Dachser designed and implemented an innovation in general cargo logistics in collaboration with Fraunhofer IML. The "@ILO Terminal" creates a complete digital image of all packages, assets, and operations in a transshipment warehouse autonomously and in real time. This speeds up the arriving and outgoing procedures, and current information about where each product is placed is always available.
The technological improvement has already been shown in real-world operations at the Dachser branches in Unterschleißheim near Munich. @ILO stands for "Advanced Indoor Localization and Operations," a research project run by the DACHSER Enterprise Lab in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML). The @ILO program developed collaboratively, is at the system's heart. Special AI-based algorithms analyze the data collected by optical scanning units every second to automatically and instantly identify, locate, and measure all packages in the future. A complete, always-up-to-date image of the warehouse and its procedures is built, referred to as a "digital twin."
"By consistently digitizing our key procedures, we can further improve our service," says Dachser CEO Burkhard Eling. "We not only rely on cutting-edge technology, but we also want to bring our personnel into the digital age, as seen in the @ILO terminal. This innovation provides obvious benefits to day-to-day operations in the transshipment warehouse. It can be a watershed moment on the path to more efficient and sustainable logistics operations."
"We are achieving a new level of supply chain visibility with the @ILO terminal," explains Stefan Hohm, CDO of Dachser and member of the Management Board. "We've worked on the digital twin with Fraunhofer IML for almost four years." The teams from research and practice have made the Internet of Things and the goal of Logistics 4.0 a reality in general cargo logistics, with a lot of knowledge, ideas, and, most importantly, passion."
Packages entering, staying, and leaving the @ILO terminal are automatically identified and documented in the transport management system. Manual barcode scanning and other product labeling are no longer required. The system's technological foundation includes two-dimensional data matrix codes on the top of each package that act as identifiers and several hundred optical scanning devices in the hall ceiling region that scan the whole floor.
This also allows all pallets to be located in real-time with meter precision in transshipment facilities, which are often the size of a football field. Shipment storage locations and industrial truck positions can be seen in real-time and shown on websites, apps, or mobile displays, together with guiding information for internal movement, considerably improving transparency in the warehouse. The search and loading operations are also sped up.
The so-called automatic "union" of industrial trucks (FFZ) and packages is a novel feature. The @ILO system detects when a pallet is picked up by an FFZ and broadcasts information about the shipment to employees in real-time via displays. This functionality also reduces process time and allows for process modification in the transshipment warehouse.
In the future, another technological highlight of the @ILO terminal will be the automatic and permanent measurement of all packages. During the pilot phase, the system can already determine the dimensions of the packages with high precision. If the system is fully functional, the volume data defined can be used by intelligent algorithms to assist drivers and personnel in the transshipment warehouse with loading and route planning, as well as to increase the utilization of swap bodies, trailers, and local transport vehicles. This would therefore result in fewer transportation kilometers and, as a result, fewer emissions.
"The practical benefits of the @ILO terminal were already visible in the initial tests," says Alexander Tonn, COO Road Logistics at Dachser. "Colleagues save significant time with the technology and can make terminal processes even more efficient." Loading and driving away is also far less stressful for the driver. This can potentially be a game changer in general cargo logistics."
@ILO is part of the research and development initiative "DACHSER Future Terminal." To meet the difficulties and opportunities given by digitalization and sustainability, the logistics service provider wants to utilize future-oriented technologies and procedures in over 300 of its handling terminals and warehouses in the European logistics network in the next few years.