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Publications

2017

Physical Internet and interconnected logistics services: research and applications
Authors: Shenle Pan, Eric Ballot, George Q. Huang, Benoit Montreuil

An editorial from Volume 55, 2017 - Issue 9 of the International Journal of Production Research. The special issue is devoted to Physical Internet - a recent concept of breakthrough innovation aiming to improve by an order of magnitude the economical, environmental and societal efficiency and sustainability of the way physical objects are moved, deployed, realised, supplied, designed and used.

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2015

Modular Design of Physical Internet Transport, Handling and Packaging Containers
Authors: Benoit Montreuil, Eric Ballot, William Tremblay

This paper proposes a three-­‐tier characterization of Physical Internet containers into transport, handling and packaging containers. It first provides an overview of goods encapsulation in the Physical Internet and of the generic characteristics of Physical Internet containers. Then it proceeds with an analysis of the current goods encapsulation practices. This leads to the introduction of the three tiers, with explicit description and analysis of containers of each tier. The paper provides a synthesis of the proposed transformation of goods encapsulation and highlights key research and innovation opportunities and challenges for both industry and academia.

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2014

Assessing the Readiness of Africa for the Physical Internet
Authors: Abodohoui A., S. P. Aïhounhin, R. Mayuto, A. Marif, B. Montreuil

In general, infrastructure is a real handicap to be overcome to achieve business performance in Africa. This raises the problem of truthfulness with rationality, sustainability and logistics efficiency identified by the notion of the Physical Internet. Based on content analysis, this paper reflects the reality of Africa and provides an assessment of African logistics economically, environmentally and socially. The logistics sectors covered in this study are: air, land across the road and rail, maritime and river, and telecommunications. The study highlights the African logistics challenges, weaknesses, threats, strengths and opportunities. It also highlights the level of each sector and how logistics in Africa is implemented at regional and national level (intercontinental) and intercontinental. In order to attract the attention of stakeholders on the challenges, a readiness map is proposed relative to the operationalization of the Physical Internet in Africa.

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Crowdsourcing delivery: New interconnected business models to reinvent delivery
Authors: Rougès J.F., B. Montreuil

In the last two years, a new industry is born. Social delivery aims to reinvent delivery by crowdsourcing. Several startups have been founded, with divergent destinies. We examined 18 startups in the industry based on available public documentation. We contribute toward gaining a better understanding of stakeholder value creation in the industry. We introduce a typology of existing business models helping to stress the inherent limitations of the industry. Then, based on the Physical Internet concept, we propose a paradigm change in that nascent industry. Crowdsourced delivery has to become interconnected, beyond point-to-point, embedded in the Physical Internet, as one of the alternative solutions to build the Mobility Web.

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Designing Business Models for Physical Internet Transit Centers
Authors: Oktaei P., N. Lehoux, B. Montreuil

The emergence of the holistic concept of the Physical Internet enables transforming the ways physical objects are designed, manufactured, and distributed. The Physical Internet provides a new open and interconnected structure to logistics networks, allowing to reconfigure business models and value creation patterns. As the Physical Internet is being further conceptualized and experimented, it becomes critical to rigorously investigate how its induced new generation of open logistics centers are to be designed and managed. The focus of this paper is to investigate a specific type of Physical Internet logistics centers, termed Transit Centers, from a business design and strategic management perspective. The emphasis is put on their potential business models, by bringing into play a business modeling canvas as a visual tool for envisioning their business operations. The proposed business models address the utility of deploying the Physical Internet to potential service providers of such nodes.

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Ex ante sustainability improvement assessment of city logistics solutions: learning from a simple interlinked pooling case
Authors: Faure L., B. Montreuil, P. Burlat, G. Marques

City logistics are the last mile in complex supply chains which involve numerous stakeholders: carriers, shopkeepers, e-customers, inhabitants, public administration, etc. It is a small part of the total traveled distance, nevertheless it can represent up to 28% of the total transport cost. Moreover air pollution emissions related to urban freight transport is estimated between 16% and 50% of the overall pollution made by transport activities in a city. However it is not always the crux of urban planners concerns. This is due to the complexity of differing stakes and the lack of adequate knowledge about alternative solutions.

