Digitization in Combined Transport? Apart from individual players, rail transport companies, operators, freight forwarders or terminal operators in Germany have hardly stood out as pioneers. Now, however, the market is surprising us with one cross-company project after another. Mobility is a portal for booking and arranging intermodal transports; KV 4.0. is an IT concept for the end-to-end digitalization of all logistics processes.
The IT concept for the end-to-end digitization of all logistics processes up to delivery to the consignee, which is now being marketed. And the “Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations” (ANITA) project is paving the way for digital container handling with automated trucks at Deutsche Bahn’s combined transport facilities in Ulm.
Great leverage for higher productivity
For Andreas Schulz, Managing Director of Deutsche Umschlaggesellschaft Schiene-Straße (DUSS), digital business processes are, alongside expansion and new construction, the “biggest lever” for higher productivity at the terminals. The shorter the throughput times for trucks and the set-up times for trains, the more throughput the terminals can achieve. The more throughput the facilities can handle.
With the results of ANITA so far, the DB subsidiary can implement initial detailed solutions. For example, logistics scientists at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences have determined that at the DUSS terminal in Ulm it takes many minutes. With automation and digitization solutions, this process could be shortened to a few seconds.
Start-up Conroo as a partner
This is exactly what an app from the Nuremberg-based startup Conroo ensures. DUSS plans to introduce it in all its terminals by spring 2023. Drivers log into the terminals on their smartphones and book time slots. They can also transmit freight and other data in eight languages.
The Conroo product can be integrated into any terminal operating system (TOS), making sign-in a completely paperless process. Currently, the app is being used in about half a dozen larger terminals – including Frankfurt/Main, Kornwestheim; Munich and Ulm. By the end of 2022, it should be part of everyday life in at least 20 facilities.
Such slot management solutions are nothing new. Operator Metrans has already been using smartphone apps for drivers for several years, but their current versions only allow logins at the terminals of parent company HHLA. The App Conroo, on the other hand, works across all companies. Today, it is already being used in the trimodal Tricon terminal at Bayernhafen in Nuremberg, in which DUSS holds a minority share of 25 percent. “We are in advanced talks with other operators,” reveals Felix Paul Czerny, managing director of Conroo. The app is also making inroads in Austria, Switzerland and other European countries, too, according to Czerny.
Potential for industry solution
The IT solution from the Nuremberg-based company also has the potential to become an industry solution, because it has multiple access points. Users can also enter and book data via their TMS or a web frontend. Several combined transport companies already work with such accesses.
For Czerny, the entire logistics industry should benefit from the railroad’s decision in favor of a neutral platform. “The app has what it takes to become a fixed component of every transport management system for multimodal transports,” says the founder, who with his team has developed other terminal-specific applications.
To go with the app, there is a slot management platform, which uses ETA and other truck data to coordinate loading and unloading times and organize container handling. Operators are also approaching the Nuremberg-based company and commissioning IT tools to facilitate processes at selected terminals. For the terminal operator DUSS, Conroo’s solution has the advantage that they can connect every participant. Even small partners who do not have a direct interface, also benefit.
Otherwise, the Nuremberg-based company’s IT is a crucial building block for the end-to-end digitization of terminal processes. “With the app, we can utilize our infrastructure more evenly and use it more efficiently,” Schulz is certain. Because the load carriers are handled more quickly after the trucks arrive, trains can also be put together more quickly.
Video gates as the next step
However, the DB subsidiary still has some homework to do for this. It is currently equipping its sites with video engines that automatically detect trucks and loading units and use AI tools to identify damage to vehicles and cargo. The rail entrances and exits of all terminals will also use video engines in the future. A tender is currently underway for more than 50 gates at all locations. Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Stuttgart are already working with this technology, and the rollout for the remaining facilities is scheduled to start at the end of this year.
Other DUSS projects are concerned with digital train synchronization with direct interfaces to the various terminal operating systems (TOS) or remote control and partial automation for gantry cranes. The DB subsidiary is also venturing into predictive maintenance solutions that use digital monitoring to trigger early maintenance of individual crane components. “We have many great ideas and are trying to convince as many partners as possible of the benefits of digitization and open data exchange,” assures Schulz.
This presupposes sufficient data from the terminal operators themselves. This is the subject of another project. On July 1, a research project will be launched by Hamburg-based Fraunhofer and university scientists on how terminals can use artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure better slot allocations and parking space dispositions. Conroo is taking part in this project.