"Car pooling" for containers
- DHL and BIBA are developing a system for reducing freight traffic
- Intelligent management of swap bodies is contributing to environmental protection
In difficult economic times, the efficient management of flows of commodities is becoming even more important for many sectors.
The new system for reducing the volume of freight traffic that has been developed by the University of Bremen and DHL could play an important role in this area. State-of-the-art technologies are being deployed to improve the planning of transport runs for swap bodies.
A so-called "yellowbox" installed in the swap body serves as a positioning and communications module. This simplifies container scheduling, thereby improving capacity utilization - similar to the principle of car pooling in the area of private passenger transport. A positive side-effect is that this reduces transport costs and unnecessary CO2 emissions.
The Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics (BIBA) at the University of Bremen in Germany, as the scientific driver of the project and DHL as the implementation partner are relying on a technology mix comprising identification and positioning technologies.
With the aid of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), swap bodies are identified and their location is determined via a satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS). In addition, the system includes specially developed software that takes logistics parameters and sequence planning and control of the stops on the respective transport run into account. It is linked to the planning of transport runs and integrates traffic information.
Some benefits: No empty runs, reduces costs and saves time
"We were looking for a system that would help us to plan freight shipments flexibly and efficiently. At the same time, we are keen to ensure that our innovations contribute to environmental protection and reduce road and rail traffic," says Jörg Friedrichs, the project manager at Deutsche Post DHL.
The system assists dispatchers by providing valuable decision-making aids for the planning of transport runs. For customers, this means more flexible availability of transport capacities and also reduced transport costs. To provide a concrete example: a swap body containing only a half load of goods for a customer is at a certain location. The module in the swap body transmits data such as the capacity utilized, the destination and the current location to a computer at the freight forwarders where the data is matched against the database and the current volume of orders.
There may be a second swap body in the vicinity which is carrying goods for the same destination and could take on an additional load en route to the destination. Instead of two swap bodies being transported to the destination half full, one single, fully-loaded swap body travels to the destination making a few stops on the way, a bit like car pooling, offering the following benefits: optimum route, no empty runs, reduces costs, saves time, avoids traffic and is environmentally friendly.
Experts from the University of Bremen and Deutsche Post DHL have been working on this project since early 2008. INWEST - the official name of the project - is being supported by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology as part of the funding focus on "intelligent logistics". The "yellowbox" is to be presented to a specialist international audience for the first time at DHL's trade fair stand (Stand 201/302 in Hall A5) at Transport Logistic in Munich, Germany, the world's biggest logistics trade fair.