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Freight wagon to customer: Here I am!

DB Cargo is powering ahead with the digitalisation of its freight wagon fleet. In Seelze near Hanover, wagon number 34,000 was fitted with state-of-the-art telematics and smart sensors in late August.

Marek Staszek, Member of the Management Board of DB Cargo for Production, and Dr Jürgen Harland, Head of Logistics and SCM at Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH, got involved personally at the depot to mark the half-way point in the "Wagon Intelligence" project. "The smart freight wagons are modernising rail freight transport and making it fit for the future. Our customers are benefiting from more manageable logistics chains, higher-quality transport and predictable arrival times. With these advantages, we want to achieve a lasting shift in traffic onto the environmentally friendly rail freight network and to make our contribution to 'Strong Rail' in Germany and Europe," said Marek Staszek.

A telematics module, GPS and the use of RFID and NFC tags help the analogue freight wagons join the fully connected digital world. The modernised wagons use mobile telephony to transmit signals during the journey, such as when the wagon starts and stops, or sensors detect an impact. This data can help to produce useful information about the load condition, temperature and humidity and about the movement of sensitive cargo inside the wagon.

By 2020, the approximately 68,000 wagons in the company's German fleet are all due to have the digital technology on board. To ensure that happens, Europe's largest rail freight company is investing tens of millions of euros. The GPS and sensor technology bring a range of benefits for DB Cargo's customers. For example, the new data will be provided to them using the track & trace functionality of link2rail, DB Cargo's central customer platform for all digital services.

"The value chain at Salzgitter Flachstahl GmbH relies heavily on efficient logistics processes. The digitalisation of our business processes, which is focussing on connectivity, real-time capability, high quality and excellent service, is becoming ever more important. The 'smart freight wagon' is the final piece in the puzzle. The newly acquired data will refine and improve forecasts and assumptions as it provides information not just on the consignment but on quality too," said Harland.