Lean management, supply chain management, just-in-time, process optimization, networking, sustainability - all these are terms that characterize today's economy and modern logistics. Customers want to make their supply chain as efficiently as possible and reduce their inventory levels at the freight forwarders and logistics providers. Overall, there is a high dynamic between the inter-company transport processes. The consequences are lower vehicle utilization, unnecessary extra trips for the trucks and negative effects on the environment.
The Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics is taking this initial position in the framework of a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi). In cooperation with the Stute Verkehrs-GmbH as a practice partner, AMATRAK (Autonome Multiagenten Transport Koordination) has the goal to reduce freight traffic by using intelligent control and by charging freight vehicles in the procurement and outbound logistics efficiently. Based on a multi-agent technology, for the first time the mileage is reduced in the business environment by an intelligent route planning and disposition. At the same time the average truck load is increased by bundling.
On the basis of methods of distributed artificial intelligence, a software-based, self-controlling multi-agent system has been developed at the beginning. A multi-agent system is a system of several different specialized units, which collectively solve a problem.
In AMATRAK, the multi-agent system is capable to make route planning and vehicle assignment in real time. Changing customer order data and vehicle conditions can be incorporated dynamically.
Looking at everyday problems in disposition of a forwarding agency, the advantage of a decentralized and dynamic scheduling through software agents is the high flexibility. For example, in case of subsequent changes of customer orders or vehicle breakdowns, new proposals are generated. Furthermore, such a control provides an overall more robust route planning in terms of deflection. Small, local disturbances in the design do not lead directly to global problems. The flexibility also provides the necessary condition for practical use in a forwarding agency.
The realisation of AMATRAK in the disposition of a forwarding agency as an application scenario takes place within a project consortium, composed by the ISL, the Stute Verkehrs-GmbH and the Cargon GmbH & Co. KG. In the test operation, significant potential for improvement has already been detected kilometre savings and average vehicle occupancy.
On the one hand, results are costs advantages through higher transport efficiency, the capacity of the fleet is used more economically and the dispatchers can be discharged in favour of customer service. On the other hand, from a societal point of view, fuel savings, reduced traffic congestions and emissions (CO2, noise, tire wear) could be achieved by reducing mileage and by consolidating partial loads.
In summary, AMATRAK creates a contribution to flexible, cost-efficient and traffic-avoiding optimization of route planning for dispatchers and logistics service providers and is thus an important step towards a more sustainable logistics by intelligent transport concepts.