When many container mega-ships call at HHLA’s terminals in Hamburg, there can be bottlenecks on the port’s roads. The expansion of the busy A7 road is creating further limitations for the trucks carrying containers on their chassis. Even HHLA subsidiary Container-Transport-Dienst (CTD) has to deal with the constant risk of bottlenecks.
“We specialise in transfers between the port terminals and the depots, and also what is known as the last mile of a transport,” says CTD’s Managing Director Ralph Frankenstein. When specialists such as himself speak of the “last mile” they mean the final – or sometimes first – stretch of road on the way to a customer or on the way back. In the case of containers, this is almost always done by truck because trains or ships seldom have direct access to the sites.
For the freelance truck drivers who transport steel boxes on 330 CTD container chassis, time is money. They also need to navigate the often difficult traffic situation. But the software Cargo Support spares them at least the trouble of having to drive to the CTD head office at the Port of Hamburg. In the past, drivers had to collect printed orders there. Today, this is done via smartphones or tablets. By now, these digital tools are just as important for drivers as their tractor units.
Digitalisation also helps in logistics by reducing the amount of paperwork. The project for smart transport on the last mile is called SMILE. “We found the name very fitting,” says Frankenstein with a hint of pride.
In the end, all those involved have a reason to smile thanks to the project: dispatchers have more flexibility for more complex tasks, drivers’ capacities are used more effectively and CTD customers can track the journey of their containers in real time.
Customers can see the current location of a steel box using a web portal or import it to their own logistics programme through an XML interface. “Thanks to this solution, CTD is at the very forefront of digitalisation nationwide. As technical director at Cargo Support, he has a good overview of the sector.
The digitalisation of road transport at the terminals received a decisive boost even before the introduction of SMILE. At the end of 2017, HHLA introduced its slot-booking process (SBV). Since then, every truck driver has to book online a window of one hour for their arrival at the terminal. No slot means no access to the terminal.
Thanks to SBV, the situation at parking areas and in driving around the terminals eased noticeably. The system knows the GPS data of a truck driver as well as the time needed to reach the terminal and books a slot in the background. But the software is capable of much more. It assigns the transport order to the driver closest to a particular collection site.
In this case, that is Rille Hadzic, who has been driving for CTD for over 30 years. He confirms the order on his tablet and drives to the exporter to pick up the cargo. At the site, Hadzic documents the number of the container using the his device’s camera.
The software sends the data to the customers so that they can track their shipment. Containers are announced at the terminal via an interface. If necessary, SMILE can also submit a change of custodian for uncustomed goods to the customs office. All the while, Hadzic can focus on his journey through the whole Port of Hamburg.
“We introduced the Kölsch principle from hospitality into our software,” says IT expert Ostholt. Drivers keep receiving orders until they signal they’re done. The advantage: fewer empty runs.
In the meantime, Hadzic is on his way to Terminal Altenwerder. In the background, SMILE checks for outstanding collection orders at the terminal. Ideally, Hadzic will directly transport new cargo on his chassis on his way back.
In addition to greater efficiency, CTD has also extended his work times. After all, roads are much emptier at night. Terminals work around the clock, but many importers and exporters do not. “We managed to convince some of our customers to entrust us with access to their logistics grounds,” says Frankenstein.
This enables his drivers to transport full containers from the terminal to the ramps of the customers in the night hours. They can then be unloaded immediately when shifts begin in the morning. “Morning deliveries often experienced delays due to road closures, construction sites or traffic jams. We avoid that in the night hours,” says Frankenstein.
However, dispatchers are only present at CTD’s office between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This is where SMILE is also of assistance. The entire commissioning of orders takes place in an automated manner from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The steps after transport has been completed are also digital and fully automated. Customers receive their invoices and drivers their credit notes. For CTD employees, this saves an enormous amount of time that would otherwise be spent printing, preparing and sending. Instead, Frankenstein’s employees can focus on their main tasks.
“The programme works like a teenager,” says software expert Ostholt. “It only contacts you if there is a deviation from the target process.” While assigning transport orders has been almost fully digitalised with SMILE, there is one step of the process that still requires a signature on paper.
Frankenstein is also looking for solutions to that. Maybe blockchain technology could be of assistance and replace legal signatures.
Container-Transport-Dienst is the oldest HHLA subsidiary. It has provided transfers at the Port of Hamburg since 1974. Today, the area of operation extends over 150 km around the Hanseatic City.
In addition to trucks, inland waterway ships are also used in the “wet triangle” between the ports of Hamburg, Bremen and Bremerhaven. Approximately 600 containers are moved every day at the Port of Hamburg, while nationwide the number is close to 1,400.
With its 45 clerical employees, CTD operates offices close to Berlin and in Kornwestheim, near Stuttgart, in addition to the head office in Hamburg. As a partner in combined transportation, CTD focuses on the first and last miles of a transport.