Procesoptimalisatie binnen inland containerlogistiek

At Modality, we continuously focus on ensuring that processes in inland container logistics run as optimally as possible. Our customers specialise in inland terminal activities and/or the transport of containers to and from the hinterland. Logically, their logistics process starts with the collection of an import container at the European seaport and ends with the delivery of the container at the unloading destination in the hinterland (or the return of the empty container at the depot) and vice versa if export containers are involved. These logistics processes can be divided into a number of core activities. Since all of these core activities are supported by the Modality system, customers regularly ask whether we can provide a comprehensive overview of the various optimisation options that are available. In this article, we list the optimisations that are possible for each core process and explain how the activities can be automated or simplified for each department.

Optimisation container logistics: four core activities
As previously mentioned, the transport to and from the hinterland, including storage and handling, can be divided into four core activities. In turn, these core activities comprise a combination of internal and external processes. Different departments are involved in these processes. From customer service to planning, from operational execution to invoicing. From entering the order to sending the final invoice. Within this logistics process, we distinguish the following core activities:

  1. Order entry (order processing)
  2. Transport planning
  3. Transport execution (including terminal operation)
  4. Cost control & invoicing

These activities have a lot in common, whether terminal operations or container transport by truck, barge or rail are involved. In the following paragraphs, we explain which activities can be automated for each core process.

To summary

1.Optimisation order entry and other customer service activities
Order entry, i.e., the entering of all customer orders, is often the responsibility of the customer service department. Besides entering the orders, customer service employees (hereinafter referred to as cs employees) ensure that bills of lading and customs documents are prepared in a timely manner; furthermore, they monitor transport and delivery deadlines and keep the customer informed of the progress of the transport and the container availability. A customer may also require additional services, such as the performance of gas measurements, temperature checks for reefer containers or administrative work regarding the storage and transport of hazardous goods. Customer service employees see to it that these additional services are properly registered and that all data is complete.
Some of the activities performed by cs employees lend themselves to full or partial automation and simplification. One such activity is order entry. This can be achieved in various manners. You can read more about this in our article: ‘Four ways to optimise order processing in intermodal container logistics‘.

The automation of order entry allows cs employees to focus on anticipating deviations and monitoring the progress of an order. Is data incomplete? Then a cs employee can contact the customer early on. The Modality Customer Service Monitor provides a clear overview so that high-priority orders can be better managed and any missing data can be identified. With the Modality Client Portal, a web portal that displays data in real time, the cs employee can give the customer insight into the progress of the transport, eliminating the need for telephone calls and e-mails. Furthermore, it is also possible for customers to directly enter orders through the Client Portal, thus also supporting the further automation of order processing.

Customer Service Monitor Modality

Customer Service Monitor Modality

Does the terminal also offer Value Added Logistics? Then various activities can be (automatically) registered. Our Maintenance & Repair (M&R) module offers administrative support regarding the repair of containers. For example, estimates can be generated with the M&R module, which can next be automatically sent and approved via EDI. Furthermore, we have developed a web application which allows you to easily control and monitor the temperature of reefer containers through a tablet. The interface between our gas measurement module and the system of EWS ensures that container locations are shared with EWS in real time and that the gas-free certificate is automatically linked to the container line following completion of the gas measurement.

When we refer to the optimisation of logistics processes, we do not just mean that we can make processes more efficient; we can make them more secure as well. Modern communication technologies ensure that a pick-up authorisation can be communicated in a secure manner, for example by means of blockchain technology. Interfaces between the Modality systems and systems such as Certified Pick up (CPu) and Secure Container Release (SCR) ensure that the pick-up authorisation can be communicated through our system in a secure manner, thus minimising the risk of fraud.

To summary

2.Optimisation transport planning
The planning of container transport entails more than just the optimal transport of a container from the seaport to the loading/unloading location and vice versa. When drawing up the planning, a planner has to consider various factors: the Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), Actual Time of Departure (ATD), cargo opening, cargo closing, etc. These factors are subject to continuous change. Before a planner can actually organise the transport of a container, they at least need to know whether a container is available and whether all associated documentation is correct (for most customers, the customer service department is responsible for enriching the data so that the planning department can start planning based on complete order information).

