Innovative Cluster Handling Technology


The ambition of this Living Lab is to prove the use of New Modal Load Units (NMLU’s) in the supply chain efficiency based on standard fixed size flexible load units capable of supporting modal shift and micro hub distribution.

NMLU basics

NMLU basics

NMLU prototypes will be designed and developed, as well as handling technology. It is an objective to develop modular load unit container prototypes which must fill optimally a 13,6 trailer and a row of modular load units must also fit to the 20, 40 or 45 feet container dimensions, which will be authorized and homologated to be used for both road and rail transportation. Once developed and homologated, these modular intermodal container prototypes will be tested in real business environment. The test will consist on:

  1. loading modular intermodal container prototypes within a live warehousing environment,
  2. shipping the modular intermodal container prototype from the warehouse to an intermodal terminal,
  3. transferring the modular intermodal container prototype to a train using the Innovatrain terminal concept,
  4. transporting the modular intermodal container prototype by rail, and
  5. transferring the modular intermodal container prototype back from the train to the truck.


NMLU Living Lab

NMLU Living Lab

NMLU results will be tested and validated in a Living lab. This one acts at Cluster level to evaluate the NMLU together with innovative handling and transhipment technology in a real business context to accelerate handling processes within clusters for road and intermodal modes.

The Living Lab determines the scenarios and the desired business logistics: what can or will be changed in order to make the transports more flexible with a new design of load unit in such a way that the current infrastructure does not need major changes. To put this into perspective: current load units are 20, 40 or 45 ft in size; the NMLU will have a dimension related to at least the size of 2 euro-pallets or industrial pallets.

Living Lab is executed in 4 different lines of logistics businesses in order to prove the efficiency of the new modular load units. In this first period of the project, the NMLU concept has been developed and the 4 scenarios are detailed, describing several use cases for each of them:

  1. Warehousing

The part will be executed at the P&G warehouse of Crailsheim (DE) for modular intermodal container prototype loading, the Innovatrain terminal in Oesingen (CH) for modular intermodal container prototype transfer and the road leg between Crailsheim and Oesingen.

  1. Intermodal transportation (truck and train)

2.a. Intermodal Truck / Train transport. JDR has a intermodal control center at Venlo. This is also a cross dock location where LTL freight is being combined into FCL freight. From this location daily truck transport to the rail terminal in Venlo are being carried out. From the rail terminal Venlo TX Logistik operates and controls the train to Milano.

2.b. Intermodal transfer between truck and train. INNOVA will test the modal transfer from truck to train and backwards.

3. City distribution

3.a. Truck with bundled NMLU’s can be used in two ways; Truck carries out transportation. Truck uses smart loading and unloading zone and metamorphizes to distribution point for city distribution with cargobikes

3.b. Test the function as an independent ‘micro hub’ incorporated in activities of urban distribution.

4. Airport distribution

Additionally, the LL will be executed in Brussels airport terminal, where WFS and DHL can ship NMLU units to CityDepot for city distribution testing.

Summarising, it is executed in: a warehouse environment, during transport with modal shift, during urban distributions using the micro hub process and demonstrating the use in cross dock locations. It covers several areas in the Benelux, transports by train from the Netherlands, through Germany and Austria into Italy and will cope with the specifics of city distribution out of Brussels Airport towards inner city of Antwerp, Belgium.

EU Flag

Clusters 2.0 project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 723265

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