ERTOC demonstrator vehicle

Open data system to help logistics managers optimise operations

Partners in a UK logistics research project have demonstrated a prototype system for optimising the cost and carbon dioxide emissions of shipments down to the level of individual consignments.

Launched in 2012, the Efficient and Reliable Transportation of Consignments (ERTOC) project was a two-year research collaboration between Ricardo, GS1 UK, Unipart Logistics, IRIS Technology and Coventry University, part funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

Existing logistics tracking systems are generally not integrated with other utilities and provide limited vehicle level information such as, for example, the fuel consumption attributable to any given journey or load.

By creating an open architecture through which route planning and consignment tracking systems can be integrated with vehicle-level information – including real-time fuel consumption, location and loading – the ERTOC project partners have been able to develop a prototype system with the potential to optimise the cost and carbon dioxide emissions of shipments and allow accurate carbon (CO2e) tracking in a highly granular manner.

Ricardo’s role was to develop an on-board system consisting of an electronics module capable of interfacing with the fleet management system, or on-board diagnostics in smaller vehicles. This is integrated with a driver information system that runs on an Android tablet device located in the vehicle’s cab.

Ricardo also developed a web-based utility for use at a fleet level by a transport and logistics manager. These vehicle and office based utilities are linked via a central communications and data hub developed by project partner IRIS.

The system enables logistics companies to plan their load manifests and routes in order to minimise the cost and environmental impact of operations, while also reporting on the carbon (CO2e) or cost contribution attributable to each and every consignment.

Fleet managers, drivers and logistics customers can optimise operations through the use of intelligent route planning and load sharing for maximum financial return and environmental benefit.

Using data for each leg of the journey of each consignment shipped, analysis can be carried out at any level, from hubs and depots down to individual vehicles, drivers and cargo types.

The system has been demonstrated in a 7.5 tonne truck application typical of the operations of project partner Unipart Logistics, but the open data architecture is said to be extremely flexible and capable of application across many modes of transport, including road, rail, air and sea and without regard to international borders.

“Logistics is an important element in the value chain for products of all types, and the ability to effectively manage operations through the integration of vehicle level data offers significant benefits in both financial and environmental terms,” said Rishi Odhavji, Ricardo project manager for ERTOC.

“By leveraging available data from existing telematics systems and telecommunications infrastructure in an open architecture system, it has been demonstrated that significant commercial and environmental benefits are possible.”

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