The concept of synchromodality aims to combine several modalities (road, rail, waterways) when planning a container shipment to a given destination. In the case of a synchromodal transport consignment, modalities may be switched at any given moment according to local conditions (especially transport availability and time restriction on the consignment). This makes synchromodal transport more complex than regular intermodal operations, but the flexibility can lead to a higher utilization and better load factors of barges and trains, which helps to deliver higher efficiencies and more environmental benefits.
However, delivering a Synchromodal transport solution demands much more from the various stakeholders in the network than is customary in intermodal transport in terms of education, understanding and cooperation. A synchromodal transport product is therefore often more difficult to implement as it requires not only behavior change but also a mind-shift by various stakeholders at the same time.
To facilitate such a mind shift in the Netherlands, ECT, a deep-sea container terminal in Rotterdam, EGS, an operator of a multimodal hinterland network, Danser, an intermodal transport operator, and TNO, a Dutch research organization, developed a serious game to provide insight to stakeholders involved on the benefits of synchromodal transport planning.
The ‘serious’ game, SynchroMania, makes it possible for all those involved in logistics planning (planners, sales representatives, etc.) to experience how synchromodal planning works and the decisions it requires. The game also outlines the benefits that can be obtained from reducing the number of constraints and enhancing collaboration; not only between planners, responsible for various corridors, but also between different stakeholder categories, such as: salespersons and customers. In this way the game helps to establish the necessary mind-shift.
In the game, players step into the shoes of a planner tasked with finding the optimal route to ship the orders placed by three demanding clients to various locations within a container hinterland network. In planning each order, the planner must strive to comply with the specific requirements imposed by each client while also optimising the overall costs and emissions level.
The planner has a limited amount of time to allocate the orders to one or more transport units. In doing so, he/she must also satisfy the specific requirements imposed by each client.
At the end of each round, the planner’s performance is evaluated in three metrics: total cost, emissions level and customer satisfaction. This score is then discussed in a group setting to support more adequate choices in upcoming rounds.
SynchroMania was developed as public private partnership. 50% of the project was funded by the participating companies and the remaining 50% was paid by public authorities, as part of the Topsector Logistics (TKI).
To develop SynchroMania, a paper-based version of the game was developed first. In this paper based version, all the operational procedures and customer requirements where thoroughly discussed and reviewed by operators. Based on the outcomes of these preliminary workshops, a digital version of the serious game was developed.
This digital game was played with several members of staff of the different involved companies, including management, sales representatives and operators. This approach ensured that the game was a realistic representation of the involved processes.
SynchroMania is intended to challenge the participants’ current assumptions and attitudes towards planning and collaboration. By playing the game, participants personally experience the added value of working with a synchromodal system. Research shows that gaming or action learning makes a much more significant contribution to how much is remembered by the audience than a mere discussion or presentation (TNO 2011).
ECT, EGS and Danser used the SynchroMania game in sessions with their operational planners and sales force. By better understanding the working of the concept, the aim is to increase the share of rail and barge transport, thus reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.
Serious gaming is an effective tool that can help participants to experience the working and added value of innovative concepts. The methodology can be applied as a dissemination tool or as part of a training programme.
Recent Dutch examples of applying serious games in logistics include:
Gaming for city logistics concepts: the aim of the game is to create awareness by municipalities (public parties) and logistics service providers (private parties) of the drivers and behavior of all involved actors.
TNO (2011) Transfer of Gaming: Transfer of training in serious gaming
Europe (The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany)
Europe, Mitigation, Freight, Trucks, inland shipping, rail, Awareness
ECT, EGS, Danser, TNO
Layla Lebesque: firstname.lastname@example.org, Arno van Rijn: Arnovan.Rijn@ect.nl
“For Europe Container Terminals (ECT) the SynchroMania game creates the right climate for more sustainable and efficient logistics both in the benefit of our customers as our health. It’s the perfect way for our affiliate European Gateway Services (EGS) to create more awareness and interest for our advanced and sustainable transport system.”
-Arno van Rijn, Business Developer, ECT