Goods transported to and from ports need to be transferred to other transportation modes. The equipment used, the type of goods and the operational conditions for this handling can be very different, from container handling in the port to deep-sea mining in challenging offshore conditions. The design of these transport, handling and storage systems, however, is still not always getting the attention it deserves. And yet these machines and systems play a key role in our effort to move towards more efficient, cleaner and more automated systems.
Understanding and modelling the behaviour of materials and the role of equipment in the logistics chain are therefore necessary to improve the mechanical design and control of equipment. Not only to increase efficiency throughout the logistics chain, but also to reduce overall energy consumption and extend the lifetime of equipment, for example.
Recent examples of tangible improvements generated by this type of research are grabs that can unload granular materials much more efficiently. But this fundamental research is also paying off outside the maritime sector, such as the process industry. For example, steel production plants are working on efficiency by improving its understanding of the behaviour of large and small particles in the process of steel production.
Various facilities are available for research into Impactless Material Handling Systems, such as the Bulk Characterisation and Modelling Lab (BulChaMlab) for the characterisation and modelling of granular materials in interaction with equipment, the AGV lab (automated transport and handling) and the Belt Conveyor Lab (conveyor belts for bulk and parcels).
A nice example within the Impactless Material Handling Systems research is the Horizon 2020 programme Space@Sea where we developed Transport&Logistics hub for regular port services as well as for service logistics taking into account the interaction between cargo and equipment under different working conditions.