All posts by phisor

Inauguration of the Gotthard Base Tunnel

On the 1st of June, Switzerland celebrated the inauguration of the new Goothard Base Tunnel, the longest railway tunnel in the world. The first two passenger trains crossed the 57 km long tunnel from both sided after an overall planning and construction time of 20 years. A list of some specifications show the huge dimensions of the new tunnel:

  • Length:
    • Western tunnel: 57.017 km (35.429 mi)
    • Eastern tunnel: 57.104 km (35.483 mi)
  • Total length of all tunnels and shafts: 151.840 km (94.35 mi)
  • Diameter of each of the single-track tubes: 8.83–9.58 m (29.0–31.4 ft)
  • Distance between cross passage tunnels: ca. 325 m (1,066 ft)
  • Maximum overburden: 2,300 m (7,500 ft) (at Piz Vatgira)
  • Start of construction: 1993 (sounding drills), 1996 (preparations), 2003 (mechanical excavation)
  • End of construction: 2016
  • Commissioning: May 2016
  • Total cost: CHF 9.74 billion (as of October 2010) (US$10.1 billion)
  • Trains per day: 200–250
  • Amount of excavated rock: 28,200,000 t (31,100,000 short tons; 27,800,000 long tons), (13,300,000 m3 or 17,400,000 cu yd, the equivalent of 5 Giza pyramids)
  • Number of tunnel boring machines (TBM): Four Herrenknecht Gripper TBMs — Machine numbers S-210 and S-211 operated northbound from Bodio to Faido and Sedrun and were nicknamed Sissi and Heidi respectively; Machines S-229 and S-230 operated southbound from Erstfeld to Sedrun and were known as Gabi I and Gabi II


From now on, passing the Alps at the Gotthard Pass will only take 20 minutes instead of 75. The Swiss goverment expects costs for railway companies to decrease by 30%. This will not only lead to a higher attractivity of the region for tourism, but also have a strong impact on the economy, since trade between the southern and northern countries of the Alps will be easier, faster, cheaper and more reliable, because trasportation becomes more independent from the weather.


While in the past all trains had to overcome a total difference in altitude of 680m, it will now only be 90m. This allows a 1600 tonns heavy train to set 2 railcars aside and pass the tunnel with only 1 railcar instead of 3. This will also lead to decreasing shunting times. Expertts expect the currently trasnported amount of 15 million tonns of goods to skyrocket within the next years.

To achiev this goal, railway companies urge regulatory authorothies to extend the allowed total lenght of a single train from 740m to 1500m. By doing so they argue, the loads of 240.000 trucks passing the Alps could be relocated to trains by 2030. Tests with these long trains are currently conducted in the Gotthard Base tunnel in order to gain experience.

However, to achieve the biggest benefit possible for all, additional construction and expansions of the the existing infrastructure in Germany and Italy have to be realized. Due to delays in these countries, the final axis will not be fully completed before 2035.



Airfield transportation

Today I will talk about a small company and you may probably not know a lot about it, but most probably you will have gotten in touch with one of their products. If you have ever taken a plane to go somewhere, and I’m sure you did, you will have used a COBUS 3000 or a similar bus for transportion from the terminal building to the aircraft or the other way around. In case you still don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a picture:


The Cobus Industries GmbH, a german company founded in 1983 in Wiesbaden, is a highly specialized producer of buses used for transportation of people at aiport airfields. Having  only 49 employees currently contracted, the company generates 58 million € annual turnover and holds a worlwide market share of around 90% in its niche market. For comparison: The three largest manufacturers of buses in the world are the chinese manufacturers Yutong and Kinglong on the first two places and Daimler on the third position. These big players produced 47. 474, 33. 924 and 32 888 buses in 2012, while Cobus only produced about 400 buses at the same time.

Cobus is successful, because the company has found a niche market. Buses that are used at airports are special in a way that they require certain characteristcs which normal buses from the streets do usually not have. I will just name some of these:

  • Big capacity: A Cobus 3000 can carry up to 112 passengers, while a standard bus of the same size has only a capacity of 50.
  • Increased width: Since airfield buses don’t leave the airport area, they don’t need to fit street regulatory framework
  • More and bigger doors on both sides of the bus: Allows passengers to enter and leave the bus quickly. This is important due to strict time schedules at airports
  • Fewer seats: Bus rides at the airport usually does not take more than a few minutes. So the number of seats is reduced to a minimum to increase capacity
  • Separate storage place for heavy luggage

Cobus buses are not produced in own factories, but by third party manufactures in different regions of the world. By doing so, production can be closer to the target market and maintanance can provide a better and more cost effective service. Since 2011, there is also a electric version of buses available. The first airport that shifted airport transportation completely from fuel consuming buses to electric buses was Schipol Airport in Amsterdam in 2014.



