Synchromodal transport enables optimal integration of different transport modes and infrastructure by the use of real-time (internet of things) data to improve capacity usage, the flow of transport means, and enhance their use cost-effectively. Given the real-time dynamics and flexible nature of synchromodal transport, different actors and transport modalities need to work together and adapt according to unexpected events as well as contextual information that affect transport processes. These events and contextual information can be positive or negative perturbations that shape freight movement and transport mode selection. Crucial elements in this regard are situational awareness of the current system state and projections of how the system will evolve once different actors take different actions. What is more, the real-time mode selection requires the involvement of extra parties in the process to solve transparency issues as to who has the cargo and where is it located. Therefore, the planning has to be synchronized in a sophisticated manner and with all necessary parties involved.
The DISpATch project focuses on organizational and technical enablers for seamless synchromodal transport services in Flanders. We aim to develop a platform represented by a Digital Twin component in order to provide a testbed for synchromodal opportunities within a risk-free environment and mimic the physical reality on a digital platform. By means of the digital twin, effects of sensor technology and information exchange can be studied in combination with physical flows.
With this research project, we combine forces with three universities (VUB, KU Leuven, and UHasselt) and VIL that have expertise in different aspects of synchromodal transport. The DISpATch project fits into the program of the logistics spearhead cluster within the themes of Digitization and Sustainability. The project is also in line with the advice of the Flemish Mobility Council to the Minister of Budget, Finance, and Energy to stimulate cooperation models that can bundle fragmented volumes, as well as the exchange of information between companies in the logistics chain.
Introduction of the DISpATch Project, Koen Mommens, VUB-MOBI
A short introduction of the DISpATch project in order to show the overall structure and synergy between different research parties of the project.
With the development of up-to-date technologies, as one of the new concepts, synchromodal transport is proposed and has received increasing attention in the field of sustainable freight transportation. Synchromodal transport adopts dynamic modal shifting of diverse transportation modes and flexible utilization of resources to reduce costs, emissions, optimize the choices of transportation modes, and improve the service quality. However, with the increasing studies, it is necessary to take into account whether the sustainable objectives can be finally achieved all the time by synchromodality. This review utilizes the classification named 5A’s of sustainable logistics to provide the critical perspective for sustainability in synchromodal transport. The 5A's represent Awareness, Avoidance, Act and shift, Anticipation of new technologies, and Actor Involvement. We demonstrate the critical point of view that whether synchromodal transport can really lead to better bundling, modal shift, etc. This research provides the theoretical basis for further research, questioning the extent to which synchromodal transport can contribute to sustainability in freight transportation.
Synchromodal transportation planning is defined by the possibility to re-route shipments to alternative transportation modes at intermediate terminals based on real-time information about the shipment in transit. We present a synchromodal decision support model to determine the optimal modal choice for a single shipment in a multimodal network that is characterized by stochastic travel times. The model is formulated as a Markov decision process and allows adaptations to the modal choice based on real-time information on the travel time. Our formulation trades off transportation and late delivery penalty costs, and captures the value of synchromodal planning. We demonstrate the use of our model in a numerical case study, where we evaluate synchromodal against static intermodal transportation planning. The latter does not allow real-time adjustments to the modal choice. Compared to intermodality, synchromodal planning has most value when the penalty for late delivery is high and transportation services are more frequent.
A capacity decision support model for synchromodal transport under uncertainty. Thibault Delbart, Yves Molenbruch, Kris Braekers and An Caris, UHasselt
Synchromodal transport involves the use of multiple modes of transport and mode-free booking. The combination of road transport with other modes can be more sustainable than unimodal road transport for long-haul freight shipping. Logistics service providers typically book slots on high-capacity transport modes such as trains and barges several months in advance, before complete demand information is available. We present a three-stage decision support model to assist capacity decisions in synchromodal transport planning under uncertain demand from the perspective of LSPs. Initial capacity decisions are made in the first stage before demand is known, whereas updates are performed in the later stages when more information is available. It is assumed that available capacity is higher and prices are lower in the first stage. Differently from existing two-stage models on service network design which assume that updates are only performed with complete demand information, our model includes a third intermediate stage when capacity adjustments are made while part of the demand is known. This is a more accurate representation of real-life decision making.
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