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From Integrated to Interconnected B2C E-Commerce Distribution: An Agent-Based Simulation Assessment
Authors: Naccache S., B. Montreuil, H. Sohrabi, F. Barriault, E. Brotherton

We present in this paper a multi-agent simulation based analysis of the implication of PI enabled interconnected e-commerce distribution, where operational strategies are implemented through the behavior of autonomous software agents, like optimization based dynamic inventory balancing deployment planning. We report improvements in economic, social and environmental performances of interconnected B2C distribution scenarios in comparison with performances of integrated B2C distribution scenarios. We quantify the performances of a leading furniture manufacturer through key performance indicators of simulated scenarios across different distribution stages from the manufacturer factories until reaching the final E-Consumer.

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Functional Design of Physical Internet Facilities: A Road-Based Transit Center
Authors: Meller R.D., B. Montreuil, C. Thivierge, Z. Montreuil

In their 2010 IMHRC paper, Montreuil, Meller and Ballot proposed a set of facility types that would be necessary to operate a Physical Internet, which they termed “ π-nodes.” This paper is part of a three-paper series for the 2012 IMHRC where the authors provide functional designs of three PI facilities. This paper covers a road-based transit center, or road-based π- transit. The mission of a π-transit node is to enable the transfer of π- carriers from their inbound to outbound destinations. Therefore, a roadbased π-transit provides a mechanism to transfer π-trailers from one truck to another. The objective of the paper is to provide a design that is feasible to meet the mission of this type of facility, identify ways to measure the performance of the design, and to identify research models that would assist in the design of such facilities. The functional design is presented in sufficient detail as to provide an engineer a proof of concept.

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Functional Design of Physical Internet Facilities: A Road-Rail Hub
Authors: Ballot E., B. Montreuil, C. Thivierge

As part of the 2010 IMHRC, Montreuil, Meller and Ballot enumerated the type of facilities that would be necessary to operate a Physical Internet (PI, π) which they termed, "π-nodes.” This paper is part of a three-paper series for the 2012 IMHRC where the authors provide functional designs of three PI facilities. This paper covers a PI road-rail hub. The purpose of a PI road-rail node is to enable the transfer of PI containers from their inbound to outbound destinations. Therefore, a road-rail π-hub provides a mechanism to transfer π-containers from a train to another one or a truck or from a truck to a train. The objective of the paper is to provide a design that is feasible to meet the objectives of this type of facility, identify ways to measure the performance of the design, and to identify research models that would assist in the design of such facilities. The functional design is presented in sufficient detail as to provide an engineer a proof of concept.

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Functional Design of Physical Internet Facilities: A Unimodal Road-Based Crossdocking Hub
Authors: Montreuil B., R.D. Meller, C. Thivierge, Z. Montreuil

As part of the 2010 IMHRC, Montreuil, Meller and Ballot proposed a set of facility types that would be necessary to operate a Physical Internet (PI, π), which they termed π-nodes. This paper is part of a three-paper series for the 2012 IMHRC where the authors provide functional designs of three PI facilities. This paper covers a unimodal road-based crossdocking hub designed specifically to exploit the characteristics of Physical Internet modular containers so as to enable the efficient and sustainable transhipment of each of them from its inbound truck to its outbound truck. The objective of the paper is to provide a design that is feasible to meet the objectives of this type of facility, identify ways to measure the performance of the design, and to identify research models that would assist in the design of such facilities. The functional design is presented in sufficient detail as to provide an engineer a proof of concept.

