American by the name of Aaron Gwin. Gwin, who until very recently rode for the Specialized bike company, is the 2015 overall UCI Downhill Mountain Biking World Cup title holder. He also provided spectators with one of the most riveting moments of the 2015 race season by winning a race… without a chain. During his race run in Leogang, Austria, Gwin’s chain broke a few pedal strokes out of the starting gate. In downhill racing, where every second counts, a broken chain usually spells disaster. Astoundingly, by using his incredible riding skills (and, I suspect, minimal braking), Gwin managed to build enough momentum and speed to win the race.

According to recent news from Specialized, it appears that Gwin’s isn’t the only chain problem that they are dealing with. They announced they are laying off three percent of their global workforce. A company spokesperson stated they need to realign the organization to focus “on three key areas: innovation, marketing, and supply chain.” Mike Sinyard, Specialized founder and CEO, said: “We are investing in our supply chain to ensure we are delivering the best product at the best price to riders and our retailers. All of this is an investment in our future.”

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