Insufficient information sharing in the supply chain causes delays and pushes up costs. T-Systems is working with partners on a research project called Synchrolog to develop a solution to make supply chain operators better synchronized and thus save them time and money.
The fact is, the supply chain can quickly get bogged down if the operators involved don't receive enough information from each other. For example, unnecessary waiting times and additional costs may arise if information is not forwarded in time during customs clearance at a port. One way to solve the problem is a system that automatically and dynamically assigns time slots for container handling while also taking account of information about delayed trucks. At the same time, it allows truck drivers to reserve parking spaces using a smartphone app.
Just such a solution was one of the important interim results of the Synchrolog research project, which Deutsche Telekom's subsidiary T-Systems presented with the other project partners in the Bremerhaven overseas port in April 2018. In addition to the measures to shorten waiting times, the port authorities from the State government and the transport industry showed great interest in the possibility of using apps to identify increased fuel consumption and potential savings.
A data platform to network logistics chains
The aim of the project is to digitally network the partners in the truck supply chains in Bremerhaven and the surrounding area and thus enable a transparent exchange of information. An important component of the project is therefore a central data platform and the exchange of data via suitable interfaces and protocols throughout the supply chain. The Synchrolog system provides order-related data such as the container number, departure and destination details, and planned arrival time, as well as real-time information such as vehicle position data, status messages and advance warning of trucks arriving at a transhipment point sooner than anticipated. Services such as automatic slot booking are only possible thanks to the exchange of data over various systems connected to the platform via interfaces.
Within Synchrolog, ICT provider T-Systems is responsible for designing the central data platform and outlining a sustainable and economic business model. In addition, T-Systems experts perform inventory and requirements analyses for the implementation of a planned demonstrator, carry out tests with partners and simulate automation variants.
The project, funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research, was launched in November 2017 and is scheduled to be completed by September 2020. The first milestone was successfully accepted by the project executing agency in September 2018 and the specifications for interfaces and the overall system were completed as expected.
Usable in ports and beyond
This type of digital networking and data synchronization is not limited to ports. That's why the state of Bremen invited T-Systems to a transport and logistics fair in Shanghai in May 2018. There, T-Systems presented Synchrolog in a workshop alongside the Bremen logistics industry and several Chinese partner ports. The experts then discussed whether the solution is suitable for Asia's coastal mega-cities, among other things. The talks will be continued within the framework of German-Chinese technology partnerships and programs.
In addition to T-Systems, three other partners are taking part in the project coordinated by the Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL): aio IT for Logistics, dbh Logistics IT and the Eurogate Container Terminal in Bremerhaven. Furthermore, various associations and the port industries in Bremen, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven are also involved. And the entire research and development project is funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of its program "Innovations for Tomorrow's Production, Services and Work" (funding code 02K16C170).
Update: Final report of Jan. 4, 2021 on synchrolog.net (in German language)