The global expansion, with more than 20,000 Zbox units, is expected to generate relevant socioeconomic impacts, such as job creation (around 80 new jobs) and environmental benefits (for example, saving 30 million tons of CO2).
It is well known and has always been said that from problems derive opportunities to generate change. At Navlandis we saw an opportunity to build a solution that would greatly help some of the difficulties that cost and complicate global container transport.
The creation of the Zbox is in response to the goal of minimizing empty container trips in order to change global logistics into a more efficient and sustainable supply chain. The Zbox is a patented ISO shipping container based on an innovative Z-folding mechanism.
We now take a look at what the operational process of the Zbox containers has meant and how we have carefully taken care of every part of this evolution that step by step leads us to the commercialization stage.
El contenedor Zbox se pliega fácilmente para agrupar una pila de 5 unidades Zbox y transportarlas en el espacio de 1 caja estándar (5 en 1)
The challenge of the foldable container
From the beginning, we saw the paramount need for efficient container fleet management. The shipping industry already costs the transportation industry some US$20 billion per year to replace empty containers. At the same time, the industry has been working on new strategies that will lead to more sustainable transportation, investing in innovation, technology and exploring resource substitution. In our previous article we talked about these new strategies.
The development of the ZboxBlueLogistics project required the fulfillment of certain parameters that would evaluate and define the functionality, viability and the application of improvements to the expected results.
This article is part of a summary of the work done and the conclusions drawn from Work Package 2 of the project, called «Technical/Operational Validation», whose purposes were:
- Manufacture 15 Zbox containers.
- Certify them (ISO and CSC).
- Test them on sea and land voyages.
- Analyze their performance.
- Prototype a new improved version, and certify it.
- Design, prototype and test an IoT device for the Zbox containers.
Technical/operational validation of Zbox containers
Most R&D projects use iterative processes to achieve marketable products. By this type of process we refer to the practice of creating, testing and revising until the team is satisfied with the final result.
The ZboxBlueLogistics project includes two iterations in which an industrial series of Zbox containers are manufactured, tested, inspected and with the conclusions of the whole process, an improved version of Zbox is created.
The first stage of this project involved the manufacture of an industrial series of 15 Zbox units, which has been field tested, inspected and has led to the design and construction of a prototype of the new version.
Zbox manufacturing and certification
The first months of this project were dedicated to the manufacture of the fifteen 20′ Zbox units.
Before the start of the Zbox Blue Logistics project, the design of the containers was already certified according to ISO 1496, both in folded and unfolded state. But Navlandis wanted to go further and carried out the certification of the package of five folded containers as well. This proved that both the container and the package are stackable and can travel anywhere on the ship.
CSC certifications of each manufactured unit were also successfully carried out, and customs seal approval was issued. The containers were then ready to travel.
Operational validation of Zbox containers
The fifteen containers manufactured were tested in real field, on land and sea voyages.
A round trip by sea was made, departing from Navlandis headquarters in Valencia (Spain) to Bata (Equatorial Guinea), with one Zbox container unfolded and loaded, and five containers folded into a package.
The Zbox containers have also been tested on several road trips, both unfolded and loaded, as well as empty and folded (packed). Departing from Navlandis’ headquarters in Valencia (Spain), the containers reached destinations such as Toledo, Madrid or Zaragoza. The road trips now total more than 3,000 km.
After each trip, a procedure was followed to check whether the cargo or the containers had been damaged. Navlandis technicians thoroughly inspected the cargo and containers and performed folding and unfolding tests on each container.
Apart from some unavoidable knocks and the appearance of rust, the result was that everything worked correctly, including the folding/unfolding mechanisms, so the operational validation was considered successful.
Improvements to the foldable container, a new version of the Zbox
There is always room for improvement, and Navlandis engineers know that.
After their manufacturing and operating experiences, some points of the design could be improved. Thus an improved version of Zbox was born: designed, prototyped, tested, certified and approved.
Integration of logistic tools to foldable containers
In this work package, an IoT device for position and status tracking of Zbox containers was designed and prototyped.
Two different prototypes were built and tested, and different embeddings inside the container were considered. The second prototype was also tested on one of the road trips, giving satisfactory results.
Conclusions and next steps for our Zbox containers
The Navlandis team is grateful to have found good partners with whom to carry out the validation and the project.
Although the validation task has been completed, Navlandis is still conducting some validation road trips. Currently, a second Valencia (Spain) – Bata (Equatorial Guinea) road trip is nearing completion, and a test train trip is planned for next month.
The next step will be work package 3, where the second round of the iterative loop will be taken to make Zbox even more marketable, this time with the manufacturing and commissioning of 75 Zbox units, further equipped with their own IoT device.
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