“Harbor Maps” for Truck Drivers

Feature Article | November 27, 2012 by Shandy Lo

Photo: Port of Hamburg

Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) assumed responsibility for managing and developing the port in 2005. We spoke to Dr. Sebastian Saxe, CIO of HPA, about the “Smart Port Logistics” pilot project and about the challenges that ports like Hamburg will face in the future.

SAP.info: How did the “Smart Port Logistics” pilot project come about?

Sebastian Saxe: Once we had drawn up a road-traffic master plan for the Port of Hamburg, we began looking for an innovative organizational solution that would enable us to implement it. The resulting Port Road Management System is our attempt to optimize the flow of traffic and goods within and around the port area. It is designed to help us control truck traffic and inform drivers about disruptions and jams.

The system aims to distribute traffic effectively and thus prevent the port’s infrastructure from being overstretched unnecessarily. By avoiding traffic jams, it enables goods to be transported to and from the port quickly and smoothly. Ultimately, with an IT system controlling the underlying business processes, the port roads will therefore become “more intelligent”.

How did the test go?

Two trucking companies and a truck-stop operator took part in the three-month test in the summer of 2012.  During this period, a total of 35 truck drivers were linked up to the system via smartphones, which provided them with personalized traffic information to help them avoid jams and other traffic disruptions. Thanks to Deutsche Telekom’s TelematicOne control portal, messages sent by HPA could be received on all communication systems – including Android devices – while the SAP NetWeaver Cloud platform ensured that the traffic information was consolidated, processed, and forwarded to all the trucking companies or to specific drivers, as appropriate.

Why did HPA choose SAP and Deutsche Telekom to be its partners?

We had various criteria, but there were two that tipped the balance. First, we like to work with companies that are innovative and that can make their innovations tangible. What I mean by this is that they have reached the point where they can turn an innovation into a prototype. Second, we like to work with major players – companies that can propagate the idea and make it transferrable.

What were the initial results of the pilot project?

Importantly, there was a high level of acceptance among the participating truck drivers. Because the trucking companies currently use a wide variety of mobile devices, they had previously been unable to implement a standard system and were delighted that our solution could be used with Android devices – though we initially conducted the test with Samsung devices. The trucking companies were also impressed by the solution’s practical benefits, including the fact that it delivers accurate and highly relevant traffic information.

What we also discovered during the test is that the solution could be transferred to other areas as well, including rail, shipping, and air traffic. It could also be extended in the future to provide not “just” local traffic data, but also information that is vital for drivers, including how heavy their load is and what it consists of.

The Port Road Management System gives us local information about the current positions of all the individual trucks.  This enables us to identify traffic clustering and congestion more quickly and to control traffic accordingly. If, for example, a container ship is behind schedule, we can direct the affected trucks straight to a truck holding area, rather than leaving them to block the highways.

Next page: An app with additional features

Dr. Sebastian Saxe, CIO, Hamburg Port Authority (Photo: private)

What’s next?

We anticipate that we will very soon have a solution that takes us beyond the prototype stage and that could be sold to other interested parties. Our aim is to develop a business model in 2013. Another idea we’ve had is to build an app that offers a range of additional features as well.

What changes will HPA’s partners have to adapt to?

Our business model envisages that we will offer the information and the service to all of our trucking partners. They will not be obliged to use the solution, but it does have its attractions. The traffic information we provide allows drivers to reach their destination on schedule and to transship their loads faster so that they can proceed to their next destination without losing precious time.  Even if a trucking company decides not to use the system, we will register its trucks via radio transmitter anyway in order to ensure that our traffic information is accurate and complete at all times.

What are the challenges for the future?

We need to continue modernizing our business processes, extend the use of mobile end devices, and enhance the technology installed in the trucks. We also need to ensure that the solution can be scaled up. The Port Road Management System is rather like a car navigation system. It’s all about anticipating what the future innovations will be.

Do you anticipate a problem with the volume of data involved? Are there any other risks?  

Personally, I don’t think there are any limits to what today’s technology can achieve.  And I don’t see any risk of the data involved becoming too “big”. In “Smart Port Logistics”, we only access geographical and load-related information, so we’re a long way from putting any strain on the cloud.

However, I do see some other potential risks, namely that users are not yet ready to fully exploit the new technology and that an economic crisis could cause us to lose the commercial basis for executing our plans.

What do you see as the challenges for SAP?

The processes we model must harmonize with the other SAP modules. Currently, SAP NetWeaver provides the foundation, but we need to progress from there. It will become increasingly important for us to have the Hamburg Port Authority’s business processes modeled and integrated in the cloud. We also need technical optimizations across the board, from accounting through tool maintenance. And innovations in Web services must continue.

How can SAP help the Port of Hamburg get fit for the future?

My vision of “Change 3.0” for the Port of Hamburg is that it will allow us to refine our infrastructure services with IT services. “Smart Port Logistics” is an important starting point. Now that we’ve developed a solution for road traffic, we need to follow on from that and transfer our solution to rail and shipping traffic. If we can get the information for all three modes of transport together in one system, we’ll have taken a major step forward.  The Port of Hamburg could become a market leader in terms of the IT support it provides for its business processes.

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