Logistics: No Drivers Needed

While it may take quite a few years before autonomous vehicles hit the road, much progress has been made in this technology that companies hope will have long-term logistical benefits.

By the BF Staff
From the September/October 2017 Issue

A major logistics trend on the rise is autonomous road transportation—no drivers needed. They do not require sleep, a paycheck, background checks, or drug and alcohol testing. The trend of autonomous truck development has grown over the last couple of years. And while it may take some time before these vehicles are ready to hit the road, the progress is being made and has the potential to drive greater economic efficiency than any other supply chain technology, slashing the cost of transport, once all the legal, safety and social issues are overcome.

Autonomous vehicles (AV) already have taken on a significant part of the logistics work process. Autonomous forklifts and robot arms load, unload and transport goods within the warehouse area, connecting to one another and forming flexible conveyor belts. Just like AVs, these tasks require advanced sensors, as well as vision and geo guidance technology. In addition to warehouses, autonomous vehicles in logistics can also be found in airports, harbors and yards.

According to a recent McKinsey Report, however, fully autonomous vehicles will not be available for a while. Companies need to resolve the issues surrounding several sets of factors. These elements of autonomous driving include actuation (steering, braking and acceleration); localization and mapping (data fusion for environment mapping and vehicle localization); cloud (learning and updating high definition maps, including traffic data, as well as algorithms for object detection, classification and decision making); analytics (platform for monitoring autonomous system’s operation, detecting faults and generating recommendations); perception and object analysis (object and obstacle detection, classification and tracking); middleware or operating system (middleware and real-time operating system to run algorithms); drive control (converting algorithm outputs into drive signal for actuators); computer software (high performance, low power consumption system on a chip (SOC) with high reliability); decision making (planning vehicle path, trajectory and maneuvers); and sensors (multiple sensors, including lidar, sonar, radar and cameras).

Eventually large autonomous trucks will deliver the goods and autonomous forklifts will unload the packages and put them in their place using a network of conveyor belts and robot arms. To get to this point will require many in-between steps completed through research and development and extensive testing and validation. Similar to self-driving cars, the vehicles most likely will first be semi-autonomous. For example, the Mercedes-Benz semi-autonomous truck prototype scheduled for release in 2025 has a computer that will not completely replace the driver, but will allow them to do other things inside of the cabin. So while these vehicles will at first play a supporting role in the logistics transportation process, eventually a complete overtaking may come. This is a definite asset for companies when it comes to finances and safety. It is also helpful in terms of the current truck driver shortage that the American Tucking Association estimates at more than 38,000.


Indiana may be known as the Crossroads of America, but the aptly named Hoosier state connects far more than travelers criss-crossing through the state’s network of interstate highways.

Indiana’s easy access and unmatched road, rail and waterway connectivity make the state a logistics hub and prime location for distribution centers, which need to get products to every corner of the nation quickly and efficiently.

In fact, Indiana ranks No.1 in the nation for pass-through highways, No. 1 in the shortest distance to median center of U.S. population and is home to the second largest FedEx hub worldwide.

Johnson County, located on Indianapolis’ near south side, is capitalizing on its prime location and welcoming the logistics industry and scores of distribution centers to the area. With over one million people living within a 30-minute drive, distribution and fulfillment centers in the county have doubled over the past decade. The logistics sector now represents more than five percent of the local workforce, and is seeing steady growth.

The newest addition in Greenwood is a 66,000-square-foot distribution center for MaxLite, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of energy efficient lighting solutions. The addition of the Indiana location to its distribution networks now enables MaxLite to offer two-day shipping of its LED products to customers nationwide. The company touts the location and immediate access to primary freight carriers as key factors in choosing a home for its new center.

MaxLite follows on the heels of other distribution centers that have chosen Johnson County in the past couple of years, including Peltz Shoes and beauty products giant, Ulta Inc., which is now the city of Greenwood’s second largest employer.

Contributing to the area’s outstanding infrastructure are Johnson County REMC, a member-owned electric distribution cooperative, and Hoosier Energy, a generation and transmission cooperative providing wholesale power and services to the distribution cooperative.

Johnson County REMC CEO Chet Aubin works closely with community businesses to ensure that reliable power is always included as one of the advantages for locating in the area. “As an REMC we constantly look forward to what the county will need for future development and are prepared to be ahead of the growth. As the number of distribution centers has increased we’ve doubled a substation in the past year and are looking at adding another substation in the near future in Greenwood.”

