Information on the status of transports is crucial for all of the stakeholders in combined transport. Knowing where a consignment is and when it is due to arrive is critical for resource planning and dispatching decisions. Until now, road transport has been a lorry-length ahead of rail freight services because there was no central data hub for trains. Sylke Hussmann, head of intermodal carrier sales at DB Cargo AG, says, "Following a little more than three years of close cooperation, we have now reached an important milestone in the digitalisation of combined transport. The KV 4.0 data breaks down the barriers between the various participants in the combined transport process. We've now made it easier to share information about cross-modal services, and this makes operations far more transparent."
Starting with a minimal viable product
Christoph Renschler manages the KV 4.0 project for DB Cargo AG. According to Renschler, "We are starting with an MVP, a minimal viable product. DB Cargo's production activities have already been hooked up to the system, so we can now use data from link2rail to provide our biggest customers, Kombiverkehr and Hupac, with status information about their trains. Later this year, we will add information about disruptions and ETA to supplement this purely status-related information since it is so important to customers."
The project's members can already use the MVP’s user interface to efficiently manage master data such as terminals' contact and communication details. The web interface also makes it possible to allocate and manage user authorisations. Standardised interface solutions are used to feed timetable data into the information hub, while users can transfer detailed information about intermodal transport chains to their own IT systems.
The MVP will go into production this year, and the first generation of users will include all of the current project partners (Kombiverkehr, Hupac, Kombiterminal Ludwigshafen, SBB Cargo Deutschland, Lokomotion, Hoyer, Paneuropa and Bertschi). At the same time, a company will be created to operate the KV 4.0 data hub. The company will focus on connecting new business partners, and its future customers will be drawn from the entire industry around intermodal transport chains, from freight forwarders and terminals to rail companies and operators. An initial round of talks is already underway with the Port of Rotterdam.
DB Cargo is also conducting negotiations on platform strategies with the TradeLense consortium. Established by Maersk and IBM in 2018, the TradeLense platform now has some 160 members worldwide, including port authorities, logistics companies and financial service providers. Even Ukraine's customs authority is running tests on the software. In addition, there are plans to approach IBM to explore options for linking the KV 4.0 data hub with the TradeLense platform in order to maximise transparency and customer value.