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Interconnected logistics networks and protocols: simulation-based efficiency assessment
Authors: Sarraj R., E. Ballot, S. Pan, D. Hakimi, B. Montreuil

Logistic networks intensely use means of transportation and storage facilities to deliver goods. However, these logistic networks are still poorly interconnected and this fragmentation is responsible for a lack of consolidation and thus efficiency. To cope with the seeming contradiction of just-in-time deliveries and challenging emissions targets, a major improvement in supply networks is sought here. This new organisation is based on the universal interconnection of logistics services, namely a Physical Internet where goods travel in modular containers for the sake of interconnection in open networks. If from a logical point of view, merging container flows should improve efficiency, no demonstration of its potential has been carried out prior to the here reported research. To reach this potentiality assessment goal, we model the asynchronous shipment and creation of containers within an interconnected network of services, find the best path routing for each container and minimise the use of transportations means. To carry out the demonstration and assess the associated stakes, we use a set of actual flows from the fast-moving consumer goods sector in France. Various transportation protocols and scenarios are tested, revealing encouraging results for efficiency indicators such as CO2emissions, cost, lead time, delivery travel time, and so forth. As this is a first work in the field of flows transportation, the simulation model and experiment exposes many further research avenues.

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The Physical Internet Concept for Libraries: A First Set of Ideas
Authors: Roodbergen K.J., B. Montreuil, I.F.A. Vis

Libraries experience a declining readership base due to developments in e-books and the internet. At the same time governmental subsidies are highly reduced. However, cultural and societal constraints enforce libraries to keep up with a high service level and offer a full assortment to its customers. Historically, this was done by offering a full assortment in each library branch. However, floating collections, central storage and other logistics solutions might help libraries to reduce costs and at the same time keep service levels high. We note that potentially the decline of library usage will dampen in the future with the next generation that seems to care less about ownership. It is more about being able to read than to own books. This might improve the attractiveness of libraries. In this paper we study the potential of the physical internet concept for Dutch libraries to enable a smoothly operating library system being able to keep up its standards.

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Towards An Interconnected Distribution Planning Framework
Authors: Sohrabi H., B. Montreuil

The recently introduced Physical Internet (PI) opens the way to more efficient and sustainable logistics enabled by smart interconnected networks of open hubs, distribution centers (DCs) and fabs. This paper focuses on interconnected distribution planning exploiting the PIempowered Open Distribution Web that allows any business to dynamically deploy its products across geo-markets, in numerous open DCs owned and operated by other businesses. Such a context requires rethinking how distribution is to be planned as current frameworks are too static and constrained. The paper introduces an interconnected distribution planning framework structured through four interlaced levels: network, distribution, deployment and delivery. Each level has its specific set of decisions to be optimized in a dynamic rolling horizon context. Exploiting an illustrative case, the paper provides insights on the concepts and methods at the core of the proposed framework.

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Towards Physical Internet Enabled Interconnected Humanitarian Logistics
Authors: Ado A., I. Ben Othmane, M. Matei, B. Montreuil

The paper starts by an introductory perspective that explains the idea of completely revolutionizing humanitarian logistics. It then presents a broad literature review on the concept of PI and its core principles. It summarizes the current main humanitarian logistics practices and challenges, and repositions them through a PI conceptual framework. Expected results are underlined with a proposition of creating an interconnected humanitarian logistics system based on a PI conceptualization, suggesting the key components for its operationalization, including protocols, humanitarian informational platforms, and monitoring approaches while exposing scenarios of operating such humanitarian global logistics network

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Using Cloud computing as a Model to Design the Service Web
Authors: Darvish M., El Boukili M., Kérékou S., Montreuil B.

A key concept is that what the Service Web represents for the Physical internet is similar to what cloud computing represents for the Digital Internet. Following this thought, it is proposed that cloud computing be used as a model to initiate the development of the Service Web. To demonstrate the proposed conceptual model of Service Web, it is contextualized in the construction industry as an example. Current practices within the construction industry are first highlighted, then an illustration is provided of how construction companies can benefit from the use of Service Web. This paper offers a perspective on the utility and value of the Service Web for companies that will be using the Physical Internet. It is to be useful to researchers and companies interested in the new Physical Internet paradigm and notably on the potential for interconnected open pooling to improve the accessibility and utilization of assets and goods.

