Automation Success Stories

B&R: The future of automated port logistic

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Chinese port operator HIT uses rail-mounted gantry cranes to move containers. These highly automated cranes are integrated in a terminal management network to optimize the turnaround of incoming and outgoing cargo. The system places high demands on the automation solution – and in the end only one partner was able to deliver the flexibility and performance HIT needed.

Port container terminals play an integral role in international trade. One such key logistical center is Hongkong International Terminals (HIT), located in Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing Container Terminals port facility. HIT relies on modern port equipment to maximize the throughput of goods and materials at its sites. Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Group (ZPMC) is the world’s leading manufacturer of this type of equipment. ZPMC not only supplies HIT with port equipment but also integrates the IT and terminal management systems. Over the past few years, the demand for fully integrated solutions has risen sharply. On the one hand, shipping traffic has increased, which means a larger volume of goods passing through the ports. On the other hand, the variety of goods has grown, requiring port equipment to become more specialized.

High-performance port management

Vessels entering the port declare their cargo electronically before they even dock. This data is collected in a reservation system, which allows operators in the control tower to create a logistics plan and provide the ships with information about gates and storage locations. The system also simplifies the planning of container movement processes such as those performed by the rail-mounted gantry cranes. Containers are transported through the yard before being lifted by rail-mounted gantry cranes and placed in their assigned storage location.

To further optimize the terminal management system, HIT has tasked the ZPMC Electric Company with integrating 24 additional railmounted gantry cranes into the system. Technical manager YE Jun is in charge of coordinating the entire project. The performance, openness and functionality provided by Ethernet POWERLINK and the X20 control system played a decisive role in ZMPC Electric’s decision to take on B&R as their automation partner.

Control system connected via POWERLINK

Each gantry crane is equipped with a B&R system with two independent POWERLINK networks. The first network integrates the sensors and actuators that allow the rail-mounted gantry cranes to be operated with maximal precision. To integrate the SCADA-based terminal management system, ZPMC also went with open standards and connected this system via POWERLINK as well. As open source technology, POWERLINK allowed the SCADA package to be implemented quickly and efficiently.

The SCADA package communicates with the OPC client server via the POWERLINK connections. This standardized data exchange holds significant advantages for the terminal management system. POWERLINK provides fast, realtime data transfer to the terminal control tower.

And since POWERLINK gives the user complete freedom in selecting a network topology, it can also be optimally adapted to the unique requirements of the port terrain and layout. Any future expansions to the terminal can easily be handled by simply connecting new stations via network cables. A separate B&R X20 System bundles the Profibus data connections for existing equipment, converts them for POWERLINK and efficiently integrates them into the terminal management system.

If the data is transferred between stations via fiber optic cable, it can cover distances of up to two kilometers. This means that POWERLINK can help implement expansive systems such as a container terminal with real-time precision. Multiple fiberglass HUB modules are concentrated in a central control tower. They receive real-time data from the automated rail-mounted gantry cranes and forward the data to the main server.

Safe and efficient logistics with MATLAB

The tasks of lifting and handling the standardized containers to and from their storage locations in the yard make anti-sway and anticollision two of the most important control functions. These functions are essential to ensuring safe and efficient logistical operations. That’s why ZPMC relied on MATLAB/ Simulink to model these tasks and developed specialized control algorithms to minimize sway while at the same time increasing transport speed. The seamless workflow between MATLAB/Simulink and Automation Studio makes it effortless to integrate the generated program code into an Automation Studio project. The computing performance of the X20 System gives the modeled controller extremely fast cycle times.

In addition to the integrated MATLAB/ Simulink functionalities, Automation Studio’s ability to handle high-level programming languages also proved to be a winning factor in the B&R solution. The flexibility to create custom libraries allowed ZPMC to leverage its own encapsulated technology and provided standardized software modules that can be reused efficiently.

Tomorrow’s technology today with B&R

“As the world’s leading supplier of port equipment and technology systems, ZPMC always has an eye to the future when working on a new development,” explains YE, “and this lines up precisely with the strength of B&R’s systems.” For HIT this cooperation with B&R is only the beginning. “We will continue to develop terminal equipment and management systems based on B&R technology,” reports YE. HIT plans to use POWERLINK to network additional systems, including driverless transport vehicles, railmounted gantry cranes and auxiliary systems to create an even more integrated central management system. “This puts us in a position to provide our customers with even more competitive solutions for port logistics,” YE is certain.

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