The future of container ships!?

As we have talked in class, a mayor role in global transport plays the freight container. These normed containers set a new standard and this was the basis for its worldwide success. Nowadays, about 70% of general cargo freight is shipped with containers. And container ships are getting bigger and bigger. This evolution lead to a huge decrease in transportation costs. However, one big problem is still unsolved:

Nearly all container ships use heavy oil for their engines, a fuel that is made out of the left overs of the gasoline production, and extremely hazardous for the environment. There are about 50.000 container ships transporting goods around the world. The biggest 15 of them emit the same amount of exhaust gases as 750 million cars.

In this video, Jorne Langelaan, a Dutch ship owner, explains the problems in detail:

And he not only describes the problem, he also comes up with an innovative solution: The ecoliner. That container ship with a hybrid, it can either be powered by a conventional ship engine using heavy oil or Diesel, or navigate with the wind.

The technique for the sails that are going to be used was already developed in the 1960’s and it is called Dyna-Rigg, however it took a long time to implement it in modern ships and bring the proof that it works. Internet-billionair Tom Perkins ordered an 88m long yacht called Maltese Falcon, its launch was in 2006. Sails can be spread within 7 minutes and they are steered electronically, which allows to include on-time weather forecasts into the navigation plan. That allows to use windpower in a quite efficient way.

Maltese Falcon
Maltese Falcon

This technique shall now be transfered to the ecoliner, which is currently in a prototype stadium. Once it has been built, the ship will be 130m long and have a cargo capacity of around 50.000 tonns. For comparison: the biggest container ship built is 395m long and carries up to 200.000 tonns of freight. So the ecoliner will not be more than an average size container ship, but the architect guarantees the same speed as motor ships and that the ship can be navigated by a comparable crew, so the overall performance will be equal to motor ships.

The great benefit the ecoliner provides is the by far better ecologic footprint. Compared to an equal size motor ship, the ecoliner reduces the amount of CO2 emissions by 30 to 40.000 tonns each year. This is equal to the emissions of more than 20.000 cars. Depending on the weather emissions can be reduced between 50% and 90%.

Though the advantages are clear, a quick realisation of this concept is uncertain due to the fact, that there is currently a big over-capacity of container ships. Besides that a lot of shipping companies are facing losses due to the economic crisis and therefore have no money left for such investments. Regarding the fact that oil prices are rather low, the advantages of the ecoliner becomes smaller. But in order to be ready for the future of container transport, shipping companies have to think about alternatives, and the ecoliner could be one.



Further information:


Managing Recalls at Volkswagen

As you all probably know, the Volkswagen group is currently struggling a big crisis due to the so called “Diesel-gate” scandal. There are plenty of articles regarding this topic, so I just want to shortly summarize the main facts: On September 15 in 2015 the US environment authority EPA detected excessively high exhausts in Diesel cars of VW in the United States. Further investigations revealed that a manipulated software was able to detect whether a car is run under normal conditions or tested in a laboratory. In the last case, the engine was regulated in a way that critical values of exhausts were met, while in normal use these values were much higher.

See the following video for technical details:

In the following months the stock price dropped harsh and sales went down. But this is not the only problem Volkswagen now has to solve. Besides big losses in image and trust the company has to develop a plan, how they want to repair all the affected cars. And this is huge logistic challenge.

Let’s have a look at some facts: About 11 million cars worldwide are affected. Sales of these cars are spread among all over the world, as the following table shows

Country Volkswagen Audi Škoda Seat Commercial Vehicals Total
 Germany 1.537.896
(incl. Commercial vehicles)
531.813 286.970 104.197 s. u. VW 2.460.876
United Kingdom 508.276 393.450 131.569 76.733 79.838 1.189.866
France 574.259 189.322 66.572 93.388 24.523 948.064
Italy 385.694 231.729 35.343 39.598 17.348 709.712
Spain 257.479 147.095 37.082 221.783 20.187 683.626
United States 482.000 13.000 495.000
Belgium 197.328 121.712 51.069 23.539 393.648
Austria 180.500 72.500 54.300 31.700 24.400 363.000
Sweden 104.000 57.000 28.000 2.000 33.000 225.000
India 180.000
Netherlands 160.000
Czech Republic 38.000 7.000 101.000 1.800 147.800
Norway 77.580 27.649 19.947 0 21.963 147.139
Polonia 66.870 12.049 58.890 3.694 141.503
Swiss 128.802
South Korea 125.522
Portugal 102.140
(incl. Audi, Škoda)
15.000 117.000
Ireland 47.316 29.169 16.004 5.039 9.224 106.752
Romania 105.000
Canada 100.000
Australia 61.189 16.085 5.148 0 17.256 99.678
Denmark 91.000
Finland 50.000
Slowakia 14.809 3.278 26.000 2.577 46.664
Argentina 42.716
Hungary 40.095
Mexico 32.000
Taiwan 17.744
Brasil 17.057 17.057
Greece 6.362 1.875 0 0 882 9.119
New-Zeeland 4.639 1.600 1.328 0 133 7.700
China 1.950
Cyprus 480 598 103 119 49 1.349
Worldwide 5.000.000 2.100.000 1.200.000 700.000 1.800.000 10.800.000

