The heart of chemical logistics: filling at the loading point

Christian Klumpp

Christian Klumpp

About the special challenges for logistics processes in the chemical industry

We recently published the first part of our chemical logistics series. In part one, we took an in-depth look at the necessary inspection procedures and safety requirements that are mandatory when transporting dangerous goods. We also provided numerous tips on how you can significantly improve goods inbound and outbound at your plant site. Today we turn to the supreme discipline: complete automation during filling at the loading point. 

Digitally assisted filling at the loading point

In the case of bulk goods (liquid chemicals), the heart of logistics yard processes is filling at the loading point. Here, all data from the previous process steps are bundled, checked and optimized in corresponding yard documents so that the equipment can be filled optimally and maximum sales can be generated at the same time, taking delivery tolerances into account. 

During pre-announcement, the chambers to be filled are checked again by the operator for physical and legal requirements (comparison of ECD document, equipment, driver and goods), because ultimately the loading company and also the driver are liable in the event of damage. After determining the best possible tank, the highly complex determination of the optimum filling quantity (payload) combines physical, legal, order-related and safety-relevant aspects (e.g. load compatibility, vehicle tipping safety, fire protection, hazardous goods and total weight depending on the route used).  

Checklists are used to document in an audit-proof manner that all guidelines are complied with before, during and after the filling process and that the physical integrity of persons, as well as material goods and the environment, can be ensured at all times. 

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Operators are optimally guided through the filling process via app.

The operators are optimally supported by mobile applications on industrial tablets, which can be operated comfortably even in bad weather with work gloves. 

A connected Distributed Control System (DCS) receives the calculated quantity structure of the payload and finally controls the physical filling process from the tank into the respective chambers of the equipment. 

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Current fill levels of the tanks as well as density and current temperature in real time

The flow meters report the actual filling quantities back to the yard management via DCS; with full integration into the ERP, an exact order invoice is created on the basis of these values. Rounded off by defined reporting, discrepancies between order quantities, loading times and actual filling quantities become apparent later on, providing valuable information for controlling and time slot management. 

The supreme discipline: complete automation of filling

Those who focus on a seamless and fully digitized solution for individual loading points will also think about the supreme discipline: system-supported automation of the entire loading process.  

Here, drivers register in advance via self check-in, enter the plant premises via a terminal-controlled gate, where the initial weighing is carried out. 

After a short wait in a parking lot, the call-off to the loading point takes place, where the driver can log on independently at the terminal of the DCS and, after entering a PIN and completing the security questionnaire, fill up – ideally without the assistance of loading personnel.  

The prerequisite is successful prior participation in the training for self-filling. Yard management takes care of the processes at the gate in an automated way, determines tanks and ad hoc free loading points, calls the driver, calculates the optimal payload and performs a series of security and consistency checks in the background. Almost as easy as filling up at the pump with credit card payment! 

Transportation of chemicals by rail and waterways

Just as on the road, chemical transports by rail or ship are subject to special requirements. In the case of rail-bound transport of chemicals, the tank cars are checked for load compatibility and loading equipment compatibility before refilling, just like trucks.  

Before refilling, the wagon moves to a scale dynamically connected to the system to determine the empty weight.  

A so-called run clearance is only issued once all trunks have been removed from the containers and the correct load safety has been checked by authorized, i.e. trained, personnel. The weight of the cargo is checked again by the scales dynamically connected to the track after filling, before departure, in order to avoid overloading.  

Wagons carrying hazardous materials are always parked in such a way that the locations of all wagons are known. After all, in the event of an emergency, the fire department must know the exact location and contents of the hazardous materials. For safety reasons, the load of hazardous materials is always limited to minimize damage in the worst case scenario.  

The cleaning and validation process affects all modes of transport, including the filling of containers transported by water. 

We are here for you

It is worth taking a closer look at the field of chemical logistics. Dynamic solutions as well as variously available new technologies offer excellent opportunities to significantly improve the processes of hazardous goods transports. 

We support you in making your operational processes more efficient, transparent and cost-saving, thus improving your supply chains. Have we aroused your interest? Then please feel free to contact us.  

If you have any questions about this or other topics in the blog, please contact 

Christian Klumpp
Development Architect SAP Logistics 

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