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East-West Gate container terminal shows that “smart” is the smart way to go

(Posted Aug. 2023) Working in a railyard doesn’t normally top the list of jobs that appeal to women. And yet, at the East-West Gate Intermodal Terminal in northeastern Hungary, some of the key posts are held by women. This gender balance in the workplace is one of the many benefits that are emerging now that the facility has been running on 5G since October 2022

The EWG railyard covers a huge area.

“Here the operation of rail transport is much easier thanks to modern safety equipment,” says Gréta Gulyás, an EWG Train Dispatcher, who is one of several women working at the terminal. “For example, a switch is set by a click of the mouse instead of someone going to the railroad switch and changing it manually.” 

Located in the small town of Fényeslitke near the Ukrainian border, EWG exists to transfer containers between Western European trains and freight carried on wider gauge railways in countries further to the east. EWG also serves as a hub for regional road and waterway networks. 

Gréta Gulyás, an EWG Train Dispatcher. While railyard operations are traditionally a man's world, several women work at EWG. 

The terminal is the brainchild of János Tálosi, CEO of EWG. “I had a vision to create a logistics terminal with technologies that never existed before,” he recalls. “Remotely-controlled cranes without wire connections, 3D virtual reality where the cranes can be operated in VR.” 

Among the many challenges that Tálosi overcame during the planning and construction of EWG was the deployment of a 5G private network with a latency lower than 30 milliseconds. This is essential to remotely-operate cranes. A technology provider that EWG initially worked with was unable to achieve that kind of performance. “When the crane manufacturer suggested that the operators’ cabins should be mounted on the cranes, that wasn’t a happy day for me,” he sourly recalls. 

EWG's CEO Tálosi: Latency below 30 milliseconds is a must. 

Tálosi eventually turned to Huawei. In China, since 2019, the network equipment manufacturer had collaborated with several container terminals to deliver just the kind of digital transformation EWG had in mind. At some of the world’s largest sea ports, including Ningbo, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Tianjin, operators rely on private networks supplied by Huawei to remotely control cranes. With the help of artificial intelligence, one worker can in fact man three cranes while sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned office with tea and snacks nearby. Port operations are speeded up because the AI works faster than humans and doesn’t need to take breaks.

Working together, EWG, Huawei, and other partners implemented Tálosi’s vision. And with the facility now in operation for over nine months, it’s becoming clearer that EWG is the way forward for global logistics operators. The yard can handle between 32 and 35 containers per hour, a sharp improvement over the 23-25 containers per hour that could be expected from a traditional terminal. 

From an office, EWG staff can remotely control the whole EWG site. 

Stephen Saunders, a journalist and media entrepreneur who notably founded the telecom trade title Light Reading, visited EWG in June and came away impressed. “The new EWG terminal features technologies that automate shipment tracking — and moving containers is done remotely, over a state-of-the-art private 5G network,” Saunders wrote in Silverlinings. His article includes a video

While at EWG, Saunders also talked to Tálosi who told him that “Huawei’s private 5G network delivers latency of 20 milliseconds — compared to 1,000 milliseconds (or one second) from one of the competing vendors,” Saunders heard. “Their performance was the equivalent of comparing “a VW Polo to a Rolls Royce.”

Whenever people hear of artificial intelligence and digital transformation, one of the top questions concerns the negative impact on employment because of the anticipation that AI replaces humans. In Fényeslitke, technology creates jobs, according to Tálosi. “We can’t deny the fact that this is the poorest region in Hungary,” he says. “But the terminal is a driving force for young people to come back home because there is a vision of the future here.” 

Huawei provides the private 5G network technology

Within the next decade, Tálosi envisages that the area will be home to several industrial parks attracted by the first-class logistics that EWG provides. “It will be full of factories and workshops operating at similar technological standards and environmentally-conscious major land developments,” he says. “It will be exemplary for Europe.” 

In terms of gender balance in a traditionally-male domain, EWG is already exemplary. 

Watch the video to see what EWG has been up to since it launched operations last October.