BLG Implements Intelligent Planning and Controlling for Greater Effectiveness and Efficiency in Vehicle Handling

September 14, 2017

Where is anything at any given moment, and how can it be provided at the desired destination by the best means at the right time?  For instance, a vehicle to be loaded aboard a ship in Bremerhaven.  Up to now, this has mainly been a manual process.  But in future, the operational processes at BLG LOGISTICS’ AutoTerminal Bremerhaven will be controlled and planned with the aid of real-time status reports and mobile data acquisition. To this end, the research project “Isabella” has been launched in Bremen.

Using simulations, an intelligent system will enhance efficiency and effectiveness by enabling interactive planning and controlling of vehicle handling in German ports. A further goal is to support and integrate port employees in the performance of their duties, and ultimately ensure logistics handling that is optimally adapted to current conditions.

The system is being developed as part of a three-year project “Automobile logistics in sea- and inland ports: interactive and simulation-based operation planning, dynamic and context-based control of device and load movements” (“Isabella” for short). The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is supporting this R&D project with € 2.6 million as part of its program for innovative port technologies (IHATEC). The total project volume is € 3.7 million. The project sponsor TÜV Rheinland provides oversight.

The actors: BLG AutoTerminal Bremerhaven, BIBA and software specialist 28Apps

Three partners are involved in this project: The research institute BIBA - Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik of the University of Bremen is contributing its knowledge in the areas of planning and controlling of logistic processes and autonomous decision-making to the project.

BLG AutoTerminal Bremerhaven is the application partner and has overall project responsibility. It supplies the use cases, and thus all possible scenarios that can occur. In this way, BLG ensures a practice-oriented development that takes into account the solution proposals of the actual process participants. The system also will be implemented as a pilot project at BLG’s Bremerhaven terminal before the transferability of the results are tested at the inland terminal in Kelheim. BLG is making possible research that is based on real, current data, and the research version of the system will run here as well.

The Bremen-based technology vendor 28Apps is responsible for developing the software applications for the planned multitouch table, as well as implementing the control concept in a mobile app. The large screen of the multitouch table enables users to access information and initiate commands simply using finger gestures. In addition to the mobile devices, it is a central control element of the Isabella system.

Research and pilot project in one of the world’s largest vehicle ports

With a handling volume of over 2.1 million vehicles per year, Bremerhaven is one of the world’s largest vehicle ports. Over 1,400 vehicle transport ships tie up at this terminal every year. It covers an area of over 240 hectares, the equivalent of around 350 football fields, and offers parking space for 95,000 passenger vehicles. 45,000 of these spaces are in the open, and 50,000 under sheds in eight parking bays. The facility additionally contains 18 ship berths, three equipment centers, a painting facility and 16 rail sidings and end-loading ramps. This facility is in operation around the clock, seven days a week.

The logistical operations in this mega-port are subject to innumerable factors and uncertainties. New instruments for planning and controlling are needed in order to master this enormous logistic task in future and prevail in global competition. This is precisely what Project Isabella is all about: “By 2020, the virtual image of our vehicle terminal is to be sufficiently developed to enable a new level of planning and controlling to be realized by means of real-time information, material-flow simulation and system-supported communication with drivers,” declares Andrea Eck, Automobile Division Director at BLG.

Simulations take current occurrences into account in planning and controlling logistics processes

 “Simulation-based planning will enable rapid adaptation of plans in the event of emerging change requirements and enable testing of alternatives using simulations. A multitouch table will represent the current planning situation of the terminal and the planning alternatives,” explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Michael Freitag, Director of BIBA. “This is driven by something called ‘event-discrete simulation’ software, which evaluates planning alternatives regarding logistic command variables.”

For controlling vehicle movements within the terminal, an algorithm will be developed that enables individual process control at the terminal as a function of the vehicle location. The allocation of jobs using a mobile application makes it possible to optimize the travel paths in the terminal and enables a rapid response to change requirements as they emerge.

The realization of interactive planning and coordination also requires the development of a locater system to register the location of vehicles in real time. One challenge here is the locating accuracy, which must enable precise localization of the vehicles with a resolution down to the individual parking space.

System improves communication between employees and leverages their experience

The tool to be developed in the course of Project Isabella will enable an improved utilization of resources, for instance space allocation or staff capacities. In place of intuitive planing, it will offer a comprehensive evaluation of multiple planning alternatives that also take into account logistical target parameters such as on-time delivery and capacity utilization. The system thus supports the employees in selecting the planning alternative must suitable for each situation.

Among other benefits, the site-dependent controlling of vehicle movements reduces empty runs within the vehicle terminal, thus helping to increase efficiency. The system ensures greater flexibility and responsiveness. It improves communication between employees and leverages their experience Unanticipated, short-notice changes respecting each vehicle are communicated via the mobile app. It registers the responses of the actors and integrates this data in the work flows ad-hoc.

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