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thyssenkrupp Steel Testing App for Tracking Push Barges

Steel News - Published on Fri, 26 Jun 2020

Image Source: thyssenkrupp Steel App
It’s around 240 kilometers by ship down the Rhine from Europoort Rotterdam to the iron and steel mill of thyssenkrupp Steel in Duisburg. The river plays an important part in the supply of raw materials to the mill and the direct route is a key locational advantage: up to 10,000 push barges supply the mill’s ports with iron ore, coal and other raw materials every year. Each of these over 75 meter long floating containers is capable of transporting up to 2,700 tons of raw materials. It’s a volume of traffic that needs to be well coordinated, because space at the thyssenkrupp ports of Walsum and Schwelgern is finite: only a limited number of barges can be parked or unloaded at the same time. As part of its digital logistics strategy, thyssenkrupp Steel is optimizing barge coordination with state-of-the-art sensor technology.

Logistics can sometimes only be planned with short lead times. Storms or poor visibility due to fog can cause delays, as can low Rhine water levels. Maintenance work on the blast furnaces can also temporarily reduce demand for raw materials. The result: sudden changes in barge traffic.

This is a complex operation because of the numerous functions that need to be notified of changes: from port planning to the blast furnace, from barge skippers to crane operators at the ports, from Rotterdam to Duisburg. For everything to run smoothly a lot of communication is required.

The most important tools for coordinating the more than 100 barges and various push boats along the Rhine and in the ports are large amounts of operating data, cameras and telephones. The logisticians wanted to simplify this. Together with IT, handling and storage logistics and raw materials coordination, they sought a solution that would give everyone involved an overview at all times. They came up with a system whereby every barge is now IoT-capable and equipped with a solar-powered GPS sensor. The GPS data are combined with information on orders and cargoes. The result is a digital map allowing all parties to keep track of every barge at all times, including information on tonnage, raw material cargo and port arrival time calculated with the aid of artificial intelligence. As a result, time and costs can be saved, for example, by sending a signal to ship’s masters on their way to Duisburg telling them to reduce their speed and fuel consumption when it’s clear they would have to wait outside the port anyway.

In the long term, tracking is set to provide a basis for further optimization and automation. Possibilities include evaluations of optimum port occupancy levels, the integration of forecast water level data or the inclusion of external ships in order to reduce mooring fees. The tracking of barges is a further step on the road to digital logistics being pursued by thyssenkrupp Steel as part of its digitization strategy.

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Posted By : Yogender Pancholi on Fri, 26 Jun 2020
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