Digitalized and fully connected transport solutions

Digitization in transport logistics and combined transport

Forschungsfeld »Digitalisierung in Transportlogistik und Kombinierter Verkehr«, orangener Lkw und Wechselbrücken
© Adobe Stock/ Amarinj

Intercompany transport forms a key link within the supply chain – and often a highly critical one. Whether for reasons of cost, time or efficiency, any of the following factors can be crucial: driver availability, vehicle capacity, loading/unloading, route/network planning or simply the most effective distribution of goods.

The transport industry has long harbored hopes that digitalization might bring improvements to efficiency through, for example, the introduction of autonomous vehicles, platooning or the automated linkage of different modes of transport – as already occurs in combined transport via land, water and air. While the advent of Industrie 4.0 is already bringing enhanced processes in production or logistics, it is still early days in transport logistics. There are two main reasons for this: the low level of digitalization in transport processes, and the low level of connectivity and therefore interaction between the various actors involved in intercompany transportation – between, for example, the forwarding agent and the transport company or driver, between the forwarding agent and the shipper, or between any of the above and infrastructure operators. One reason here could be the absence of suitable technology. Another is that many of the parties involved do not recognize the advantages that digital connectivity can bring.

The solution: A better use of data

The solution to the problems in transport logistics lies in a better use of data. This requires a combination of the following:

  • Technology
  • Applications-based data analytics
  • Sector-wide connectivity of relevant data

Genuine value is created only when there is a swift transfer of data between actors and individual carriers, ideally in real time. This ensures, for example, that information such as consignment data does not go missing during transport. It is only through such measures that transport logistics can be gradually transformed into its digital twin: Transportlogistik 4.0.

Fully connected and digitalized transport processes for Transportlogistik 4.0


By Transportlogistik 4.0, we mean – by analogy with Industrie 4.0 – the use of cyberphysical systems to enhance the management, self-organization and optimization of intercompany transport. Using the latest technology, data is recorded and analyzed during loading, unloading and other transport-related processes. This data enables the creation of a near-real-time digital twin. Following enrichment with further data from IT systems, camera systems or sensors, we then use data analytics to further analyze and optimize this information. On this basis, we are able to derive measures to boost the real-time efficiency of intercompany connectivity and then, for example, set up individual self-managing subsystems or automate various transport handling and invoicing processes.  

For this purpose, we are looking at how data from within the transport operation can best be combined with externally available information so as to then provide valid and relevant data, automatically and in real time.

How we fully connect transport processes

Growing traffic volumes and a lack of resources call for the introduction of fully connected transport solutions featuring an intelligent combination of internal and external data. The purpose of Transportlogistik 4.0 is therefore to enable efficient, flexible and agile planning and control of transport processes, based on a locally organized, data-driven, networked system. If all the actors in the transport process are to benefit from this, it will be necessary to ensure not only that transport processes are digitalized but also that they are genuinely connected to one another. Our research therefore focuses on the analysis and interpretation of transport data so as to:

  • Identify requirements with regard to the connectivity of transport processes – in order to, for example, increase efficiency in capacity usage, time, distance and speed along transport chains; and also to increase the effectiveness of actors along the supply chain.
  • Analyze the value that arises for decision-makers through the intelligent combination of transport data. For this purpose, it is necessary to develop suitable indicators to show potential for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Investigate how the use of new technology and optimization models will change the face of transport processes.

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