Autonomous “Weasel” – DB Schenker strengthens automatization in logistics

Logistics as if by magic: the vehicle slowly returns to the loading ramp and slides under the swap body. Then it effortlessly lifts the heavy cargo containers and drives off. The autonomous vehicle follows an invisible route and reaches its destination a few minutes later. After the swap body is safely resting on its four legs, the vehicle slips underneath and is headed for the next task.

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In the future, automated processes like this will be an everyday reality in cargo hubs and logistics centers. DB Schenker, therefore, introduced a new milestone in automation in mid-July: the company is the first logistics service provider in the world to test the use of an automated “Weasel”. The vehicle is manufactured by the Kamag company and can move swap bodies on logistic yards completely independently, without a driver being involved in the process. “We are already using driverless transport systems today and we want to further expand this,” says Erik Wirsing, Vice President of Global Innovation at Schenker AG. “Especially in our logistics centers, we can become significantly more efficient and faster.”

Autonomous Vehicles need Data

The advantages of automated processes only become accessible with the right IT. The autonomous vehicle must know which goods are at which location and where they should be transported. At the same time, the vehicle must be able to correctly identify and pick up the swap body so as not to damage it.

A big advantage of automated vehicles: they are more sustainable because they drive more efficiently and emit fewer pollutants and noises. The developers and the logistics experts attach particular importance to the topic of safety. The vehicle’s precise laser sensors detect potential obstacles and ensure that the weasel brakes independently and quickly.

High turnover in Nuremberg

As a first step, DB Schenker tests four Weasels at its Nuremberg business location. The goal is to try out automated processes at the business premises and subsequently to analyze them. Nuremberg is particularly suitable for this because of the high turnover: about 2,500 tons of freight are sent to the customers from the business area in the harbor every day by truck and as air or sea freight. This means that every day, 1,100 swap bodies have to be moved between 130 loading ramps. So far, this task is done by classic swap body transporters.

“#Automatization in #logistics: in Nuremberg, DB #Schenker tests a Weasel #AGV by #Kamag in daily use“

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For the autonomous test operation, Kamag provided technical equipment for the standard Weasel. “The pilot project with DB Schenker enables us to test the technology in everyday logistics. This will provide us with insights for further product development,” says Kamag CEO Bernd Schwengsbier.


Erik Wirsing
Vice President Global Innovation