One way to gain more insight is by automatically importing the current data of seagoing vessels directly into the Modality system. Arrival and departure times (ETA & ETD) and cargo opening and closing times are immediately visible in the system. It is no longer necessary to visit separate terminal websites for this. This automatic retrieval of seagoing vessel data is made possible by direct EDI interfaces with terminal systems. Are direct interfaces not possible? Then the data can be retrieved automatically by means of the ‘Vessel Optimizer‘ from Modality and NexusZ.

The various interfaces with the Portbase service ‘Hinterland Container Notification (HCN)‘ ensure faster data exchange, whereby ship, train and truck visits at the seaport terminals can be pre-notified directly via the API and current status information is promptly displayed in the Modality system. This ensures that planners can work ahead and anticipate problem scenarios more quickly. All our customers now have an interface and/or interfaces with HCN Road, HCN Barge and HCN Rail.

Use MCA-Road within Modality system UCT

Use MCA-Road within Modality system UCT

Once all the preparations have been completed, the planner can focus on the actual planning. For barge operators, a pilot with the ‘Planning Optimizer‘ from Modality and NexusZ is currently underway. In this pilot, the Modality system provides the ‘Planning Optimizer’ with usable input (the containers that need to be planned and the barges that are available) for the planning algorithm. The ‘Planning Optimizer’ next outputs planning advice for each container. The planning still takes place semi-automatically in the pilot, which means the planner can choose to accept or reject the advice presented by the Planning Optimizer. In the final phase of the pilot, the planning will be fully automated and hardly any manual actions will be required.

Another way to optimise the planning is to enrich the Modality system with more data so that the system becomes more intelligent. Regarding truck planning, for example, drivers’ authorisations could be added. If a container with hazardous goods is scheduled for collection by a driver who does not possess an ADR certificate, the Modality system will automatically issue a warning.

To summary

3.Optimisation transport and terminal operation
Container transport can be optimised by gathering as much real-time data as possible about the progress of the transport during its execution. Our barge and our truck apps ensure that current data is collected and process these various status moments in real time in the Modality system. As a result, a planner can ascertain ahead of time that the planning cannot be met and next anticipate this. Furthermore, interfaces with e-CMR applications and the truck and barge apps ensure that delivery notes are digitally shared with the driver or skipper and that signed documents are immediately available to the customer service and invoicing departments.

Status information can be processed in the Modality system at the terminal as well. In combination with OCR software (Optical Character Recognition), inbound and outbound trucks are registered and the ‘Gate-in’ and ‘Gate-out’ statuses are automatically updated within the system. Cameras record the top and side of the container, the chassis and the truck. Among other things, the OCR software scans the camera images for license plate, chassis number and container numbers. This data is sent   transport to the Modality system. For inbound trucks, the Modality system checks whether the truck/container combination is expected and, if the combination is correct, opens the barrier or speed gate. For departing trucks, the Modality system checks the data against the data stored in the ‘Gate control module’ as well. In this way, the system automatically provides an accurate overview of the trucks that are currently at the terminal.

Optimising transport and terminal operation

Optimising transport and terminal operation

In addition to the usage of OCR software, more and more self-service desks are being installed to guide and handle incoming truck traffic as optimally as possible. The software at the self-service desk is linked to our ‘Gate Control’ module. The driver reports to the self-service desk and indicates whether they are coming to deliver and/or pick up a container. The Modality system checks whether the visit has been booked and enriches the data on the screen based on the booking found. As a result, a driver can independently perform the registration process; gate staff only need to assist when data is missing or incorrect. Especially the automatic enrichment of the data substantially reduces man-hours, minimizes manual input work and improves the turnaround time of incoming truck traffic at the terminal.

