A NEW EPISODE IN RAIL
THE AGILE FORCE AWAKENS
For many years the automation and productivity debate revolved around efficient waterside processes, smarter yard stacking and perhaps quicker truck/gate turnaround times. But recently the focus has shifted to rail yard operations and the possible gains associated with it. High performing hinterland systems are mission critical in order to manage peak demands and customer expectations.
More and more tasks have to be coordinated simultaneously at highspeed with permanent and unplannable changes. Not only is the large volume of data overwhelming, but we also have the massive amount of possible actions to contend with. This is where ‘Agile Optimization’ comes in. It can be used to speed-up and optimise the decisionmaking processes in rail crane operations. Powered by algorithms, the software is able to calculate routing options, handshake possibilities in the transshipment area and double cycle opportunities within a fraction of a second. The best results are immediately translated into optimised job order sequences for each crane – adapted to their grade of automation (manual, semi or full).
ALGORITHMS BEAT HARDWARE
Agile Optimization is a concept that takes human/computer interaction, rapid response to change and decision making quality to a new level. It benefits from the enormous advances in computer hardware
over the past two decades. But gains in processor speed pale in comparison to the progress made by algorithms: hardware power has increased by the factor 1,200, while algorithms have improved by a
factor of 55,000 in the same period. The joint forces result into a staggering factor of 66 million, or in other words: a planning model using linear programming that would have taken two years to solve in the 1990s, could be solved in just one second today.
The software can be used as an add-on to an existing TOS, following a best-of-breed strategy for selecting the solution that is most suited for a particular task, e.g. rail crane operations, yard management, and so forth.
A stronghold of agile optimisation software is the control and synchronisation of time-critical processes in real-time, e.g. optimised storing and stacking of containers in order to minimise rehandlers and retrieval times or the optimised sequence of rail crane moves. To gain a better understanding of how this works in practice, let’s take a closer look at some applications in rail yard operations.
Running efficient rail operations is like running a relay race. The teams must be well-coordinated and able to pass a container from one member of the team to the next while maintaining maximum speed. Agile Optimization Software can help to ensure that each container transfer from yard to rail and from rail to yard is perfectly timed and executed. Based on the data it receives from the TOS, the software quickly analyses all jobs within seconds and proposes optimised handover times and transfer points at the rail area. Current work status, work load of each rail crane and handling equipment (manned or automated straddle carrier, reach stacker, AGV, terminal tractor, and so forth) as well as their associated rail productivity are also included in the calculations. Whenever the TOS provides updated data, the optimisation software automatically recalculates and updates the decisions to support the new operative situation. This real-time capability ensures that each container is moved at the right time and at the right place, giving them a head start for their next move.
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