And Johnson County REMC isn’t just focused on power. Aubin added that the cooperative began installing fiber optics alongside electric lines about seven years ago, anticipating an ever-increasing need for high-speed Internet.

“Our planning for increased power along with installing the fiber optic lines has been extremely important for our commercial customers,” said Aubin. “This has been essential especially for the new distribution centers, like MaxLite and Ulta, we see moving into the area. Their entire operation relies on real time information to fill customer orders and get them out the door quickly.”

The REMC meets regularly with Hoosier Energy for load forecasting to plan for the growing community that currently has 2 million square feet of new industrial, warehousing and distribution space available for relocating and expanding businesses. There are also 12 new residential subdivisions planned, and the county recently added 350 acres zoned industrial, which can accommodate more than 3 million square feet of new development.

Interim Executive Director at Johnson County Development Corporation, Dana Monson, also attributes the growth in distribution and fulfillment centers to the ideal location, and credits additional community attributes for the economic upturn the county is experiencing.

“We have the buildings and land, a very strong labor pool and less congestion than most areas located this close to a major metropolitan area,” Monson said. “Our communities, including Greenwood and Franklin, have made investments in their own infrastructure, schools and downtowns and are committed to providing the quality of place residents are looking for. This is important to attracting new businesses and people to our county, but also retaining our current population.”

Aspire Johnson County, a program of Johnson County Economic Development, brings together residents, businesses and elected officials to work on creating the business-friendly environment.

“We work together to have a common voice and create a community partnership,” said Monson. “We have seen the great plans of this group become a reality. A good example is a private contractor and the city of Franklin that came together to construct a shell building—this is forward thinking that makes our economy grow.”

The cities and towns in Johnson County have all the pieces in place, including the infrastructure with plans for roads and excess capacity for sewer and water to drive development, Aubin said. “Johnson County has positioned itself as a first choice for distribution centers and we look forward to powering these facilities as they bring jobs and new businesses to our area.”


Not only will 2018 mark the 34th year of Jackson County Industrial Development Corporation (JCIDC), but the organization also will achieve a milestone as the JCIDC Workforce Partnership celebrates its 20th year in helping improve the workforce.

“It used to be ‘location, location, location,’ and, to a certain extent, it still is,” says Jim Plump, who has served as executive director of the Seymour, IN-based organization since its inception in 1984. “But in concert with that location, it’s now ‘workforce, workforce, workforce’ and we have been focused on that for nearly two decades.”

Located along Interstate 65, Seymour-Jackson County is one hour south of Indianapolis, IN, an hour north of Louisville, KY and 90 minutes west of Cincinnati, OH, and was a founding member of the South Central Indiana regional marketing group formed in 2002.

“Advanced manufacturing and logistics are the lifeblood of our region,” said Plump. “Our location and transportation system have always been two key elements of our marketing to support that. However, we realized long ago that the labor force both today and tomorrow are keys if we are to continue to grow.”

With more than 30 percent of the region’s workforce involved in manufacturing, the Workforce Partnership was created under the umbrella of JCIDC, and is supported by numerous industries and other partners to better prepare the current and future workforce. The group helps facilitate a number of programs for middle school and high school students, plus post-secondary and the incumbent workforce.

“When several of our industries were considering major expansions, they became even more involved in the program,” said Plump. “They, obviously, needed to know that the workforce would be there for years to come.”

Those efforts are paying off. Since the economic downturn of 2008-10, JCIDC has helped facilitate “promised investment” of over $775 million from Jackson County industries, which also saw the creation of over 2,600 new jobs.

Among major announcements was an expansion by Cummins for their high-horsepower engines. The company has added new engineering and production test cells, an enlarged energy center and a new office building to assemble the QSK95 and QSK120, the most powerful high-speed diesel engines in the world.

“The high-horsepower business is a growing part of Cummins, and because of the demand for these products throughout the world, we are able to add new high-skilled engineering and manufacturing jobs here in our home region,” said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger.

Large distribution centers for Wal-Mart and Pet Supplies Plus have joined international companies such as Aisin Seiki and Valeo, plus Cummins and other domestic companies that are doing business in Seymour-Jackson County and growing.

“We are truly blessed to be home to a number of world-class companies that continue to have confidence in our area,” said Plump.