Thanks to our crane and reach stacker application, communication via the portable radio can be kept to a minimum. The application provides an up-to-date overview of the trucks that are currently at the terminal, displays loading and unloading lists of barges and trains and offers a search function at the container level. Furthermore, the application enables a crane operator or reach stacker driver to easily prioritise. The app also features a graphical terminal overview which makes it possible to swiftly locate containers.

Our Terminal Tractor app ensures that drivers who continuously shuttle between the terminal and the nearby loading/unloading address can easily select their trips. The app is linked to our ‘gate Control module’; drivers can give a container ‘gate IN’ or ‘gate OUT’ themselves. When entering the terminal, terminal tractor drivers no longer have to leave the cabin and save much time. Because a driver can independently select his or her ride, the most favourable terminal position can be chosen. The number of handlings required to set up the container can herewith be reduced.

To support desk and customer service employees in passing on information, we have developed the ‘Reference Check‘ module. Road transport planners can use this to easily check whether a container can be picked up or delivered. For example, they know whether an import container is available for collection, or they can, for example, ascertain whether the delivery reference for an export container is available. Thanks to this portal, employees are hardly burdened with answering this type of questions from road hauliers/truck operators.

To summary

4.Optimisation purchasing control and invoicing
When outsourcing transport, especially regarding multimodal transport, it can be quite difficult for the purchasing department to gain insight into the costs. Within the Modality system, the costs of each segment of the transport are mapped out. When the rates of the different carriers are added to the system, the Modality system links the rates with the operational transport data. This consequently allows for purchasing control to largely be automated.

Similarly, sales invoices can be generated and dispatched (almost) fully automated as well. Sales rates are ‘matched’ with operational transport data, whereby revenue lines are automatically generated; the so-called ‘charging’. These revenue lines can easily be converted into invoices. To fully automate the billing process, you can choose to also have the following actions run automatically for each customer:

  • The automatic generation of invoices based on customer preferences (per booking, per trip, per month, etc.)
  • The automatic conversion of ‘pro forma’ invoices into final invoices
  • The automatic sending of invoices at the time of your choosing

Summary; opportunities for chain optimisation within the Modality system
Below is an overview of the optimisation options within the Modality system for each department:

  1. Customer service
  • Automation of order entry
  • Improved insight into priorities and missing data with Customer Service Monitor
  • Offer the customer insight into progress of transport with the Modality Client Portal
  • The (automated) registration of Value Added Logistics (VAL)
    • Modality Maintenance & Repair module
    • Interface EWS for the performance of gas measurements
    • Monitoring of reefer containers
  • The secure communication of pick-up authorisation
  1. Transport planning
  • Automatic retrieval of data seagoing vessel
  • Interface HCN ensures accelerated pre-notification and up-to-date status information
  • (Semi)automatic barge planning with the Planning Optimizer
  • Enrichment of data to make the Modality system more intelligent
  1. Transport execution and terminal operation
  • Use of the barge and truck apps provides real-time insight into the progress of the transport
  • Interfaces with e-CMR applications and our truck and/or barge app ensure that bills of lading are digitally available (immediately after signing)
  • Interface with OCR software ensures up-to-date ‘Gate in’ and ‘Gate out’ administration
  • Use of self-service desk for the efficient handling of incoming truck traffic
  • Crane and reach stacker application supports crane operator and reach stacker driver in the unloading and loading process of ships and trains and helps to prioritise and locate containers
  • Terminal tractor app provides fast access and handling of terminal tractors that continuously commute between terminal and loading/unloading address
  • Offer truckers insight into availability containers/submission delivery reference with Reference Check module
  1. Purchasing control and Invoicing
  • The automatic matching of purchase rates with the operational transport data in the system
  • The automatic matching of sales rates with the operational transport data in the system
  • The automatic generation of sales invoices based on customer preferences
  • The automatic conversion of ‘pro forma’ invoices into final invoices
  • The automatic sending of invoices

This article is regularly updated and supplemented so that you always have an up-to-date overview of the optimisation possibilities within your logistics process. Would you like to know more about any of the options described above? Or do you want personal advice? Please contact our marketing and sales department directly through the contact form below.

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