National authorities urged Volkswagen to recall all affected models to the service centers to repair the cars so that they can guarantee to meet the emission limits under any circumstance. After receiving this request, the company asked for some time in order to be able to develop a solution to fix the problem and to plan a schedule that allows a quick maintenance or repair in the garages.

Volkswagen calculated that the maintenance for each car would take between 30 and 45 minutes. Slight differences may occur between different models. In some cases, cars only need a software update, in other cases the engine has to be modified completely. Once this data was available, the schedule could be planned. Developing this scheduled is a big task, because repairs of the affected cars have to be done alongside the daily business of the garages.

So the scheduling had to be managed in a way that on the one hand, recalls could start as early as possible and quickly, on the other hand there are some capacity constraints in many garages. The overall goal is to plan the recall effectively, so that waiting time for customers is minimized. This is important not only in order to carry out their duty and fulfill the set requirements, but also to put a sign to the public that Volkswagen is treating the subject seriously, which gives the possibility to overcome the crisis and recover trust.

Due to the huge number of manipulated cars the whole recall process will take up to two years, with regional differences. And this date only holds assuming that everything works as expected and that no further problems occur.




The second life of electronic waste

During Easter holidays I visited my parents, and as usual my mother needed some help, this time regarding the purchase of a new printer, since the old one wasn’t doing a good job any more. So we compared some new models and finally agreed on a multifunctional printer. The next question was where to bring the old one, and at that point I remembered an article about the so called “WWWE Directive”.

Following the “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive”, introduced by the bodies of the European Union in summer 2012, all member countries are called to pass national laws to reduce the amount of electronic waste and to raise the quota of recycled electronic waste. Another goal is to reduce the amount of such waste shipped to developing countries in Africa.1)

Although forbidden through the “Basel Convention”2) the amount of  electronic goods that are not working anymore exported from industrial to developing countries increases continiously. Only 15% of e-waste  is going to be recycled within the EU.

Unbenannt.PNG(worldwide produced electronic waste, in millions of tons (2012 &2018: estimations))

A big amount of the rest is exported to Africa. In the last years, one place has become the center for the recycling of electronic waste: Accra, the capital of Ghana. About 500 containers of second-hand goods arrive in the port of Accra every months, the majority of them contain old electronic goods from Europe and the USA. Through intermediaries the content of these containers find their way  to small workshops, where components of different old gadgets are used to repair broken ones.

Those devices that cannot be repaired anymore are nevertheless not useless, since they contain a lot of valuable materials such as copper, silver or gold. To extract these metals, the waste gets burned on a big dumb in a district called Agbogbloshie. The so gained recycled metals are then sold to traders and shipped to refineries and factories in developed countries.

See the following illustration to follow the way of e-waste:


The circle of electronic goods and their components is a great example of how standardization in logistics helped to speed up the globalization process. Without containers and the surrounding infrastructure such as terminals in the ports it would have been much more costly to ship the electronic waste around the world. Taking into account that modern logistics not only improved cost efficiency, but also time and organisational efficiency, we see the great advantages of the technological progress.

But I don’t want to leave out the drawbacks of this system, which leaves the environmental risks and the danger for the workers’ health in the poor countries in Africa. It may be exaggerated but one could argue that containers also helped developed countries to ship away their problems and responsibiltity for a sustainable world.


1)                            2)

How modern technologies influence logistics

While the globalisation connects different markets and opens new opportunities for companies to grow their businesses, an efficient logistics process becomes a mayor priority in the value chain. Regarding soaring competition, increasing complexity and the need to speed up the logistics process, modern technologies become an indispensable part of it.

What are these new technologies? How do they improve the logistic process and what are the benefits for the companies that implement new logistics technologies within their system? To answer these questions, let’s first have a look at some important innovations in the field of logistics technologies, which are the key drivers to improve logistics management processes.