JCIDC currently is promoting a new 70,000-square-foot shell building, located at Seymour’s East Side Industrial Park. The building is expandable to over 200,000 square feet, and features a 34-foot eave height. In addition to other greenfield sites at the East Side Park, the organization is marketing new industrial sites in Crothersville, which is located in southern Jackson County, 36 miles north of Louisville.

More information on Seymour-Jackson County and the South Central Indiana region can be found at www.jcidc.com or www.southcentralindiana.com.


In today’s globally connected world, it’s easier than ever to visit all corners of the earth and experience the diverse cultures that make each city, country and continent unique. Whether for business or leisure, more and more people are traveling internationally, allowing traditionally smaller cities, like Nashville, Tennessee, to enjoy a global spotlight like none other while attracting millions of visitors each year.

No doubt, Nashville has earned its position as a global point of interest and has witnessed a record number of visitors vying to experience the excitement of “Music City.” As enthusiasm for the city swells, so too does its population. Between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016, the U.S. Consensus Bureau estimated a staggering 36,337-person increase in Nashville’s net population, rounding out an average of 100 new residents per day over the 12-month period. The bureau recorded a similar surge of new residents in each of the past four years.

As the city grows, its airport activity expands. In its 2017 fiscal year, Nashville International Airport (BNA), the region’s conduit for air travel, served a record-breaking 13.5 million travelers—more than one million more passengers than the previous year, a whopping 11.2 percent increase. It’s no wonder BNA recently was named the fastest growing airport of its size by anna.aero, an aviation industry research and analysis firm.

Building the Future of Air Travel in Nashville

Current projections suggest BNA will surpass 20 million annual passengers by 2035—a time in which the metropolitan area will have exceeded 2.5 million residents. To accommodate this growth and increase in travel demands, Nashville International Airport launched BNA Vision, a dynamic growth and expansion plan to maintain Nashville International Airport as a world-class facility for the future of Nashville.

BNA Vision, first initiated in 2016, is equipped to facilitate Nashville’s ever-expanding passenger needs through a series of projects, the first of which is the creation of additional parking and ground transportation services. A new, six-story, 2,000 space garage currently is under construction and will be complete in the summer of 2018 after breaking ground last January. The parking and transportation center will work to meet the demands of increasing passenger traffic and alleviate automotive congestion.

The next phases of BNA Vision include an entirely revamped terminal. The expanded lobby will welcome travelers and comfortably accommodate airline ticketing, baggage check-in and federal security screening. The comprehensive plan for BNA Vision also will include the expansion of concourse B and D, offering additional retail and dining services to domestic travelers. Perhaps the hallmark of the expansion will be a four-star hotel integrated into the terminal and providing an array of amenities for travelers and guests alike.

Landing in London and Connecting to the World

As Nashville welcomes new growth and new business, the airport welcomes the addition of new facilities to better accommodate the greater metropolitan area. The airport’s multi-faceted expansion plan comes during a time of great importance as Nashville recently announced its new nonstop service to London via British Airways.

Set to begin in May 2018 and operate five days a week, the British Airways flight will connect Nashville International to London Heathrow via Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, one of the newest aircraft in British Airways’ fleet. Met with much anticipation, the British Airways partnership will offer Europe as a featured destination, while simultaneously promoting Nashville’s development into an international hub. Yet the significance of the transatlantic flight holds more meaning than a simple vacation or business meeting abroad—Heathrow’s slew of outbound connections will enable BNA patrons to access global destinations, effectively connecting the Southern city to greater economic opportunities.

Welcoming the World to Music City

As more healthcare innovators and tech industry executives hold office in Music City, BNA transforms itself into a viable option for many overseas markets. Air-carriers from Tokyo and regions of Latin America will likely turn to Nashville in upcoming years to accommodate excursions for both business and leisure. BNA Vision, designed to increase Nashville’s global accessibility to these markets, will soon complete construction of an upgraded International Arrivals Facility. Set to open in the spring of 2018, this expanded facility will service the international traveler until a completely new, state-of-the art International Arrivals Facility in 2023. For now, the interim facility will feature convenient enhancements, including:

  • An increase in processing capacity from 200 passengers per hour to 400 passengers per hour;
  • An additional passenger boarding bridge;
  • Upgraded U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area with self-check kiosks and screening equipment; and
  • A new concourse corridor to eliminate the need for arriving passengers to re-check baggage or be re-screened by the Transportation Security Administration, unless transferring to domestic flights.

