Algorithms helps keep London’s roads jam-free

To keep the city of London free of traffic jams and construction site logistics efficient, Battersea Power Station utilises decision-making algorithms designed by software developer INFORM. Its time slot management and truck supply control system SYNCROSUPPLY manages up to 400 truck deliveries daily arriving at the construction site.

Battersea Power Station and its shareholders are working on transforming the 42-acre site around the city’s famous landmark into a modern riverside destination, which will provide 4,239 new homes, shops, restaurants, cafés, office space, leisure and fitness facilities, a hotel, over 19 acres of public space and a Zone 1 London Underground Station which opened in September 2021. Traffic jams in front of the worksite would spread throughout London if the £9bn mega-project was not planned properly. Utilising INFORM’s mathematical optimisation algorithms based on Operations Research (OR), the operators guarantee smooth supply logistics as well as optimised resource utilisation thanks to enhanced transparency and planning reliability.

High requirements on logistics

The construction site is developing dynamically, with up to 10,000 trucks registered each month delivering tools and materials. The planning software’s task is to optimally utilise the gates, loading points and resources of the construction site. Previously, this often proved difficult, as planning data from the numerous carriers, suppliers and construction companies all need to be centrally managed. Additionally, the layout of the construction site changes every week as construction progresses.

Duncan Pickard, Head of Programme Management and Delivery at Battersea Power Station Development Company, said: “The INFORM system was selected for its ability to transcend construction deliverables into an operating campus, and is now being utilised to complete the program of works, whilst managing our retailer and residents’ delivery requirements in this exciting new mixed-used destination for London. Using the system at Battersea Power Station has enabled us to match lifts, hoists and cranes to each delivery and review the optimisation of each.”

In the past, delivery traffic was only planned up to the gate. It was not possible to take into account whether a specific loading point on the construction site was occupied or whether the right resources were available at the time of arrival to unload a truck’s specific load. With the enormous number of daily deliveries and the distribution of responsibilities among various construction companies, individual schedulers could no longer manually estimate if a truck should deliver at a specific time, what freight was needed where, or what throughput times could be expected when. However, the tight and varying space conditions on the construction site do not allow for errors.

Decision-making enhanced by algorithms

SYNCROSUPPLY’s time slot management module provides transparency about which trucks and loads will arrive where and when, and about the capacity utilisation of all resources required for unloading at that time. The system also stores information on when materials are to be delivered. After all, some orders must be placed months in advance. Time slots can be accepted or, if required, allocated automatically according to the availability of resources like freight elevators or cranes.

Matthias Wurst, Director Business Development Industrial Logistics at INFORM, added: “Our time slot management also helps to coordinate non-construction traffic around the development site. We assign optimised time slots for deliveries to retailers already located in the area, private moving traffic of new residents and parcel services, so that all stakeholders will reach their destinations as desired.”

The truck supply control module assists in dealing with everyday disruptions. If, for example, forwarding agencies report a delay, within seconds the system can take these deviations into account, recalculate suitable parking and unloading locations, optimise the sequence of all transports to suit the new situation and inform all parties involved about the changed circumstances. Even within the construction site, trucks can be individually guided and dispatched to the appropriate loading point.

With a peak of 140 vehicles per hour accessing the site via only two feeder roads, London’s streets would be jammed by trucks without SYNCROSUPPLY’s optimisation algorithms. In the future, the numerous data on throughput times and the duration of the unloading process will be used to further optimise planning.

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