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Energy & Utilities | Infrastructure | Transport & Logistics

Port Productivity – how to do more for less

22 Oct 2015, by Informa Insights

P1000284Productivity and efficiency are two things high on the priority lists of most companies. It is no different when we consider port operations. Dr Eva Savelsberg is Vice President Logistics Division, INFORM GmbH Germany and maintains they have the key to doing more for less when it comes to investment in port productivity.

Eva was kind enough to give us a few minutes of her time to discuss her background, the topic at hand and the conference. Check out what she had to say below.


Tell us some more about your background and your role at INFORM

From the world’s largest airport, via the first fully-automated container terminal, to the most widely accepted credit card network in the world – they all use INFORM’s Advanced Optimization Software to make their business processes more productive, robust, and reliable.

As Vice President of our Logistics Division my focus is on making container handling smoother, e-commerce faster and bulk transports by truck greener: We serve a wide span of logistics industries ranging from maritime and intermodal terminals, post & parcel business, distribution centres as well as logistics for building materials. INFORM has been in the optimization business for more than 45 years. Our headquarters are in Aachen (Germany) and today, more than 550 business analysts and software engineers, originating from more than 30 nations, provide systems to more than 1,000 customers worldwide. Besides my role at INFORM, I am also lecturer at the University of Aachen (RWTH), where I received my PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2002. I have published four books and over 30 papers on innovation in freight transportation.

You are presenting at the AusIntermodal 2015 Conference in Sydney in November on Investments into port productivity: How to do more for less can you give us some insight into some of the main points you will examine in this presentation?

Latest TOS technology as well as Agile Optimization”, will be the main points in my presentation. “Agile” is a new concept in optimization. Let me explain: More and more terminal tasks have to be coordinated simultaneously at high-speed and with permanent, erratic and unplannable changes: from rail to road and from quay to yard. Compare it to Big Data: not only the large volume of data is overwhelming, but also the massive amount of possible actions. This is where optimization systems come in. They are equipped with algorithms that analyze a virtually endless number of scheduling decisions in real-time and identify those that are ideal for minimizing costs and maximizing speed. Standard optimization systems, however, mainly focus on “good problem solving”, which is not enough anymore. That’s why we use the unique concept of “Agile Optimization”. It simultaneously embraces three objectives: (1) speed/flexibility, (2) excellent planning quality, and (3) human/computer interaction.

Our latest software “SyncroTESS for inland terminals” is based on this concept. It is the first Terminal Operating System (TOS) with built-in optimization for the intermodal industry. It manages all terminal resources and optimizes intermodal processes at the same time. So whether it is yard management, rail crane operations, vehicle assignment, truck scheduling or train load planning: the system allows operators of intermodal terminals to take complex decisions in a quick, flexible and responsive way. But Agile Optimization software can also be used as an add-on to an existing TOS, following a best-of-breed strategy for selecting the solution that is most suited for a particular task, e.g. rail crane operations, yard management, etc.

Why is investment in Port Productivity important?

Mega-ships create mega headaches for ports and intermodal terminals. More cargo is concentrated on a single ship, leading to peak loads across the entire supply chain. Adaptations to infrastructure and equipment are needed of course, but efficient waterside handling processes need to go hand in hand with high performing hinterland systems. Maritime ports have automation and TOS software at hand to manage peak loads, whereas intermodal terminals usually invest in new handling equipment like reach stackers or cranes to get their productivity up to speed. But with our new SyncroTESS system, operators of intermodal terminals can now also enjoy the benefits of TOS automation combined with optimization software. It allows them to tap the full potential out of the given assets in their terminal – often delaying or reducing the need for infrastructure investment.

Of the Ports that you work with, what are some of the main issues they are facing as organisations?

Getting their rail yard operations up to speed with the ever increasing peak loads is one of the main issues our customers are focusing on. KTL Ludwigshafen – one of Germany’s largest intermodal rail terminals – has gone live with our software system earlier this month. Based in the chemical heartland of Germany, the terminal has a capacity of up to 500,000 loading units per year. And to serve the growing demand of the surrounding chemical parks with companies like BASF, KTL needed a state-of-the-art tool to manage and optimize their rail processes. At Maasvlakte II in Rotterdam, APM Terminals’ state-of-the-art automated facility, all rail crane operations as well as the container handover of the landside fleet of 62 fully automated transport vehicles (lift-AGVs) are optimized by our software. At the port of Los Angeles, TraPac, LLC is expanding its semi-automated terminal and they are currently implementing our software to optimize all rail crane operations.

What are you looking forward to most about participating in the AusIntermodal Conference in November?

It will be very exciting for us to meet Australia’s intermodal community. We have a couple of systems installed across the continent, and from our experience it is always a great pleasure to do business down under. AusIntermodal will surely provide an excellent platform to strengthen our relationship with existing partners and clients. But we’re also very happy to present the benefits of optimization software to other terminal operators and stakeholders in the logistics industry.

Catch Eva’s presentation on the afternoon of the 20th November at AusIntermodal 2015. More information available on the Conference website.


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