The developing role of in cab communications and internet based freight management technology in the global supply chain
The current surge in the transport sector is towards the use of in cab communications or as it is sometimes termed telematics. While systems may be provided as standard for monitoring performance by the truck manufacturers and the tachograph is now accepted practice, it is also true that some companies have used these and other in cab technologies for several years. Bringing the global supply chain on line and in to the cab is still an emerging practice for many company’s, industry sectors and certainly for many inland container hauliers.
In the past implementing such systems and gaining the benefits which were intended at the outset has been a challenge.
Shippers and Shipping Lines have had a long standing problem with a part of the global supply chain termed the first and the last mile, the stages of the delivery cycle where goods are collected from the shipper and delivered to the final end customer an area which is undergoing or about to undergo significant change
Atlantic Container Line (ACL) had just such a problem and moreover having a company culture of continually seeking to enhance their service to their customers was exacerbating the problem.
The company could track Cargo from manufacture through the loading on board and into the Port but a persistent problem was with the Last Mile, that period when the container is collected from the port and delivered to its final destination. This was impacting on customer service for several reasons one of which was the ACL dissatisfaction with the accuracy and availability of the time estimates for the container reaching its destination, information which is vital for effective planning by their customers. Additionally, queries in relation to the delivery paper work, arrival and departure times and confirmations were taking up a lot of staff time.
Overall the Key performance indicators they needed were not available.
Atlantic Container Line is the leading carrier of containers, oversize cargo and vehicles between North America and Europe. For over 30 years, ACL’s pioneering spirit has been the driving force that has made the company not only the leader in their trade but one of the most respected names in ocean transportation.
Their leadership and contribution in the Port of Liverpool has been a key factor in the Ports re emergence as a major port and its contribution to the economy of the North West of the United Kingdom.
ACL utilise several selected transport companies for the inland delivery leg of the global chain a major one of which is JMD transport
JMD is a Liverpool based haulier which has been established for over 30 years and specialises in the transport and storage of in bound and outbound containers covering destinations anywhere in the UK. The company has a committed culture of customer service and seeks to continually improve service to their customers and create long term sustainable relations to the benefit of both partners. In doing this they have sought to improve communication with and improved efficiency in working for strategic customers such as Atlantic Container Line. At the same time in such a cost critical industry JMD have an objective to reduce costs, improve efficiency and grow its market position.
Mersey Maritime introduced ACL and JMD to ContainerPort. ContainerPort is a Liverpool based private company and part of the Liverpool University AIMES Division (Advanced Internet and emergent systems). Aimes promotes the development of emerging technology and its use in business applications.
David Pendleton business director of Mersey Maritime, the organisation set up to promote the economic development of the Merseyside Port shipping cluster, says,
"Our mission is to introduce and develop emerging technologies within the Port as a way of helping develop its economy and this project epitomises the substance of our mission’.
The ContainerPort solution was introduced which allows ACL to more effectively manage their supply chain by tracking goods from the point of collection to its final destination. At the destination the lines transport company are able to confirm proof of delivery on line as the end customer would sign the proof of delivery on the PDA. This information was then immediately available to the line, the customer and the transport head office providing at a stroke a reduction in queries and an improvement in efficiency and supply chain visibility for all partners.
The ContainerPort management team designed the system to address the key areas in which they had been involved in developing over the last decade in other aspects of global supply chain logistics such as supply chain visibility one which provides enormous benefits across the chain. It provides all parties in the global supply chain, Shippers, forwarders, transport companies etc with a capability to see and monitor the progress of their goods as they travel through the chain over the internet and to improve planning, efficiency, service and the order to cash cycle.
There are three key components of the ContainerPort solution.
A PDA in the cab operates out of the in cab socket and is fixed for visibility and hands free operation which feeds GPS data back to the ContainerPort portal.
This is an advanced freight portal operating out of a high security location and providing a high level of performance and independence in the management and provision of its data to each customer and user.
Thirdly the Portal and indeed the whole system is based on the SaaS concept ( Software as a Service) which simply means that with the exception of the in cab device the company has no up front cost, no expensive project or services, virtually unlimited power and only the cost of paying for the service on a monthly basis.
The system has additional roles in increasing efficiency such as paper cost reductions, improved communication with driver and automating the daily vehicle checks. It is also a mobile phone and a camera which can be used to record damage or any accident information and to transmit the data to the portal to support claims etc.
Access to the Portal provides vehicle status, the capturing of and historic retrieval of electronic proof of delivery and exception reporting and improved utilisation of backspace.
The transport company will pay around £45 per month for the PDA, the service and unlimited access to the portal. There is no charge to the Shipping Line or their customers who can gain visibility over the internet via the portal from any location which has internet access even from home.
There are search facilities available on the portal based on container, drivers or vehicles plus key performance indicators detailing on time deliveries and waiting times which can provide efficient backup for invoicing of the carriers extra costs incurred. Such data can help reduce haulage costs by up to 30%. It is clear that being in control of all this data along with the provision of events notification and alerts can help the haulier enormously in its management of the fleet.
In addition to the operational aspects the PDA can transmit data on driver hours, holiday requests, stopovers and expenses to the company’s in house HR and payroll systems. Fuel records can also be summarised and made available for analysis.
The amount of information generated and being made available by the system is continuously increasing and being further developed by ContainerPort within its high quality CMMI level 5 development facility.
Paul Blundell, Director of JMD says
"What we set out to do at the start of the project is now a reality. We can better manage our fleet not only at the consignment level but we can also look at the bigger picture. Transport instructions are sent seamlessly to our drivers and
tracking and status updates are received back in real time. At any point in time we can monitor how we are performing for all customers. Shipments for ACL, CMA-CGM, K-Line, Hapag Lloyd are all visible with one view. It means better control with just the same team as we progressively grow the fleet"
Shipping and transport has never been at the forefront of technology or investment. The industry has always been run on tight budgets and reacted to the fluctuations in freight rates by tightening its belt, and not loosening it. However, in the last decade most shipping lines have made unprecedented investments in technology and now do have efficient up to date systems. The final mile will we believe follow suit at a rapid pace albeit with a much lower level of investment.
We firmly believe that the final leg in the chain will develop further over the next year and will be based and supported by two pillars of technology, the Internet and SaaS (Software as a Service). The SaaS concept will allow transport companies large or small to utilise virtually unlimited computer power which can be paid for as they go on out of predefined and controlled cost benefits. This means no expensive project costs or equipment apart from an in cab PDA often instead of a phone.
There must however be a measure of caution as well. Too often cost benefit proposals have been produced but the actual system implementation has not been monitored to assess financial benefits that can be reinvested in new technology or as so often can happen, the perceived benefits have never been achieved.
This new generation of transport visibility will provide real and quantifiable benefits if properly managed. We do not see this type of project as just putting communications in cabs though. We believe companies taking this route have a fantastic opportunity to be a dramatic implementation of change within transport organisations which if managed properly will bring benefits far in excess of the investment cost in all key areas of efficiency, customer performance, cost savings, market gain.
‘We believe there is much more happening based on in cab technology which will see the transport business really going on line’, says Neil Garland ContainerPort Business Development Director. Computerised order processing systems, once the province of the in house ERP, will move into the real world and be managed by the transport industry itself. This will provide dramatic cost savings and vastly improved efficiency. It may take time but it will revolutionise the transport sector of the Shipping Industry. The order to cash cycle will go on line and as well as helping to manage the fleet the internet technology will take key elements of the supply chain and the fleet and driver management out of the office and on line to where the transport operators can do it themselves creating greater efficiencies and reduce a lot of duplication as it improves its role in the industry.