The Automated Conveying and Transfer of Intermodal Cargo Shipments
The development of intermodal transport is hindered by loading and unloading practices of palletised goods which are too variable and very inefficient, involving excessive packaging and inefficient multiple handling operations at numerous points in the transport chain. Vehicle and container utilisation is also poor, requiring unnecessary equipment and redundant operational support. This problem would be reduced by standardised and automated loading systems. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />
TACTICS aims to demonstrate that the loading bay and intermodal transfer of palletised goods can be fully automated, electronically managed and networked into computer based logistics within existing transport systems. Under this system, goods can be packed at source and delivered in returnable packaging in a fully automated cycle. In addition to improved efficiency (such as more effective use of vehicles and warehousing, fast intermodal transfer and reduced material handling), the transfer of goods in an uninterrupted recyclable intermodal distribution chain would also bring benefits in terms of reduced consumption of fuels and packaging, reduced traffic congestion and pollution, and reduce the impact of freight traffic on the urban environment. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />
The project will involve the construction of a functional system to:
- verify the system developed;
- demonstrate mechanical engineering, electronic control and logistics software systems;
- demonstrate that it is viable to transfer palletised goods in an uninterrupted recyclable intermodal distribution chain.
The project includes a cross-European demonstration programme involving the automatic loading and transfer of palletised goods as part of a high volume consumer distribution chain. This will handle consumer products from origin to point of retail, which will be electronically-tagged and use the same recyclable palleting.
The TACTICS project has developed an integrated system to demonstrate that a fully automated and electronically managed palletised distribution is feasible. The participating companies have proved the viability of transferring palletised goods in an uninterrupted recyclable intermodal distribution chain. Goods can be packed at source and delivered in returnable packaging in a fully automated, monitored and audited cycle. The TACTICS system is based on three key products:
- standard (ISO-conformed Europallets) or customised pallets;
- radio tagging and read/write devices;
- three Automatic Loading Units (ALU), named SHOTGUN, MAGNUM and EXCALIBUR, for transferring vehicle loads of palletised goods; the MAGNUM ALU has been identified as the most versatile solution.
The TACTICS group has evaluated two pallet applications:
- a pallet system for supply of consumer goods from source to supermarkets, and
- a pallet system for manufacturing component distribution.
The TACTICS system is expected to have maximum impact on efficiency and integration and minimum impact on existing vehicles and freight infrastructure.
The availability of fully automated distribution solutions identified by the project makes it viable to fully exploit the benefits of total electronic management of freight distribution. The long-term benefits lead to 'live' or 'real-time' audit of freight movements. Virtual management of freight distribution will allow instant access to goods location, goods identity, stock taking and financial audit.
The benefits for all participant types (the distributor, the warehouse, the freight terminal, logistics groups and transport companies) are substantial. The potential efficiencies of the TACTICS systems will bring significant improvements to road and rail freight utilisation, reductions in intermodal transfer times and costs, improved logistics management and advances in automating and managing freight terminals and warehousing.
3T Design Ltd (GB), Linpac GmbH (DE), Chep UK Ltd (GB).