Due to continuous shifts in supply and demand within the market, amongst other things, because of lockdowns and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, organisations need to be able to flexibly adapt their operations. Different types of customers have different requirements. These increasing customer requirements, on the one hand, and a shortage of staff in the labour market mean that many terminals are giving more and more priority to automation. Corinne Verstoep, Director at the Waalhaven Group, knows this well. In this article, she discusses the challenges of Barge Center Waalhaven (part of the Waalhaven Group) in anticipating the current market developments.
Complete service provision container logistics
Barge Center Waalhaven (BCW) is a barge, feeder and shortsea container terminal and part of the Waalhaven Group. BCW’s various subsidiaries offer additional services. Waalhaven Cool Barge, for example, provides barge transport between the various terminals in Rotterdam. Waalhaven Douane Service arranges all customs formalities (including for BCW’s RTO-C bonded warehouse). United Waalhaven Terminals and Depot Pier 7 provide storage and repair services for empty containers. Like BCW, Waalhaven Botlek Terminal is a barge and feeder terminal, mainly for tank containers. Barge Terminal Born (BTB) is the intermodal container terminal of the Waalhaven Group deeper in the hinterland. Through these operating companies, the Waalhaven Group offers a comprehensive range of services for intermodal container logistics. BCW will soon mark its 25th anniversary; a perfect moment to reflect on the growth and professionalisation that the organisation has experienced in recent years and to discuss the developments they have planned for the immediate future.
Anticipating customer demand in a changing market
Automation has become an increasingly important focal point for BCW in recent years. A declining turnover due to high sea freight rates and the lockdowns in the Far East has spurred BCW to look for alternatives, thereby attracting new types of customers. New customers mean increased (operational) activities, and the various processes might need to be adjusted to accommodate them.
Corinne: “In many cases, our requirements in terms of automation are strongly market-driven. Attracting new customers not only means an increase in work, but also places different demands on our operation. Automating operational processes has been prioritised to increase our ability to respond to these changes.”
For example, BCW focused on transporting logs from Germany to China for a while, consequently becoming more involved in the gassing and degassing of cargo. And the new feeder service with Samskip and BCW requires EDI interfaces to ensure that the input of bookings and the generation of loading and unloading lists can be automated as much as possible.
Automation to reduce workload and retain employees
Attracting new customers not only results in welcome growth, but often also increases the workload for the existing teams. This creates a tension in which a balance must be struck between keeping customers satisfied and ensuring a pleasant working environment. In times when the demand in the job market greatly outstrips the supply, the retention of employees becomes even more important.
Corinne: “Developments within the market do not necessarily make the work more enjoyable, but they do make it easier, for example planning with Nextlogic. Through automation, we aim to reduce the workload as much as possible and to keep the job attractive. Our employees provide input regarding automation solutions to make their jobs easier and increase the efficiency of processes.”
The interface with Samskip is a good example in this respect; on the one hand, BCW is responding to the customer’s needs whilst, on the other hand, it is ensuring that the processing of bookings is automated as much as possible. In this way, the organisation achieves growth without a direct increase in (labour) capacity.
Optimisation customs formalities
Besides customer requirements, an organisation is also confronted with requirements set by the market, such as changing laws and regulations. For example, the interface with ‘Notification Export Documentation’ of Portbase went live recently. This interface ensures that export documents no longer need to be manually entered and that containers that have been earmarked for inspection by Customs are automatically blocked. Soon, the audit file for the administration for the Temporary Storage Facility (Ruimte tijdelijke opslag, RTO) of BCW will also be changed to version 2.1. BCW thus meets the new requirements in conformity with customs legislation.
Short-term development projects
In addition to updating the RTO administration to the latest version, the following automation projects are planned:
- The addition of an inbound and outbound interface for Bayplan (BAPLIE) messages. This interface makes it possible to read the inbound stowage plan and generate the outbound stowage plan.
- The establishment of an interface with Smith Holland. This interface ensures that lists of reefer information no longer need to be maintained manually, but are automatically transmitted.
The projects mentioned above relate to anticipating customer requirements and changing regulations. Furthermore, BCW needs to deploy automation and digitisation to improve the provision of data to the customer. For example, BCW wishes to develop dashboards or automatically generated reports which allow for the performance of the terminal (think of the dwell time of trucks at the terminal, for example, or the number of TEUs handled per hour) to be accurately monitored.
As Corinne also states in the interview, automation and digitisation are prioritised to anticipate various factors. Both short-term factors (think of responding to customer needs and market requirements, for example) and long-term factors (the structural improvement of processes, providing insight into performance, improving data provision to the customer, etc.) are involved. Would you like advice on the possibilities for optimisation at your organisation? Or are you interested in more information about the interfaces mentioned in the article about BCW? Please contact us directly!