A trend of the past to relocate cost driven production to Eastern Europe still continues in the automotive industry and its suppliers today. Transport intensity and the resulting environmental impact increases due to unchanged customer and supplier structures in Western Europe. Austria, due to its geographical position is especially subjected to a high amount of transit traffic, and faces increasing traffic volumes resulting in increasing emissions and environmental contamination. The research project Trans-Austria investigated options for transport optimization between old and new EU countries.
The research project “Conceptualization, simulation and evaluation of multimodal, cross-company logistic models for co-operative, regional pooling of transports“ (Trans-Austria) tries to develop solutions for the problem of the increasingly negative impact caused by cargo transports due to the emergence of new production facilities in Central and Eastern Europe. As a result of lacking traffic and logistical infrastructure, the additional transportation, that is often just crossing Austria, is mainly truck-traffic and therefore, has especially detrimental effects on people and the environment. By optimizing the material and transportation logistics, it is on one hand possible to shift certain traffic to alternative means of transportation (train, ship) and on the other hand by means of freight-pooling possible to avoid part of the road transport altogether.
The automotive industry with its geographically distributed production networks comprising system suppliers, component suppliers, parts and material suppliers is characterized through a high "transport-intensity" and has played a leading role in the buildup of new production facilities in Central and Eastern Europe. As an example, the cargo traffic between suppliers in Middle and Western Europe and Romanian component suppliers to the automotive industry in the Timisoara region, showcase solutions for the problem described above that will be developed. The presented solutions are supposed to carry the potential for an extension into different sectors of the economy or other regions.
Starting points of the chosen approach are the logistical processes and transportation chains of the originators of the traffic, the manufacturers and their suppliers. The recording and visualization of the structure and the requirements of the transport chains and a subsequent categorization and grouping into compatible process-clusters, is supposed to allow an estimation of potential for optimization and further supply the relevant data for a simulation model. This simulation model is a central tool for uncovering optimization potential. In combination with cost-factors, actual costs for existing transportation relationships can be derived, which allow the calculation of potential savings through consolidated shipments. Moreover, alternative scenarios for intermodal transportation can be derived.
Regional, co-operative pooling of transports is a new concept for the cooperatively operating logistics and transport processes. In the past, similar approaches failed due to insufficient consideration of the goals and utility functions of the involved partners and a lack of organizational bracing. Therefore, a model co-operative, cross-company shipping agency will be developed. This co-operative model will be supplemented by a logistics model, which will be evaluated with respect to economic and logistical criteria. All those models will be aggregated into a process and simulation architecture, which allows the random configuration of transport chains and which allows the conveying of the results of this project to different sectors of the economy or other geographical regions.
Significant reductions in emissions and reduced logistics costs are the results of the research project “Trans Austria” conducted by the Vienna University of Technology, V-Research, Gebrüder Weiss and Positec. The study verifies the existence of a high potential for optimization concerning transports between Eastern and Western Europe.
High Optimization Potential detected
Part loads on direct relations, small transport carriers, part load traffic with long run times and high transport rates between enterprises are increasingly becoming common practice. The project Trans Austria analyzed competitiveness and challenges with respect to economical and ecological issues. One objective was the optimization of logistical processes and the development of organizational models. The results of the project showed high potential for cross-company transport bundling of suppliers with similar sources and sales regions, and not only in new and individual logistic structures like the Automotive Region Eastern Europe (AREE).
Stringent and coherent structure of the simulation model
The prerequisite for realistic and significant research results was the development of a simulation and evaluation model, that not only allows the analysis of the actual situation but also allows evaluation, support and advancement of new logistic models: a model that is especially useful for the investigation of cross-company logistic models.
The region Timis in Western Romania with its’ twenty-five automotive suppliers that have transport flows mainly to Western Europe seemed most adequate for the empirical analysis and first tests of such logistic models. As in comparable economic regions, transports to and from Timis are mostly operated by direct truck traffic resulting from limited transport flows. Transport optimization is done individually on a company level and is not based on co-operations.
After analyzing the initial situation the results were successfully implemented, by concentrating and consolidating transport volumes in order to allow railroad operation on the main run. Subsequently, various scenarios for the usage of railway traffic were simulated. “The findings of the simulation model in combination with information from the analysis at the start of the project are used to identify synergy effects” explains Felix Meizer from the Vienna University of Technology. “The goal of the project was to develop a co-operative logistics concept for consolidating transports and an illustration of potentials to reduce road traffic, improve capacity usage as well as the reduction of emissions.”
Research project delivers convincing results
Single, independent scenarios and concepts of the research project, finally led to convincing findings: Using intelligent cross-company transport bundling combined with the usage of railway transport, emissions can be reduced at lower transport costs. In the newly designed scenarios, up to sixty per cent of the ton kilometers can be operated by train allowing a forty per cent CO2 emission reduction. In other words, seven out of ten truck tours through Austria can be avoided, by putting the loads on railroad.