Developers hope new digital platform for pallet exchange will herald a new era for logistics

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Developers hope new digital platform for pallet exchange will herald a new era for logistics

A team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) is launching a platform with a cloud-based cargo carrier management application that works using artificial intelligence.

The solution is to record the pallet exchange process digitally, make it available to both parties to the exchange, and offer automatic settlement between both parties to the transaction.

Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute developed the platform together with the European Pallet Association (EPAL), as part of the Enterprise Lab project. Recently, an open-source component was added to the platform – the so-called ‘e-pallet slip’ from the Silicon Valley Economy development project.

Using an open source component is a big step forward for both our company and our platform. Integrating the e-pallet slip saved us months of work and at the same time provides a blueprint for industrialising open source software,” explains Philipp Wrycza, responsible for strategy and sales in the spin-off team.

Artificial intelligence and pallet exchange

The market potential for such a solution appears to be high. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, there are around 600 million Europallets, 135 million small load carriers (KLT), 600 million fruit and vegetable boxes and 700 million meat and bread boxes in circulation in Europe alone. Their tracking, booking and inventory management is mainly done using analogue methods or dedicated systems that must be integrated into the company’s respective IT environment.

The application, developed by Fraunhofer Institute platform founders Jan Möller, Philipp Wrycza, Patrik Elfert and Michael Koscharnyj (pictured), could be a viable solution. It should digitally record the exchange process, make it available to both parties and fully automatically settle exchange transactions – in compliance with the law.

Small and medium-sized companies, in particular, should benefit from the new app, as their employees can identify, track, swap and manage all possible load carriers. AI algorithms capture load carrier identifiers through image recognition and determine their type and number from a single image.

The digital pallet document (e-pallet slip) will allow the creation of an intercompany network and the integration of different partners. If, for example, two companies compare their pallet stocks using the app, the system will automatically check in the future whether more favourable exchange processes are possible. For example, by involving other app users, which will help avoid empty runs.

German government provides money

“The full digitisation of processes and supply chains with the help of artificial intelligence will usher in a new era in logistics,” emphasises Prof. Michael Hompel, Managing Director of Fraunhofer IML.

“This is an important step that shows how quickly new business models can be implemented in the Silicon Valley Economy and based on open source,” he adds.

The project received €25 million in funding over three years from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI). In addition to Fraunhofer IML, project partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Technology ISST and the Technical University of Dortmund.

Photo credit @ Fraunhofer IML

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