ALK chairman says it’s time for ‘reality-based logistics’

“If fuel is going to be so expensive, then transportation will just need to be more efficient,” said ALK chairman Alain Kornhauser, chairman of ALK and professor of operations research and financial engineering at Princeton University, during his keynote address at the fourth annual ALK Technology Summit, held recently in Princeton, N.J.

Reality-based logistics is the phrase Kornhauser used to describe systems that can enable fleets to increase efficiency and curb rising fuel costs. Reality-based logistics is more than knowing how things are or how they should be, he said; it is the optimal real-time control of your mobile assets.

Systems integration is the key component in reality-based logistics. ALK uses a robust XML interface called PC*Miler Web Services designed to enable ALK’s technology partners, such as dispatch software and mobile communications providers, to have a fast and efficient method for integrating their system features with the PC*Miler mapping, mileage and route database.

Navigation is another component. Today, smart and wirelessly connected devices in the vehicle have turned navigation into much more than driving instructions, Kornhauser says. For example, through wireless communications, ALK’s navigation system, CoPilot, can integrate with optimized fuel routes, dispatch instructions and real-time traffic for more control over mobile assets, he says.

Smart and wirelessly connected devices, from cell phones to onboard computers, allow navigation to be very dynamic and responsive. By tapping into a community of similar devices that are acting as virtual traffic probes, navigation systems can efficiently and effectively gather, share and use real-time traffic information to recompute optimal routes as conditions change, Kornhauser said.

Navigation systems can calculate anticipated travel times to each of the stops along a route. Through integration with a dispatch or routing software package, routes can be reoptimized based on real-time conditions, Kornhauser said; for example, constraints such as delivery time windows might make it necessary to change delivery sequences along a route. “The driver becomes substantially more efficient,” he said.

Through the same Web services architecture, information can be fed into CoPilot through Web-based search engines for traffic and weather. With all of these independent technologies working together, Kornhauser said, navigation and routing can become an integrated process, changing as conditions change, to continuously find ways to save time, reduce cost and improve customer service.