Goods traffic and logistics

With the disappearance of trade barriers and the increase in transport efficiency, the globalization of the world economy is leading to a further sharp rise in transport volumes, which poses growing challenges for both seaport and hinterland logistics. Further major increases in volume and transport distances are to be expected in the coming years. Bottlenecks can already be seen approaching in all areas of traffic.

Having said that, there are reserve capacities in rail goods traffic, and its impact on the environment and the climate is low. The decisive factor in the shift to these modes of transport is the fulfillment of the logistical requirements of shipping agents and providers of logistics services. Fraunhofer Rail offers the planning of rail goods traffic concepts tailored to the individual requirements of logistics providers, process optimization in rail transport including prior and subsequent activities, and integration in modern information and communication systems.

Planning#

The liberalization of rail goods traffic in Germany and Europe offers some major opportunities in logistics. Thanks to the establishment of numerous competitors, new possibilities are opening up for shipping agents and providers of logistics services for designing, purchasing and providing rail transport concepts which are perfectly tuned to their own requirements or, as the case may be, those of their customers.

Fraunhofer Rail offers comprehensive skills and experience in the planning of transport networks. The first steps are analyses of current transport requirements, current procedures in transport planning and realization and technical and organizational conditions. These, for example, include procedures and restrictions at the loading-points, measures taken to ensure that the goods are secure, and restrictions of time at the companies involved. Appropriate telematics applications are available to logistics providers so that they can carry out spot checks on the location and status of goods being transported.

Continuing from there, we design suitable integrated transport concepts using rail goods traffic. This relates not only to industrial on-site traffic but also to non-local traffic and the connections between the two. Recent insights from research into transport and railways are integrated, as are customers' experiences and demands.

Once drawn up, the rail goods traffic concepts contain marshalling concepts and processes which, having been optimized, need to be adapted accordingly. Apart from that, the technology to be used, handling and load-securing processes are also taken into account. We also calculate the economic and qualitative effects and the prerequisites for and risks of implementation as a solid basis for decision-making.

Process optimization#

The organization and procedures in rail goods traffic are extremely complex. This applies both to organization up front and to operational procedures. Apart from the original specific aspects of rail goods traffic, the integration of transport in existing logistics chains, especially on the track, is becoming more and more important. The procedural integration of rail goods traffic in production, distribution and procurement logistics is necessary in order to achieve an optimum value-added chain.

The process starts from detailed current situation analyses, drawn up together with the customer and the relevant specialist departments using modern moderation, presentation and communication methods. Not only the executive workers are included in the analyses but also, depending on the questions at issue, IT, customer service, accounting and management. The analysis can be carried out using either the bottom-up or the top-down approach. Complex scenarios can be registered, investigated and assessed by means of simulations.

In this phase, together with the customer, Fraunhofer Rail already identifies important basic approaches for subsequent process optimization. Proposals for optimization are developed on the basis of experience gained from more than one sector and more than one mode of transport. Well founded rail expertise is of great importance. Depending on the question at issue and the initial status, experts from the different disciplines of the rail goods traffic sector can be called in.

Information and communication systems#

Both the complexity of the organization and control of rail traffic and the lack of ability to provide information relating to the status of dispatched goods, which continues to be a point of criticism, call for intensive research and development in IT. Fraunhofer Rail analyses requirements for information and communication systems.

The status with regard to information and communication processes is recorded together with the customer. On the basis of these processes, the scientists at Fraunhofer Rail identify existing weak points and offer a systematic presentation of the requirements as regards information and communication systems. This leads to performance specifications for the procurement of such systems or for further developments.

Specialized expertise in the functional design of applications, coupled with the expertise and experience of the software manufacturers in the development and design of graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and in servicing and sales, offer development opportunities for innovative products which conform to market conditions and are technically mature.

Fraunhofer Rail is independent of any single manufacturer and can thus use its broad range of skills to develop suitable solutions objectively.