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The transport geography of logistics and freight distribution

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The transport geography of logistics and freight distributionLogistics and freight transport: from derived to integrated demandIntroductionDefinition of the subjectThe evolution of logisticsThe core geographical dimensions of logisticsFlowsNodes and locationsNetworksThe concept of friction in the transport geography of logisticsTransport/logistics costComplexity of the supply chainTransactional environmentPhysical environmentConclusion and outlookAcknowledgementsReferencesThe transport geography of logistics and freight distributionMarkus Hessea,*, Jean-Paul RodriguebaDepartment of Earth Sciences, Urban Studies, Free University of Berlin, Malteserstr. 74-100 D-12249 Berlin, GermanybDepartment of Economics and Geography, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549, USAAbstractGoods movement and freight distribution are widely underrepresented in regional science and geographical research. This issurprising since a large body of traditional spatial theory has been developed with respect to transportation costs or to trade areas:those aspects that were originally closely connected with the exchange of goods. Growing attention is being paid in geography torelated subjects, such as the emergence of global production networks, to structural changes in retail or to the commodification ofmodern consumption. To a certain extent, these processes depend upon the efficient transfer of information, finance and physicalgoods. Yet, with a few exceptions, the freight sector appears to be neglected in contemporary research. This paper provides anoverview of the emerging transport geography of logistics and freight distribution. It challenges the traditional perspective wheretransportation is considered as a derived demand with the idea that logistical requirements underline transportation as a componentof an integrated demand. The paper provides an analysis of the evolution of logistics as it pertains to the core dimensions oftransport geography (flows, nodes/locations and networks). The concept of logistical friction is also introduced to illustrate theinclusion of the multidimensional notion of impedance in integrated freight transport demand. 2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.Keywords: Logistics; Geography; Freight Transport; Physical distribution; Globalization1. Logistics and freight transport: from derived tointegrated demand1.1. IntroductionThe growing flows of freight have been a fundamentalcomponent of contemporary changes in economic sys-tems at the global, regional and local scales. The con-sideration of these changes must be made within aperspective where they are not merely quantitative, butstructural and operational. Structural changes mainlyinvolve manufacturing systems with their geography ofproduction, while operational changes mainly concernfreight transportation with its geography of distribution.As such, the fundamental question does not necessarilyreside in the nature, origins and destinations of freightmovements, but how this freight is moving. New modesof production are concomitant with new modes of dis-tribution, which brings forward the realm of logistics;the science of physical distribution. Although it repre-sents an entire system of space/time interdependencies,we believe that physical distribution has been neglectedin current geographical, urban or regional studies.Up to recently, geography did not pay much atten-tion to logistics and freight transportation, as the focuswas mainly on passengers and individual mobility issues.Textbooks on urban or general transport geography,like those edited by Hanson (1995), Taaffe et al. (1996)or Hoyle and Knowles (1998), now raise more freightrelated questions than they did in earlier editions, par-ticularly with regard to trade and ports. The latter isprobably the only logistics subject that received majorreference from academic geography. Other core spatialimplications of distribution and logistics have been di-rectly addressed in geography by few authors whodeveloped an insight into wholesale activities and theirgeographical distribution (Glasmeier, 1992; McKinnon,1983, 1988, 1998; Riemers, 1998; Vance, 1970). Fol-lowing the nature of retailing as an originally distribu-tive activity, geographic research on retail andconsumption is of interest in the logistics context too.However, retail geography does not pay much attentionto distribution changes (Marsden and Wrigley, 1996),*Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-30-838-70209; fax: +49-30-838-70749.E-mail address: [email protected] (M. Hesse).0966-6923/$ - see front matter  2003 Published by Elsevier Ltd.doi:10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2003.12.004Journal of Transport Geography xxx (2004) xxx–xxxwww.elsevier.com/locate/jtrangeoARTICLE IN PRESSalthough the physical movement of goods appears to beone of the costliest parts of retail activities (Christoph-erson, 2001). One exception to these observations is inRalston (2003), who does address issues of inventorycarrying costs and supply chain analysis.Despite the upcoming notion of volatility and place-lessness, and contrasting the enduring neglect of trans-portation by regional and geographical sciences, thematerial world of physical distribution and the respec-tive locales is considered of geographical significance.The two traditional disciplines for investigating physicaldistribution are business administration (economics)and transportation sciences. Both cover, to varying de-grees, aspects of space and location. However, it islegitimate to state that both disciplines did not paymuch attention to the spatial character of their subject.In turn, economic and transport geography, did notdevelop too large a focus on logistics––keeping in mindthe broad geographical relevance of distribution. Asubstantial amount of research covers different planningaspects of freight transport particularly in the urbancontext, either from a transport engineering and plan-ning perspective or emphasizing related urban problems(Chinitz, 1960; Odgen, 1992; Woudsma, 2001). Logis-tics, as a geography, remains relatively unexplored.Freight distribution is now considered with moreattention as productivity gains in manufacturing areincreasingly derived from efficiency at terminals insteadof from the efficiency of transportation modes (Rodri-gue, 1999). Because transport geography is traditionallymore engaged in long distance trade issues, freight re-lated work received significant attention. With emergingglobal trade, production networks and


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