Empowering intermodal terminals through automation
Werner Peeters, Business Developer at Camco Technologies, shares his insights on how automated container, trailer and train wagon registration can accelerate the road to digital transformation.
Why is there a need to develop automation solutions for the inspection, identification and inventory of rail containers?
Intermodal terminal management systems, also referred to as Terminal Operating Systems (TOS), need accurate and instant available data of incoming and outgoing trucks, containers, semi‑trailers, trains and container moves during yard operations. With hundreds of containers dropped off and picked up in the yard and transferred to trains, it becomes key to keep track of every move. Speed and accuracy of registered information are essential for process optimisation and ultimately customer satisfaction.
What are the main benefits of Camco’s OCR Rail portal?
Intermodal terminals process several incoming and outgoing trains per day. When incoming trains run under the camera portal, a series of AI‑embedded cameras instantly register container and semi-trailer ID as well as rail wagon number. As the complete train inventory becomes available instantly, time‑consuming visual checks by rail clerks become redundant. Occasionally missing data can be double‑checked using the Train Gate Operator software application. The big advantage of the Camco Rail OCR portal is the possibility of processing trains without delay, increasing capacity. Also, high‑quality pictures are available for condition recording and damage claim management.
Please explain how the technology behind the Rail OCR works?
The Rail portal is equipped with intelligent cameras. With more than 80 rail OCR portals installed through the years, we have collected a huge data set of rail wagon, container type, or semi-trailer pictures. These are used for training neural networks to read container or trailer characteristics. Data strings, referred to as OCR, as well as specific features (OFR): container door orientation, seal presence etc… If needed, our AI engineers can develop additional customised applications too. The same technology is used for our gate OCR and crane OCR solutions.
Where have your solutions been implemented and what has been the feedback so far?
Our OCR portals have been integrated in automation projects all over the world.
In the U.S. alone, more than 40 intermodal terminals rely on Camco Rail OCR systems. They come in different set-ups: in the U.S., container trains are often doubled stacked while in other places tracks may be electrified. We are currently deploying Rail OCR portals in several Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Contargo intermodal terminals in Germany, ÖBB terminals in Austria and for the greenfield East-West Gate Terminal in Hungary. We just opened our Moscow office. The digital transformation of railroad container shipping can’t be stopped. We are helping rail companies and intermodal terminals accelerating the digital transformation all over the world.
What would you say makes your solutions stand out from others within the rail industry?
With 20 years of expertise in container handover automation, we can say we understand the needs. Our expertise is also reflected in our track record. Our systems are robust, reliable and are acknowledged for their accuracy and speed. We design hardware and develop the software. We integrate our systems in the terminal own management system. Dealing with just one vendor for the implementation of the complete project is really a relief for terminal automation project managers.