In order to optimize the loading of its containers, Skoda have taken inspiration from the iconic video game Tetris. The Czech manufacturer are no means the only ones doing so either.
Tetris was once a popular computer game. Although the graphics look quite archaic today, the logic of the game is still interesting and inspiring.
Let’s recall: the tetrion (or the board) has the size of 20 rows per 10 columns and is empty at the beginning of the game. During the game, single blocks appear on the top edge of the board. They move downwards, and when one falls to the bottom and is immobilized, another appears at the top of the board. The player’s task is to arrange them in such a way that the squares that make up them form a line across the width of the rectangle. The game continues until the block can no longer appear on the board for lack of space.
And it was Tetris that inspired, among others, the IT specialists from the logistics department of Skoda Auto. They decided to use an intelligent application that features the smooth arrangement of elements of different shapes in a specific space.
It’s specifically designed for 12.2 meter (40 feet) containers. Such containers (dimensions: 12,2 x 2,4 x 2,6 m) are used e.g. to transport car body parts as well as technological materials (e.g. adhesives) from the logistics centre in Mladá Boleslav in the Czech Republic to the car assembly plant in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
Tetris was the inspiration for Optikon’s application based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.
The AI application is an important step on our way to digitizing logistics and work processes. The Optikon project simplifies the work of employees in the parts warehouse, while reducing transport costs. „We also reduce CO2 emissions, because we only send full containers on the road” — says David Strnad, head of brand logistics at Skoda Auto.
Photo credit @ Skoda
And the effects? Quite significant.
It has been calculated that in the first half of this year alone, Skoda Auto saved 151 containers while reducing CO2 emissions by 80 t.
The AI Optikon application, co-developed by Skoda Auto Logistik and Skoda IT, calculates how and in what number the various freight items (different types of pallets) should be placed in order to make the most efficient use of the container capacity. All this facilitates loading, which is not an easy task for logistics professionals.
Usually this task is really difficult, because different pallet sizes are available daily for shipment in the parts warehouse. While classic solutions of this kind only take into account the weight and value of the parcels, Optikon also takes into account the surface and volume parameters of the cargo, as well as the time of shipment.
And this is not the only solution on the market.
The popularity of Optikon-like loading optimisation solutions has been growing rapidly in recent years, which is proved by other solution providers, e.g.: PackViz, Cape Pack, Cape TruckFill, 4ls/Genetix, Goodloading.
For users of these programs, it is important, among other things, that the loading phases can be presented graphically and printed, as well as that the program gives the possibility of grouping packages according to specific codes or priorities (e.g. goods for the same recipient), which later facilitates unloading at the destination point.
The calculations of the loading diagrams usually take into account the following:
- the weight of the individual packages,
- the permissible method of placement,
- the maximum safe stacking height,
- the most accurate centre of gravity of a container for a given transport (stability during transport).
User-friendliness is also important in this kind of solution For example, Goodloading, a tool available online to quickly calculate whether a given load will fit into a truck, also allows you to place packages on the vehicle in the order in which they are listed.
How does it work? Just go to the website, then enter the dimensions of the package you want to transport. The system will tell you which vehicle is capable of holding a given freight. At any time you can also define the dimensions of the vehicle yourself or select it from the list of the most popular ones in the system. Working with the application will allow you to place loads on a space diagram. They can be rotated, added and removed. In addition, you can view a visualisation of the loaded vehicle in a 2D or 3D grid.
During the loading planning process, the tool shows the vacant and occupied spaces in real time. This data is particularly useful when recharging is planned. The user can print out or make the loading plan available to the person responsible for transport to ensure that the loading is done correctly.
In the case of several loading points, the tool will spread the loads in such a way that they can be handled in the right order. When the number of loads that need to be transported is large, the tool will spread them out over several trucks.
The optimization tools suppliers unanimously emphasize that these solutions are systematically modernized and their functionality extended. In the case of Goodloading, it has recently been possible, for example, to animate the loading (it can be opened on the phone, just send a link to the project), as well to highlight the load (this can be enabled in the load settings).
Photo credit @ Goodloading