How We Work
An innovative public-private partnership housed at the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center (SCTL) at the University of Washington, the Urban Freight Lab (UFL) is a unique strategic workgroup with a bias for action. We bring together private industry and public transportation agencies to explore existing and near-term challenges of urban goods movement, and design and test innovative solutions for how these challenges can be mitigated. UFL leadership exposes members to thought leadership and logistics concepts from around the globe. The UFL enables peer-to-peer exchanges and serves as a catalyst for change. Members also use insight gained through participation to refine and improve their own operations or technology.
Priorities are set democratically (not by UFL leadership) with decisions voted on by members. Our membership represents a holistic community of urban freight stakeholders—from shippers to carriers, real estate firms, urban visionaries, infrastructure, and technology providers.
Although members join periodically, it is imperative to move projects forward at every opportunity. We do our best to help new members catch up offline, but past decisions are not revisited. To ensure continuity and progress, members designate a consistent staff member with deep knowledge of operations and strategic goals and decision-making authority to attend quarterly meetings held at the University of Washington. Members also engage offline between meetings per interest.
We love ideas; actively generate them, and are eager to hear them—but there is a difference between ideas and tested strategies. We believe in piloting urban logistics solutions and conducting rigorous evaluations prior to concluding ideas are effective strategies. We use all available data and, where necessary, generate our own to ensure a data-driven understanding. We establish key performance indicators and evaluate pilot tests at the highest possible standard. Members contribute data on a voluntary basis, and determine what and how to share.
We invite innovators and startups to apply for our annual Tech Day pitch competition, where we evaluate new technologies to determine their efficacy to meet business needs and city goals.
In addition to theoretical work, we believe that practical tests of ideas are an essential part of solution development. As such, we lead and partner in tests of strategies we believe will improve on the goals identified by members.
In Partnership with Cities
Municipal governments provide, manage, and steward our shared infrastructure. They represent all residents, organizations, and businesses, and are responsible for equitable and ethical decision-making. We support cities in this work, and use a systems engineering approach to solve delivery problems that overlap cities’ and businesses’ spheres of control. We invite cities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations who share our passion and vision for urban freight solutions to apply to partner with us for six months of technical assistance in the broad field of urban freight and logistics through our Urban Freight Lab Technical Assistance Program
Our goal is to foster and catalyze improvements to urban freight systems around the world. As such, reports and tools developed from our work are available on our website. We partner with peer institutions to provide critical reviews of our work and are transparent about failures as well as successes.
The UFL is problem-driven, not solution-driven. We focus intently on the problems as defined and prioritized by our members and pursue solutions to these problems. We are agnostic to specific technologies or technology providers but require and seek evidence that these solutions can mitigate existing challenges. If solutions are recommended by UFL research, it is because that technology provides a demonstrable benefit.
How We Work: Members from Ford Motor Company, Kroger, and U.S. Postal Service describe the Urban Freight Lab as a venue to share and solve problems and integrate public and private sector partners.
About the Urban Freight Lab (UFL): An innovative public-private partnership housed at the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center at the University of Washington, the Urban Freight Lab is a structured workgroup that brings together private industry with City transportation officials to design and test solutions around urban freight management.
About the Supply Chain Transportation & Logistics Center: The Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center at the University of Washington is the go-to place to analyze and solve urban goods delivery, sustainability, logistic hubs and ports, and freight system performance management problems that overlap private and public spaces and control. Our work integrates in-depth consultation with industry and the public sector, transformative research, and executive education, and serves the powerful nexus of industry, transportation infrastructure, and policymakers.