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2012

An Open Logistics Interconnection Model for the Physical Internet
Authors: Montreuil B., E. Ballot, F. Fontane

Computer networks have been interconnected through the last decades with huge advantage into a worldwide Digital Internet. Unlike their digital counterparts, logistics networks remain highly fragmented, still mostly dedicated to a company or a specific market. The recently introduced Physical Internet concept proposes to remedy this situation by interconnecting logistics services on a global scale. The implementation and deployment of the Digital Internet has profited extensively from a structured and a standardized approach to interconnect networks. Indeed, the layered structuring of digital services and protocols associated to both the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model and the TCP/IP model has been instrumental in shaping the Digital Internet. This paper proposes, describes and illustrates a sevenlayer Open Logistics Interconnection (OLI) model to enable interconnecting logistics services within the Physical Internet. It describes each proposed layer and the way logistic services are organized within and across these layers

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Analogies between Internet networks and logistics service networks: challenges involved in the interconnection
Authors: Sarraj R., E. Ballot, S. Pan, B. Montreuil

Logistics networks that are currently formed by supply chains are intertwined but remain heterogeneous and not very interconnected. In computer networks, this stage was overtaken with the arrival of Internet. In this paper we explore the possible analogies and transpositions between computer networks, in particular Internet, and logistic networks. To this end, a new logistical concept was proposed: Physical Internet that aims at the interconnection of networks of logistic services. In fact, there are strong similarities between these networks in spite of the basic differences in the type of objects that prevent an integral transposition. To illustrate the pertinence of this analogy, the authors illustrate the interconnection potential of logistics networks with a stylised model. In view of the exploratory nature of this work, this impact will be assessed by means of an analytic model based on a method of continuous approximations. This illustration provides an indication of the potential inherent in the interconnection of logistics networks.

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Modeling scenario-based distribution network design in a Physical Internet enabled open Logistics Web
Authors: Sohrabi H., W. Klibi, B. Montreuil

This paper aims to propose a rigorous assessment, through an optimization-based approach, of the economic performance potential offered by the recently introduced Physical Internet regarding the design of distribution net-works. The paper describes the existing distribution network design context through the characterization of current closed and collaborative distribution systems. It also depicts the open and global Distribution Web, a key constituent of the Logistics Web to be enabled by the Physical Internet. The paper characterizes and models future business environment with a set of scenarios taking into account various evolutionary paths of the world economic, environmental and societal future. Subsequently, it formally introduces a scenario-based distribution network design model, in a two-stage setting, to decide on the set of distribution facilities to open and their mission. First, a generic form of the model is provided and then, it is adapted to the closed, collaborative and open web contexts

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Physical Internet and Business Model Innovation, The
Authors: Montreuil B., J.-F. Rougès, Y. Cimon, D. Poulin

Building on the analogy of data packets within the Digital Internet, the Physical Internet is a concept that dramatically transforms how physical objects are designed, manufactured, and distributed. This approach is open, efficient, and sustainable beyond traditional proprietary logistical solutions, which are often plagued by inefficiencies. The Physical Internet redefines supply chain configurations, business models, and value-creation patterns. Firms are bound to be less dependent on operational scale and scope trade-offs because they will be in a position to offer novel hybrid products and services that would otherwise destroy value. Finally, logistical chains become flexible and reconfigurable in real time, thus becoming better in tune with firm strategic choices. This article focuses on the potential impact of the Physical Internet on business model innovation, both from the perspectives of Physical-Internet enabled and enabling business models.

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Simulating a Physical Internet enabled mobility web: the case of mass distribution in France
Authors: Hakimi D., B. Montreuil, R. Sarraj, E. Ballot, S. Pan

Physical Internet (PI, π) is a novel concept aiming to render more economically, environmentally and socially efficient and sustainable the way physical objects are transported, handled, stored, realized, supplied and used throughout the world. It enables, among other webs, the Mobility Web which deals with moving physical objects within an interconnected set of unimodal and multimodal hubs, transits, ports, roads and ways. We want to develop and use holistic simulations to study and quantify the impact in terms of economical, environmental, and social efficiency and performance of evolving from the current system of freight transportation toward an open logistics web in France. This paper focuses on how the mobility web simulator supporting this study was designed and developed. The simulator produces large-scale simulations of mobility webs consisting of a large number of companies, sites and agents dealing with thousands of daily orders. It supports route and rail transportation modes, pallets and PI-containers for product shipping, different kinds of routing and shipping strategies, and various types of hubs.

