Vehicle-pooling logistics tool helps small firms

Experts at Germany's Fraunhofer Institutes have developed a web-based tool to help companies located in the same region share haulage space when transporting consignments.

“It has hardly been possible before now to get an overall picture of the combined road-rail transport options available for sending individual consignments,” says Agnes Eiband, project manager for freight transport at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flows and

Logistics IML in Prien. “The systems presently in use do not make specific proposals for joint haulage. Companies must themselves locate the goods transfer terminal nearest to them – and to their customer at the other end. They then need to find out what the connections are like, how much train transport will cost, and how to organise delivery and collection of the goods”. That is far too complicated for many companies, which find it easier to send their consignments to customers by truck, especially as they do not always have enough goods to fully load a train.

A team from IML developed the Intermodal4all web tool with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart.

With a click of the mouse the tool finds the options available to local companies who want to transport their goods jointly and economically. This prototype system suggests the most suitable shared-haulage partner company and displays a map of the route the consignment will take. The ‘rail configurator’ calculates the different rail and road variants, while another module evaluates the options and optimises haulage enquiries. “Local companies can either use existing train connections or jointly set up a train service, which might cover a longer distance once a week,” explains Eiband. “Service-orientated software architectures and web services ensure that customers can actively use Intermodal4all throughout Europe. The modular configuration ensures that other transport optimisation systems are integrated and can continue to be used.” That also makes the software solution attractive to trucking companies or major transport users who want to optimise their haulage services.

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