The clear correlation between Nashville’s increasing population and the transportation services necessary to accommodate such growth brought BNA Vision to fruition in 2016. The innovative undertaking, meant to serve the region’s economic needs and accommodate more international travel, will be completed on a five to six-year timeline. What’s more, the project requires no local tax dollars throughout its completion. An undertaking requiring bold planning and precise execution, BNA Vision is sure to bring about a much-needed change for Nashville’s expanding international focus. As Music City grows, so too will its infrastructure, and BNA is proud to spearhead the advancement of Nashville’s global popularity.


Ruston is centrally located in northern Louisiana. As the Parish Seat of Lincoln Parish (County), Ruston is large enough to offer many wonderful amenities and small enough to maintain unique small town charm. As the home of Louisiana Tech University, Ruston has an exciting energy, offers a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit and maintains a pro-business attitude.

logistics Ruston Louisiana
Monster Moto assembly line, Ruston, LA. (Photo: City of Ruston)

Being the home of Louisiana Tech University, a Tier One National University, Ruston has the ability to develop, attract and retain intellectual capital. Economic and community development relies on institutions and organizations like Louisiana Tech and its industry partners, who encourage and actively support an entrepreneurial spirit and who recognize the value of the opportunities that these relationships create. Ruston also is the home of Delta Community College. Both institutions work with local business and industry to develop curriculum to meet the needs of their skilled workforce.

In addition to educational opportunities, Ruston has many advantages for new and expanding businesses. Ruston lies at the intersection of Interstate 20 and Highway 167, providing easy access to a number of national markets. The City has a Kansas City Southern (KCS) rail line and a regional airport to provide additional means of transportation for the community, which has the infrastructure in place to support further growth and development. Ruston installed a 30-mile fiber network around the City, providing 10 Gbps for its local businesses. Lincoln Parish is home to a diverse economic base of both domestic and internationally based companies, including advanced manufacturing, technology/support services, healthcare and financial services. In anticipation of further development, the City of Ruston purchased 150 acres in the Ruston Industrial Park—a site that will be certified by Louisiana Economic Development as “Development Ready” within the next few months. The site is adjacent to the KCS rail line, within 1.4 miles of Interstate 20, and within 2.3 miles of the Ruston Regional Airport.

While people are one of its best assets, there is a quality of life in Lincoln Parish that is second to none. Whether you are interested in mountain biking trails, an 18-hole professional golf course, arts and entertainment, hunting and fishing, collegiate sports, museums or festivals, Lincoln Parish has something for everyone. Ruston also is home to some of the best K-12 schools in the region.

Ruston recently celebrated the grand opening of Monster Moto, a company who selected Ruston for their United States manufacturing operation, which they moved from China. Monster Moto executives selected the City because of the many assets it has to offer, including a partnership with Louisiana Tech University, a qualified workforce, essential infrastructure and an eagerness to make things happen. Weyerhaeuser opened their new Regional Office in Ruston earlier this year because of the City’s location, ease of access to their markets and its pro-business attitude.

One year ago, the citizens of Ruston overwhelmingly voted in support of a three-quarter (3/4) cent sales tax to fund the Moving Ruston Forward initiative. Moving Ruston Forward will fund over 20 water, sewer and street projects. This initiative also will construct a new animal control facility, new walking/biking trails and an approximately $30 million regional sports complex. In August 2017, the City of Ruston won the bid to host the Dixie Youth Baseball 2019 World Series at the new Ruston Sports Complex. Over the two week long tournament, Ruston will play host to 60 youth baseball teams from 11 states throughout the southern U.S.

Ruston’s economy continues to perform extremely well, and has recently seen the grand opening of three new hotels. It also has seen the growth and expansion of local small business, as well as major national retailers. Louisiana Tech University recently completed the expansion of their College of Business Building. In addition, it is in the process of constructing new student housing and a football stadium press box and is currently finalizing design and engineering plans for their new College of Engineering Building.

The Ruston community is well positioned to take things to the next level. Ruston has great location, education, industry and opportunity. Given all of the City’s assets, Ruston is the ideal place to start, expand or grow your business. Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker ensures you will find a business friendly atmosphere, infrastructure to support your business, easy access to neighboring markets, access to a top tier university and a great quality of life. The City hopes you will be an addition to its list of entities that proudly proclaim, “Excellence Made Here”. Come see what Ruston can do for you.


Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is the region’s gateway to the world and the community’s chief economic engine for the creation of jobs and growth of wealth for local residents.

To remain that way—and position ATL for the decades ahead—the Airport needs to grow. To that end, the Airport in 2016 embarked on a 20-year, multibillion-dollar capital improvement program called ATLNext. Under ATLNext, Hartsfield-Jackson is undergoing a series of projects designed to boost capacity, renew and replace existing facilities and enhance the Airport’s aesthetic appeal.

At the Domestic Terminal, work is underway on two massive canopies on the north and south entrances. These canopies will total the length of three football fields and provide a dramatic entrance to the terminal while protecting guests from wind, rain and snow.

These canopies require 3,500 tons of steel. That’s enough steel to equal the weight of nine Boeing 777s. And with more than 3,500 LED fixtures, the canopies not only will illuminate at night, but also will change colors to mark holidays and special events.

The inside of the Domestic Terminal also is getting a makeover. Plans call for replacing solid walls with panoramic windows and, in the atrium area, incorporating engineered trees and other foliage to create a park-like feel.

Additional priorities under ATLNext include expanding the Airport’s cargo footprint, with a goal of adding up to 1 million square feet of warehouse space. Air cargo is a fertile source of employment and economic opportunity in metro Atlanta. In fact, air cargo creates more than 27,000 jobs and generates a $7 billion economic impact for the region.

In 2016, ATL moved more than 648,000 metric tons of cargo. That puts ATL at Number 12 in the nation among U.S. airports for cargo volume. Now the Airport is looking to land a spot in the Top 5. To do so requires that ATL triple its cargo volume to about 1.8 million metric tons per year. Beyond cargo, the Airport will construct its next concourse. Concourse G will include 10 gates and be connected to the International Terminal. And ATL will extend Concourse T by five gates. These changes will help ATL accommodate more passengers and even more airlines.

Parking is an important service for ATL’s guests—and an important source of revenue for the Airport. Increasing demand, combined with aging facilities, requires replacing the North and South decks. The Airport also will add an ATL West Deck adjacent to the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park.


The trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. is ultimately dependent on strategically located transportation and trade hubs that help facilitate the flow of goods, services and people; supply chains are highly integrated with manufacturing plants, warehouses and distribution centers situated on either side of the border. Just-in-time supply chains demand meeting tight schedules and so the ability to move goods and services across the border efficiently is essential.

The Niagara region of Ontario, Canada is much more than a popular tourist destination. It is strategically located in the heart of an economic mega region that accounts for a massive portion of economic activity of both Canada and the U.S. Within a 500 mile radius are the province of Quebec and nine U.S. states, providing access to 130 million people and a GDP of $7.5 trillion CDN (2015). Markets as widespread as Chicago, Boston and New York City, are all easily within a day’s drive.

Niagara has access to all four modes of transportation (road, rail, air, port) and is a vital link for trade between Canada and United States. Niagara’s proximity to the Canada/U.S. boarder and designation as a Foreign Trade Zone Point makes Niagara the perfect place for international business. Niagara is ranked first in terms of people and second in terms of overall value of goods crossing the border.

Approximately 1 million trucks cross between Canada and the U.S. annually via Niagara’s five border crossings, transporting more than $100 billion worth of goods. This represents 13.6 percent of all Canadian/U.S. trade taking place through Niagara. In addition, 78 percent of total tonnage on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System passed through the Welland Canal, making Niagara Canada’s logistic leader.

In a recent KMPG cost competitiveness study, Niagara’s business cost index was lower than all 76 American jurisdictions in the study, and 2nd best among all U.S./Canadian Northeast centers. Niagara boasts affordable land, utilities and taxes, collaborative labor relations, low healthcare costs and a highly efficient logistics infrastructure. In addition to lower operating costs, Niagara is able to aid companies looking to locate or expand in the region with unique development grants and incentive programs not available anywhere else in Canada.

In 2016 GE announced a $345-million investment in Welland to build an advanced manufacturing facility. “We are delighted to be building this new facility in [Niagara] Canada. The Province of Ontario and Niagara Region collaborated throughout the process to meet key requirements such as proximity to the Canada-U.S. border, access to talent and transportation considerations,” said Elsye Allan, President/CEO of GE Canada.

With a population of over 448,000 and an accessible labor pool of over 1 million, Niagara can meet the need for almost any type of skilled labor, offering a growing, diversified economy and an exceptional quality of life.