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2011

A Conceptual Framework for Designing Non-Programmed Decision Support Systems in the Context of Supply Webs
Authors: Hakimi D., B. Montreuil

With the desire to offer decision support systems for a field of study as large as supply chain management when taking in consideration the supply web dimensions, it is necessary to combine concepts, methods, and approaches, capable of handling extreme complexity, into a multidisciplinary approach. The paper introduces a conceptual framework that blends a variety of concepts into one consistent body of knowledge around the design of decision support systems for supply chain management. The framework is based upon a holistic approach to create, model, and build tools that takes in consideration the complexity inherited in supply webs to provide, at the end, an efficient non-programmed multi-dimensional decision support.

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From Private Supply Networks and Shared Supply Webs to Physical Internet Enabled Open Supply Webs
Authors: Sohrabi H., Montreuil B.

The way supply networks are designed has evolved through the years in order to address changes in the business environment, such as increasing customer service requirements, shortening of product life cycles and never ending pressures for inventory reduction. It is thus not surprising that hundreds of supply chain and supply network researches have been reported since the introduction of the concepts, focused on designing supply chains and networks so as to concurrently minimize logistics costs and maximize customer service in a turbulent and competitive environment.

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Physical Internet enabled open hub network design for distributed networked operations
Authors: Ballot E., O. Gobet, B. Montreuil

Supply networks are still mainly based on organizations essentially centralized, dedicated and thus fragmented, whose sustainability becomes ever more problematic nowadays. The recently introduced Physical Internet tackles this problem by interconnecting all the logistics services through the encapsulation of the goods in smart modular containers. Within this framework, network adaptation with distributed routing problems take the lead over classical network design with flow assignment problems. Thanks to recent progresses made in the Digital Internet domain, decentralized approaches are foreseen to be applied for solving those problems on the large scale mandated by the Physical Internet. This leads us to propose here an evolutionist approach to solve the Physical Internet open hub network design problem. We model the problem, formally introduce the design approach, analyze empirical results and provide conclusion remarks and opportunities for further research.

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Towards a Physical Internet: Meeting the Global Logistics Sustainability Grand Challenge
Authors: Montreuil B.

This paper starts with the assertion that the way physical objects are currently transported, handled, stored, realized, supplied, and used throughout the world is unsustainable economically, environmentally, and socially. Evidence supporting this assertion is exposed through a set of key unsustainability symptoms. Then, the paper expresses the goal to revert this situation, thus meeting the global logistics sustainability grand challenge. It suggests exploiting the Digital Internet metaphor to develop a Physical Internet vision toward meeting this grand challenge. The paradigm breaking vision is introduced through a set of its key characteristics. The paper then proceeds with addressing the implications and requirements for implementing the Physical Internet vision as a means to meet the grand challenge. It concludes with a call for further research, innovation, and development to really shape and assess the vision and, much more important, to give it flesh through real initiatives and projects so as to really influence in a positive way the collective future. For this to happen, it emphasizes the requirement for multidisciplinary collaboration among and between academia, industry, and government across localities, countries, and continents.

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Towards a worldwide Physical Internet
Authors: Mustapha Lounès, Benoit Montreuil

Aiming for a radical sustainability improvement, the Physical Internet Initiative (PI2) has the potential of revolutionizing the fields of material handling, logistics, transportation, and facilities design. It exploits the enabling concept of standardized, modular and smart container as well as the universal interconnectivity of logistics networks and services. Its underlying paradigm shift creates a tremendous breakthrough innovation opportunity for the material handling and facility logistics community in terms of equipment, systems, and facility design and operation.

