In logistics, you earn top honors by predicting arrival times accurately. That's because you can't afford to keep trucks, trains and ships waiting. Now, an EU-wide project has shown how to interconnect information systems effectively.
A platform known as "AEOLIX” has evolved. AEOLIX helps participants in logistics processes keep better track of their shipments and transport assets. The secret of its success lies in real-time data, which significantly enhance transparency in supply chains. Transport and logistics companies from throughout Europe have been working on this project for three years now, and their efforts have produced tangible results. By the way, I like to think that anything that benefits logistics chains will be sure to benefit me as well …
AEOLIX enhances scheduling in supply chains
When I'm traveling, my ETA is what I focus on. My estimated time of arrival, that is. Suppose my plane doesn't arrive on time. That can lead to a whole chain of concerns. To begin with, my girlfriend is going to meet me at the airport. What if she doesn't learn about the delay early enough? And will we get caught in rush-hour traffic? Will we still be able to get to our concert on time?
This scenario concerns just me and my little world. A similar scenario in the world of port operations can quickly become much more complex and consequential, however. Consider a shipment in a ship container carried by a ship coming from overseas. Suppose the ship is late getting into the port. A crane in the port terminal is supposed to load the container onto a truck. Then, a forklift is supposed to transfer the container onto a railway car, for the long trip to a factory site. At the train's destination, another forklift stands ready to transfer the load to a waiting truck that will take it on the last mile of its journey, to an interim-storage site ... A whole chain of sequential processes is involved. Each has a precise, tight time window. And all processes have an ETA. Some have their ETA on paper, and some have it in the forwarding agent's IT system. Some ETAs are expressed in German and some are expressed in English.
From wishful thinking to reality
In my private travel planning, ETA precision is nice to have. In the world of logistics, it's much more than that, and it's an enormous challenge. Wouldn't it be great if all relevant information about shipments could be available at all times during their transports, in real time? Trucks would no longer have to keep checking at loading ramps, to no avail. All kinds of traffic jams – and even accidents – and emissions would be eliminated! This is where AEOLIX comes in. To have such real-time information, you have to have interconnected information systems.
Connection saves fuel
AEOLIX, an EU project, is a platform that facilitates data exchange, in logistics, between different IT systems. It supports digital connections for real-time information. It can function both within organizations and in cross-organizational scenarios. For logistics specialists, the real-time data it provides are an effective tool for monitoring shipments. It also enhances route planning. It supports dispatchers in selecting alternative transport options and in reducing waiting time for their trucks. "With the measures we have taken, we have achieved the goals for this EU project. Use of AEOLIX can cut CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 30 percent in transport chains throughout Europe," enthuses Ralf Willenbrock, AEOLIX project manager at T-Systems. "In addition to successfully piloting a highly complex project, we have demonstrated the usefulness of such a pan-European platform," he adds.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating
The aim for the EU-wide AEOLIX project was to make European freight traffic more efficient, through use of state-of-the-art digitalization technologies. Common standards needed to be defined, in order to combine a great many stand-alone solutions into one overall solution.
An "ecosystem" for achieving this goal was introduced and tested over a three-year period. T-Systems' involvement in the project was focused especially on value chains in connection with the Port of Hamburg (sea freight) and with Frankfurt Airport (air freight). The analysis and joint solutions developed in the effort were aimed at safeguarding and enhancing the two locations' competitiveness. This included identifying different options for transports within the Hamburg-Frankfurt corridor. Go by rail? Or stick to roads? The best solution can vary, depending on the traffic situation and the availability of parking. Another goal, which was just as important, was to improve scheduling for deliveries to the airport and the seaport.
AEOLIX operated until the end of the third quarter of 2019. The experts who reviewed it officially in Brussels offered special compliments for the system. And what's next on the agenda? "We didn't develop AEOLIX to be an ivory-tower system. We're focused on real-world operations. Now we want to encourage even more companies to join this kind of common platform and enjoy its advantages," Willenbrock adds. A follow-on project is already waiting in the wings. T-Systems will also be involved in that project, known as FENIX.
By the way, I would love to have such a platform for my own travel needs. When my train is late, I want my cell phone to be able to guide me for the rest of my trip – to be able to tell me how to get from A to B conveniently, by bus or even rental bike. Surely, my cell phone will soon be able to do that.