German researchers merge trip and load planning for more efficient logistics

German researchers are developing delivery planning software which they said can improve logistical efficiency by optimising both vehicle cargo capacity and vehicle routing at the same time.

The challenge for manufacturers and other companies who must arrange deliveries is to maximise cargo capacity utilisation, while at the same time planning trips so that transport costs and the burden on the environment are reduced, said Dr.-Ing. Bernhard van Bonn, deputy head of department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) in Dortmund.

"At present, transport companies first compile the orders and then assign them to trips and vehicles. Truck capacity utilisation is only optimised afterwards. This often means that optimal route planning is neglected," he explained. "Although software tools for trip planning and cargo space utilisation are used, they are not combined, which means that only one aspect is actually optimised."

He said that the new software, called Efficient Load, could considerably reduce transport costs by optimising transshipment, order combination, loading sequence and route planning in a single step. The software was developed by IML researchers in co-operation with industrial partners Gefco and M-Real, and Berlin software company PSI, he added.

M-Real's Stephan Sirrenberg said he expects the new system to reduce ton-kilometres by 15 to 20 per cent. Every month M-Real, which manufactures paper, makes around 41,000 deliveries. Some 16,500 trucks transport around 345,000 tons of paper to customers in more than 100 countries. The effective combination of capacity and route optimisation will considerably reduce energy costs, as well as toll charges, he predicted.

Efficient Load has been under development since early 2008 as a twelve-stage concept, taking all the important parameters into account, said van Bonn. He said that Gefco and M-Real should be able to integrate it into their trip planning software by the end of 2009.

He added that the software is being presented at this week's transport logistics trade show in Munich, on the Fraunhofer joint stand in Hall B2, Stand 501/602.

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