DACHSER and Fraunhofer IML receive German Logistics Award for digital twin
German Logistics Association (BVL) honors joint research project with genuine practical potential.
The German Logistics Association (BVL) has given the 2023 German Logistics Award to DACHSER and Fraunhofer IML. The jury gave the award for the @ILO (Advanced Indoor Localization and Operations) digital twin. Developed in collaboration at the DACHSER Enterprise Lab, this technology—which has already been piloted at two branches—automatically creates and continuously updates a digital twin of all packages, assets, and workflows in a transit terminal. Employees can access all this information presented clearly on mobile devices and displays.
The @ILO digital twin increases transparency in the warehouse. Individual work steps are optimized and take less time to complete. The application benefits not only logistics operatives and drivers but also customers, which in the future will be able to receive more precise information about their shipments. The @ILO digital twin is a core result of more than six years of joint research conducted at the DACHSER Enterprise Lab. This is where experts from the logistics provider work with researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in small, agile teams to develop innovations for the European groupage network and its transit terminals.
“We’re investing in joint research with Fraunhofer IML to drive forward digitalization in logistics and further enhance the quality of the services we offer our customers,” said Burkhard Eling, CEO of DACHSER, at the award ceremony in Berlin. “In this way, we are ensuring our company’s viability for the future. That this joint work has resulted in a practical innovation good enough to impress the German Logistics Award jury validates our approach and gives us an extra motivational boost.”
DACHSER now plans to take the next step in developing this innovation. In 2024, the family-owned company expects to start systematically rolling out the new technology at its European branches. “As a crucial milestone in our digital transformation, the @ILO digital twin represents a quantum leap in groupage logistics,” Eling says.
“We’re putting research into practice and doing so throughout Europe,” says Prof. Michael ten Hompel, Executive Director of Fraunhofer IML. “Even stacked up against Fraunhofer IML’s long history, this is an outstanding research success. It underlines the value of marrying scientific research with practical application. This is especially true when such interdisciplinary collaboration is lived as intensively and sustainably as it is at the DACHSER Enterprise Lab.”
As a crucial milestone in our digital transformation, the @ILO digital twin represents a quantum leap in groupage logistics.Burkhard Eling, CEO of DACHSER
Proven in practice: AI and automation are on the rise
Special AI-based algorithms in the @ILO software interpret the data collected every second by hundreds of optical scanning units on the terminal’s ceiling. Using this data, they automatically and immediately identify and locate all packages. In the future, they will measure these as well. This creates a complete, always up-to-date image of the terminal and its processes—a digital twin.
Integrated into practical workflows, this technological innovation has already proved its worth in the @ILO pilot transit terminals of the branches in Unterschleißheim near Munich and Öhringen near Heilbronn. Some process sequences performed between inbound and outbound goods were completed 15 to 35 percent faster there. This was achieved by eliminating actions such as scanning barcodes by hand and manually inventorying packages each day. As a result, short-distance transport vehicles can start making deliveries earlier in the day, which gives drivers a head start in morning rush-hour traffic.
“By using AI and automation technologies in groupage handling, we can deliver high quality and still meet complex customer requirements. It also helps us overcome the challenges arising from the shortage of space and of skilled workers,” explains Alexander Tonn, COO Road Logistics at DACHSER. “New technologies such as the @ILO digital twin supply the real-time data we require. But technology really starts to add value when it relieves and supports employees in their day-to-day work—and @ILO has impressively proved at the pilot branches it can do just that.”
Fully automated, continuous measurement of all packages represents the next step toward Logistics 4.0, a step we’ll take together with Fraunhofer IML as part of our research partnership.Stefan Hohm, CDO of DACHSER
Next innovative step: AI-assisted loading
DACHSER’s Chief Development Officer Stefan Hohm is well aware of the future potential of @ILO: “Fully automated, continuous measurement of all packages represents the next step toward Logistics 4.0, a step we’ll take together with Fraunhofer IML as part of our research partnership.” During pilot operations, he adds, the system was able to determine the length, height, and width of packages with great accuracy, and provide that information in real time without involving measurement stations. As soon as the system is fully ready for practical use, the volume data obtained on each package could be fed into intelligent algorithms to, for instance, assist with loading and route planning, and to further increase the capacity utilization of swap bodies, trailers, and short-distance transport vehicles. “That reduces both transport kilometers and CO2 emissions.” In addition, DACHSER and Fraunhofer IML are currently developing a streamlined @ILO system that customers can use to upgrade their shipping zones with a view to increasing transparency in distribution. “But there’s still plenty of research to be done in that regard,” Hohm says.
You can find a detailed look at how @ILO works here.