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Typology of Logistic Networks and the Potential of the Physical Internet
Authors: Ballot E., B. Montreuil, F. Fontane

The topology of the logistic networks that contribute contemporary logistics is minimally examined or challenged in the assessment and improvement of the performance of supply chains, logistic and freight transportation. We shoe in this paper that the topology of logistic networks has a major performance impact and that it can be significantly improved if the actual organization of flows is substituted by an organization founded on the universal interconnectivity of logistic networks: the Physical Internet. Given the exploratory nature of this work, the demonstration is achieved analytically by exploiting the continuous approximation method.The performance of contemporary vs. Physical Internet enabled network topologies is measured and contrasted through transportation throughput requirements, flow travel, and total costs.

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2010

Supply Web Agent-Based Simulation Platform
Authors: D. Hakimi, B. Montreuil, O. Labarthe

A Supply Web is a network of interrelated supply networks, each embedding interlaced supply chains, involving multiple organizations with collaborative or competitive supply relationships. The Supply Web concept involves both high complexity and large scale modelling. It requires to deal with soft, behavioural and systemic perspectives to address issues facing managers in these large complex supply systems. In this article, we introduce a Supply Web Simulation Platform to support the decision making in the complex environment of Supply Webs. The platform is a multi-agent tool that creates virtual worlds featuring complex organization behaviours and relationships while considering a granulated level of detail. The platform is connected through a Database to a set of Supply Web Business applications that allow users to visualize, monitor, mine and assess the dynamic states and performances of the virtual supply webs studied enacted by the Simulator.

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Towards a Physical Internet: the impact on logistics facilities and material handling systems design and innovation
Authors: Montreuil B., R. D. Meller, E. Ballot

Aiming for a radical sustainability improvement, the Physical Internet has the potential of revolutionizing the fields of material handling, logistics, transportation and facilities design. It exploits the enabling concept of standardized, modular and smart containers as well as the universal interconnectivity of logistics networks and services. Its underlying paradigm shift creates a tremendous breakthrough innovation opportunity for the material handling and facility logistics community in terms of equipment, systems and facility design and operation. This paper provides a primer overview of a key subset of the physical elements serving as the foundation of the Physical Internet infrastructure, classified in three categories: containers, movers and nodes. Each element introduced is characterized and illustrated to enable visualization of their innovative nature. The paper helps uncover a wide variety of potent research avenues.

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2009

Supply Web Mapper
Authors: D. Hakimi, B. Montreuil, O. Labarthe

This article introduces the concept of Supply Web Mapper which is a visualisation, mining, and assessment application allowing analysts or decision-makers to explore in a summarised and efficient way the Supply Web created through the interactions of multiple organizations. The mapper allows a visual mining of a Supply Web by exploiting available partner’s databases while protecting their confidentiality. A Supply Web is an open generalization of the well known notions of logistic networks and supply chains. The mapper leads to the representation of a large quantity of data supplied by inter organizational information systems, in several multi-dimensional synthetic diagrams. These diagrams take the form of spreadsheets, data graphs, conceptual and geographical maps. The article presents a prototype developed in our laboratories and tested on a large scale case in a retail Supply Web.

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Supply Web: Concept and Technology
Authors: D. Hakimi, B. Montreuil, O. Labarthe, A. Larcher, M. Audet

The concepts of supply chain, supply network and extended collaboration between partners are constantly pushing the limits of what should be considered when dealing with supply chain management. Managers that were dealing only with adjacent partners, started to consider multi-level supply chains, then extended to more complex supply networks, and are now beginning to consider networks that are interacting with other networks. In this article we introduce the concept of Supply Web as a network of interrelated supply networks, involving multiple organizations with collaborative or competitive supply relationships. In order to take into consideration the complexity involved with this concept and to enable managers and analysts to exploit it, we present Supply Web Technologies. We focus on their conceptualization, on highlighting their usefulness in supporting managers involved in supply webs, and on depicting how they can be instrumental in enabling and enhancing collaboration between networked organizations.

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