The steel industry is the most important user of rail freight in the EU. The industry is worried that outdated technology and the poor payload of wagons will hinder the efficient transport of raw materials to steel mills or the dispatch of finished products to consumption centres. Unappealing logistic solutions and unreliable logistic operations, for example the lack of punctuality, are compounding matters, discouraging freight transport by rail.
Flexible logistics solutions
EU funding of the ITECCO Demo project enabled the company Innofreight to develop innovative and reliable logistics technology that accommodates the needs of its major customers. The company gets around the steel sector’s problems with a modular platform system consisting of a new lightweight wagon, called InnoWaggon, and special containers. “The innovation of the platform-based concept relies on the ability to separate the freight container from the wagon frame. Everything fits together just like a giant LEGO DUPLO set,” notes Hannes Pichler, logistician at Innofreight. “Our ultralight 60-, 80- and 90-foot InnoWaggons for containers are fitted with low-noise brakes. They can be equipped with diverse containers, tailored to cargo and infrastructure requirements at the loading and unloading points. This creates logistic flexibility which is unprecedented in the rail freight transport sector,” explains Pichler. The containers are the low-cost part of the system. Together with the InnoWaggon, they build a special unit that can fit the needs of any market – depending on the cargo, it can change at any time. The containers can carry bulk goods like coke, coal, and iron ore as well as semi-finished products like coils and wires.
No more heavy lifting
Innofreight has taken advantage of the digital technologies by digitising its loading and unloading operations. “Our stationary unloading machines combine a high degree of automation with short unloading times and high productivity. They can empty the containers under all weather conditions, and can operate even in the winter,” notes Pichler. The company’s forklifts are built to take on tough loads, making them ideal for demanding applications such as steel processing. Cargotec, the manufacturer of Innofreight’s forklift trucks, is now working on a forklift that can lift very high freight up to 75 tonnes. Innofreight’s technology is the first to transport raw materials directly to the steel mill and deliver (semi-)finished products. It also supports a closed-loop supply chain that maximises the value of resources and produces less waste.
In Europe, there are about 700 000 freight cars and about 100 000 of them will need to be replaced over the next 45 years. The ambitious goal of Innofreight is to supply 50 % of these freight cars. In addition to the Austrian railway, the company’s customers include the Czech, German, Slovenian and Swedish railways. By the end of 2019, the company will have produced and put onto the market around 1 200 freight cars and 12 000 containers. “Our innovative new modular system has 40 % more carrying capacity compared to state-of-the-art technology. The technology has high chances of establishing itself as a rail freight standard of the 21st century,” concludes Pichler.
ITECCO Demo, Innofreight, container, rail freight, modular, loading, logistics, steel industry, raw materials, InnoWaggon