Information: Information is one of the most relevant factors in order to increase efficiency in logistics operations. Due to pressure on costs, a lot of companies have relocated their production to low-cost countries in emerging markets around the world. As a result, you may find yourself trying to manage a global logistics operation. But, uncontrolled logistics costs can spiral and wipe out any savings a company gains at the production level. Therefore it is essential to gather information at each stage of the logistics chain so that the company can identify  inefficiencies and improve operational costs.

Networks: Networked communications can improve market logistics operations by linking members of your supply chain. Sharing essential market and operational information helps increase productivity and reduce lead times. A single integrated network supports a logistics chain that can respond rapidly to change or new opportunities

Tracking: Cargo theft is a growing problem, with annual losses at some $30 billion, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Machine to machine (M2M) technology is making logistics more secure; a mobile transmitting device attached to the cargo allows operators to track and monitor the cargo throughout its journey using global system technology and wireless communications. Any attempt to interfere with the security device sends an alert signal to the operator to initiate a response.

Portals: You can use website portals to provide members of your logistics chain with access to information and applications to support purchase order management, demand forecasting, shipping notices and bar-code label generation. This can improve collaboration between supply chain members and make it easier to manage essential logistics information.

RFID: Radio frequency identification tags provide information on a product and its journey through the supply chain. You can program the tags to capture certain types of information, such as when and where products are manufactured, packed and shipped. The data can be used to improve the efficiency of warehouse and inventory management and other logistics operations.

Computer aided programs: Computer aided programs can be used to optimize capacity planning. Capacity planning includes warehousing, transportation, material handling and human resources. Computer aided operation research models such as linear programming and waiting line models can be used in planning capacity with the objective of providing high quality customer service by investing minimum in capacity.

5 benefits provided by implementing logistics technology:

  • Efficiency Gains – Significant gains happen when old, manual processes are performed by new system functionality or are totally eliminated by a new way of working within a software application. More efficient logistics operations allow companies to lower costs and operate with greater efficiency.
  • Competitive Advantage – These systems allow companies to offer a higher level of customer service through better communicate and issue resolution. Disruptions and issues are resolved faster compared to competitors who rely on manual processes.
  • Responsiveness – Logistics systems create a flexible supply chain. Here, multiple parties communicate easily as freight moves and collaborate on how to best overcome challenges while still meeting customer’s expectations.
  • Compliance – A company is assured of performing its due diligence to meet government requirements (import/ export, screenings, classifications, etc.) with automated processes provided within the system.
  • Analytics – Reporting becomes standardized, on time, and in most cases on demand. With the system stored data, analysts can mine trends, identify recurring problems, and uncover cost savings that are missed with manual data collection methods.

Amazon-Fresh: A new competitor in the grocery market

Amazon is one of the leading companies in the world when talking about logistics. You just need to visit their website, find the product you need, buy it online and it will be delivered to your home within 2-3 days. And if you are a prime member, you just have to wait one day or even pay a little extra fee for same-day delivery. To do so, Amazon runs huge warehouses all over the world located at strategic places, so that distances between retailers and customers are minimized. Besides that, product picking is fully automated to speed up the consignment process.

How ever, when it comes to fresh food, the tasks becomes more complicated. Fruits and vegetables as well as fresh meat, fish or dairy products require special storage and transport conditions to stay fresh and healthy. Strawberries for instance require a constant temperature of 4° celcius and additional low-oxygen atmosphere in order to stay fresh during a 3-4 days transport and storage period – requirements Amazon isn’t able to fulfill in its own distribution centers. Therefore the company created a new strategy for grocery.

Instead of investing a lot of money in own warehouses, Amazon leases storage capacity in grocery warehouses that are located in regions they want to enroll their business. Products sold come from big retailers such as Taylor Farms etc. Cosidering the supply chain of grocery, Amazon enrolls its business only at the last step, but instead of competing in the traditional grocery stores market, the company creates a new business model by delivering food directly from the whole salers to the customers.

(Traditional grocery supply chain)

The business model is as followed: After ordering online out of a catalogue of about 20.000 products, Amazon fresh delivers the ordered grocery either at the same day or the next morning. It therefore has its own fleet of small trucks. Each delivery costs 5$ when the total bill is below 35$. Orders bigger than 35$ are free. Alternatively, Amazon offers a one-year free delivery service, which costs 299$/year. A prime-account is necessary in both alternatives.

Amazon started started in 2007 in Seattle, USA and since then expanded to Los Angeles and San Francisco (2013), San Diego, Philadelphia and New York (2014). In february 2016, Amazon announced to have signed a cooperation agreement with Morrison’s, UK’s number 4 grocery store.  Further expansion to other countries is planned.