Customer application March 2, 2023
Automated Loading Documentation

It’s uncommon to find systems in production plants that combine the three different worlds smoothly. A project by WAGO and TTS-Automation shows exactly how providing an open control and protocol landscape can achieve this. This project combines the IT environment, process technology and logistics to implement an efficient, safe, well-documented loading processes.

TTS Automation and WAGO:

  • Intelligent industrial camera and WAGO IoT Box for loading documentation

  • Automation of the control and loading process for containers

  • WAGO controller used for documentation in compliance with data protection regulations

Never an Empty Truck!

This age-old adage of the logistics industry still guides today’s freight forwarders and logistics managers. Operating profitably has long depended on filling every last bit of empty space – not just gaps in the delivery schedule, but also any free space in every single truck. To optimize the material flow and shipping, many companies are already attempting to automate their business processes and support them with software applications. Nonetheless, the day-to-day in most logistics departments is still dominated by manual activities. Entering orders, scheduling shipments, monitoring transport routes and deliveries and providing delivery status information to customers: These processes are usually only partially automated – if at all.

In most cases, automating these processes makes sense, even just from an economic point of view; however, in many cases, the decision-makers are hesitant to invest. This decision often overlooks a crucial issue that may not be obvious at first: Incorrect vehicle loading can create significant risk, possibly with far-reaching legal consequences.

“Anyone who’s ever had to look a prosecutor in the eye when asked ‘What did you do to prevent this accident from happening?’ understands the importance of documenting transport safety once damage has occurred,” explains Thomas Striegel, CEO of TTS Automation GmbH.


Reconciling different bus systems and control systems while still providing enough computing power to run even quite sophisticated algorithms – no one can do that like WAGO.

Thomas Striegel, CEO of TTS Automation GmbH

A few years ago, a chemical industry customer approached Thomas Striegel, wanting to know whether his industrial cameras were also capable of automating the monitoring and documentation process for loading vehicles transporting hazardous goods – a process that had been performed manually up till that point. In the earlier approach, employees had been responsible for photographing the load with a tablet or digital camera and manually sorting the images in a file archive.

But this approach lacks a standardized procedure and is error-prone. “It wasn’t uncommon to end up with blurry images, with crucial areas obscured, or to not even be able to locate the images because they’d obviously been archived incorrectly, or not even saved,” explains Striegel, describing the previous state of affairs. With error-prone manual documentation, problems can arise even when every single truck is loaded correctly. For example, in the event of an accident, the shipper needs proof that the correct procedure was followed in order to clear themselves of any wrongdoing – but this may be missing or unusable.

From the shipping room, a forklift driver transports the goods to the truck trailer. Only then does the recording of the loading process begin.

Industrial Cameras for Documentation

That goal is not to simply install a camera that films everything like a surveillance camera. Our solution evaluates the loading situation intelligently and generates useful images with important information for documentation in compliance with data protection regulations,” explains Striegel. Since this challenge is far from trivial, each individual customer application involves its own project.

For most requests, the aim is to use the recorded images to generate documentation proving that the correct goods and container types for the order were loaded onto the correct truck and that the load was secured. The software adds a timestamp and order number to the images it has identified as containing significant information; these are then burned into the image data, making subsequent manipulation more difficult.

Documenting these processes requires technology and logic. For example, the front and rear license plate of the empty truck need to be detected. The truck is then automatically associated with the appropriate ERP order and guided to the loading dock reserved for it. In the loading terminal as well, cameras at the appropriate points on the ramp and forklifts make sure that the images generated contain significant information. The cameras and their software identify the forklift, recognize when it drives in and out and then save an image of the secure loading process.

Then the interface to the ERP system saves the images in the user’s merchandise and logistics management system, ensure they can be located when needed.


The TTS camera mounted on the loading gate only generates images of the load at the right moment, when no humans or forklifts are in the picture.


This is how we see the WAGO IoT Box: Our functions need to be open and easy to allow adaptation to the customer’s specific application without significant effort.

Wolfgang Laufmann, Global Key Account Manager at WAGO

The biggest challenge for the camera and the software lies in making sure the images generated contain useful information. For this purpose, the program performs countless automatic checks in the background. To ensure usable images in any lighting situation in the truck, the camera needs recognize that it is not in the glare of the sun or any other light source and that temperature fluctuations haven’t caused fogging on the lens.

Also, the software programming needs to ensure that the system finds the right moment for recording. The second the software presses the virtual record button, there can’t be a forklift in the way or a recognizable person in the image. In particularly critical applications, the system also provides recognition of individual containers – via barcode for example – in order to guarantee the traceability of the individual partial deliveries.

A Variety of Languages and Protocols

In order to develop a functioning product from the initial requests from logistics departments in the chemical industry, one obstacle in particular had to be overcome first. One of the first challenges for the technicians at TTS Automation was a major one and lay in connecting the camera to the controllers and adjacent systems: “We spent a long time searching before we found an automation company offering a controller that supported the necessary protocols across the board – WAGO,” says Striegel, describing the initial steps. We always use WAGO in projects where many different decentralized, distributed field signals need to be acquired quickly and easily, and local intelligence is added to optimize the process for customer-specific project requirements. In this way, the data obtained with the help of the controller is carried over into the IT environment and made available to the various user groups – fusing the words of OT and IT, so to speak.


  • Customer-specific connection

  • Communication interface between the worlds of OT and IT

  • Open, flexible software

In each project, TTS Automation develops customer-specific software that runs on the WAGO controller and communicates with the end user’s specific bus system. The variety of interfaces is large: In addition to the connection to the specific ERP system to read out the order data and store the documentation, the system must also communicate with the controllers at the process control level. “The ERP system tells us what data to collect, but the higher-level controller has to specify when we should do so. This is a balancing act, and it’s getting more and more difficult for us, since more and more requirements are being added related to digitization and the Internet of Things,” says Striegel, describing the challenges.

When it comes to loading operations with forklifts, there is definitely potential for optimization when Big Data and artificial intelligence are taken into account. This could be leveraged by expanding the use of existing devices: “Route optimization based on existing data is one possibility. If a software solution can combine the information from the exact storage location in the warehouse with information about the truck to load, it’s possible to decrease loading times and reduce or avoid potentially dangerous forklift crossings,” says Laufmann.

In this way, an intelligent combination of measurement technology, open and flexible protocols and powerful control technology is capable not of only handling simple control tasks, but also of modeling complex documentation processes with a wide variety of interfaces – and doing so where different departments and their requirements interact.

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