How does it work? Two aerials mounted on transport vehicles or machines are used to receive and send global navigation satellite system (GNSS) data. One is for positioning, the other for orientation. With the aid of a proximity and an altitude sensor, all six dimensions of goods movement can be identified and tracked. To calculate a position on the earth’s surface, these GNSS receivers measure the length of time it takes the radio signal to travel between the satellite and the receiver. Combined with a reference antenna at the site of operation and a mathematical calculation, this provides the precise position of each dimension down to the centimetre.
“The connection point is the incoming goods inspection by employees, at which time the goods are equipped with a GNSS signal,” explained Stelljes. That also means that the goods no longer need to be labelled by hand. Once the GNSS signal has been applied, the system is fully automated. “Anything with electrical power can be incorporated into the system. And based on the positions and activities of the vehicle carrying the connected goods, the direction in which the goods are moving can be calculated,” said Stelljes. “You no longer need to scan or manually enter the storage location and goods whenever there’s movement. Satellite and vehicle data therefore prevent potential human errors.”
3D image of the terminal
The whole thing is illustrated using the outdoor area of port services provider Weserport in Bremen, which was once a pilot customer and continues to operate as a partner for product changes and new developments to this day. The storage spaces were recreated as a digital twin, which is a three-dimensional, one-to-one reproduction. When the software launches, the screen displays the entire port site along with the goods and vehicles present.
For example, you can watch a forklift approach several steel coils, lift and load one of them, and then drive to the storage space not far from the quayside – all in real time. Satellites can be used to monitor every movement and locate the position of goods and vehicles down to a few centimetres. “The virtual view even displays the different dimensions of the goods,” said Stelljes, describing one of the unique features.
Unlike conventional storage space, the digital twin supports dynamic space planning, meaning there is no need for a fixed division of space with clear coordinates and labels. “Our software takes positioning out of the equation. The areas specified for certain groups of goods can be reassigned and the geometrics changed to meet current demands – all with a mouse click,” explained Stelljes.
Optimised routes for reduced CO2
That offers a variety of benefits. For example, planning internal logistical processes is much more efficient, which is an important factor, as wait times are expensive and the handling process needs to be fast and seamless. And because goods can no longer get lost, there is no longer any need to search for them. Manual documentation in paper form is a thing of the past.
In addition, LogTwin can help improve preliminary planning. But if necessary, the software can also make decisions itself and thus optimise capacity and utilisation planning. “Our satellite knows where each vehicle is on the site at all times and whether it’s actively processing a transport order. Thanks to geo-supported order picking, we can allocate goods to vehicles without an active transport order based on their proximity to those goods, with the aim of preventing empty running and thus reducing unnecessary consumption, provided the vehicle is designed to transport those types of goods,” stated Stelljes. Of course, a forklift with a five-tonne capacity can only transport the corresponding weight when it is in close proximity. “The CO2 emissions associated with empty running can be reduced by around 30 to 50 per cent depending on the customer,” said Stelljes.
“It always makes sense to generate a digital twin when the level of manual work required is high.” Digital twins can be used for different types of goods such as breakbulk cargo, consolidated cargo, bulk cargo and project cargo – in open storage, in warehouses and at ports. Orders can be managed via drag-and-drop – even from remote locations, via laptop or tablet. And it is also possible to plan and simulate storage constellations. All this can also be introduced in existing storage
spaces, as the required technology can be installed. (cb)