Constantly high parcel volumes not only require the expansion of sorting and delivery capacities, but also intelligent solutions for the logistics of tomorrow. To underline the importance of experimentation and innovation, Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) and Österreichische Post (the Austrian postal service) are renewing their successful cooperation. The Institute of Logistics Engineering (ITL) at TU Graz will provide scientific support to Österreichische Post in the field of logistics technology for another two years. Two concrete research projects are to be implemented soon: a computer simulation on the behaviour of poly bag packaging and autonomously driving HGVs.
“Österreichische Post is already testing the logistics of tomorrow! As the market leader, we not only aspire to always be the best, we also want to set the tone in terms of innovation. TU Graz supports us in the implementation of ground-breaking projects, such as the autonomous yard logistics at the parcel logistics centre in Kalsdorf,” says Peter Umundum, Board Director for Parcel & Logistics, Österreichische Post AG.
Pioneering work at TU Graz
“TU Graz is doing pioneering work in logistics technology, combining established topics in materials handling and storage technology with future-oriented questions and state-of-the-art engineering methods, such as digital planning and simulation. Research results must be applied in practice, and this also requires problems coming directly from practical experience. We have a very good cooperation with Österreichische Post here, which benefits both sides enormously,” emphasizes Harald Kainz, Rector of TU Graz.
“At TU Graz, we have almost 2,000 scientific researchers with outstanding knowledge in almost all technical fields. At our Institute of Logistics Engineering, mechanical engineering, mechatronics, IT and industrial engineering are combined with our logistics system knowledge to form a field of expertise in logistics engineering that is both fundamental and industry-oriented. Here we shift the majority of the development and optimization of the systems to virtual models, which help us to become faster, safer and more variant-oriented in our engineering,” says Christian Landschützer, professor at the Institute of Logistics Engineering.
ISAAK: Simulation of poly bag packaging on the computer
As part of the cooperation, TU Graz and Österreichische Post together with Körber Supply Chain Logistics are conducting real basic research in the “ISAAK” project funded by the FFG Bridge programme. The aim of the project is to develop a physical model with which the behaviour of so-called small consignments of the courier express parcel industry (CEP) in flexible packaging (e.g. poly bags, kraft paper or kraft paper with bubble wrap) can be simulated on the computer. For logistics companies such as Österreichische Post and sorting machine manufacturers, such items are a challenge due to their deformability, different sizes and different outer shells.
This is where the ISAAK project comes in. Based on the physical model thus developed, it should be possible to simulate how sorting machines need to be designed or adapted in order to improve the reliable automatic sorting of such consignments.
Autonomous trucks planned at the logistics center Styria
A second project is dedicated to self-propelled HGVs, or more precisely transfer vehicles of swap body bridges (WAB). The autonomous vehicles will be able to independently pick up, transport and unload WAB containers at the parcel logistics centre in Kalsdorf (Styria). Österreichische Post already gained initial experience with autonomous yard logistics in 2019 with the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Vienna-Inzersdorf.
For the test, a self-driving vehicle including a robot arm is to be purchased, and the area of the logistics centre will be equipped with sensors. Implementation is planned in two phases. In the first step, a human driver will steer the vehicle to the WAB containers, only then will a computer take over. In the second step, the vehicle will already be fully autonomous, i.e. it will approach the destination independently and transport the WAB container, including docking at a gate of the logistics centre.