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The new EGS multi-leg booking application makes costs transparent at the file level
The new EGS multi-leg booking application makes costs transparent at the file level

European Gateway Services (hereafter EGS), the Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam transport product, forms a crucial link connecting the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, with multiple inland terminals in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Austria. EGS was founded in 2010, its objective being to organise sustainable and efficient hinterland transport. Good software systems are indispensable to making that happen. Raymon van Bokkem (Business Consultant) and Nils de Brons (Finance Manager) explain how the new multi-leg booking application has made a huge amount of relevant information far more transparent.

European Gateway Services

Ongoing professionalisation
In 2017, it became apparent that the current ICMS system required an upgrade. Raymon was appointed project lead and made responsible for this automation project. Raymon: ‘We designated a large group of key users to clarify the requests. For instance, compared to the old system, we wanted to enhance the customer service department's user-friendliness, process more planning data, and do a better job of registering customer requests. For example, that could include:
  • Package agreements
  • Demurrage and detention agreements
  • Shipping company requests

Choice of supplier
Once the requests have been defined, the project will be put out for tender on the market. Raymon: ‘That tender process led to the decision for Modality, mainly due to their knowledge of the market. Another advantage was that our teams were already familiar with Modality modules. We didn’t have to learn the ropes first, which allowed us to focus completely on improving the application.

‘Modality definitely deserves praise for its pragmatic approach. If there is a modification request on a list somewhere and it's being processed, we can be confident it will get done.’

Modality 2.0
The new multi-leg system ensures that transport elements can be linked, so that transports can be booked in significant detail. Nils:

‘The new booking application allows us to do a much better job registering bookings.’

For example, in the past, we would need to create separate orders to obtain a clear overview of the ‘first mile trucking’ leg or ‘last mile trucking’ leg. We not only have a better overview of the costs of each terminal and operator, but the “On Time Performance” and reliability of transports are more transparent as well. Better communication with the customer also ensures better planning; however, we are not yet ready. Version 2.0 isn’t 100% complete yet or we are already talking about version 2.1. The next items on the agenda are, for example, improving storage operations at the terminal and report processing. We’re also looking into a quotation module for our sales organisation.’

European Gateway Services - Crane

Technological marvel
EGS is programmed with a wide range of procurement options, ensuring that the new booking application is a system that features multiple interfaces. It constitutes the central customer service system from which data is transmitted to planning and terminal systems. Customers can simultaneously enter or view data using the web-based client portal developed by Modality. Questions such as ‘When will my container arrive?’ and ‘On which leg was it booked?’ are answered quickly and easily. Great project organisation and sufficient capacity for supporting the technology are essential for projects of this calibre. Raymon: ‘Modality definitely deserves praise for its pragmatic approach. If there is a modification request on a list somewhere and it's being processed, we can be confident it will get done.’

Would you like to know more about the implementation of the EGS multi-leg booking system or would you like to find out about what your application options are? Contact us. We would be pleased to provide you with personalised advice!

CCT Moerdijk about the West-Brabant Corridor success
CCT Moerdijk about the West-Brabant Corridor success

Combined Cargo Terminals Moerdijk (hereafter CCT Moerdijk) is an important link in one of the most successful partnerships in combining container shipments to the hinterland: the West-Brabant Corridor. A partnership with many benefits for the partners and their clients and a substantial contribution to reducing congestion in the port of Rotterdam. In this article Peter van Veelen tells us about the establishment of the West-Brabant Corridor, the improvements as a result of the cooperation and he also reveals the secret behind the joint success.

More efficient handling
CCT Moerdijk was established more than sixteen years ago. With stevedoring as its main economic activity, CCT Moerdijk has grown into an organisation employing some 120 people and with 32 hectares of land and 1,500 metres of quayside. CCT is an inland hub between seaport and hinterland accessible by water, rail and road. In addition, CCT Moerdijk also handles sea-going vessels and offers breakbulk operations. These include different types of project cargo such as wind turbines, big bags etc. Within its intermodal role, CCT Moerdijk has entered into cooperation with BTT and OCT . As central planning takes place at the Moerdijk location, CCT is the pivot of the West-Brabant Corridor. One of the most successful initiatives in combining cargo to ensure more efficient handling of container flows to the hinterland.

Increasing congestion
The increasing congestion in the port of Rotterdam led to talks on possible partnerships as early as 2008. Peter: "Our ships were underway for about four to five days due to the lack of sufficient volume to make point-to-point connections. A delay in the first stop often caused a negative domino effect in the rest of the arrangements for loading and unloading. Not only does this take a lot of time, it also increases the risk that customers lose confidence in your barge service." At the time, a lack of confidence and a declining market meant that cooperation did not get off the ground. In 2017, talks were resumed and the owners of CCT Moerdijk, Barge Terminal Tilburg (hereafter BTT) and Oosterhout Container Terminal (hereafter OCT) came together to compare individual volumes. These turned out to match well. Peter: "We then entered into a dialogue with the sea terminals and sought cooperation with the Port Authority. As more parties got involved, confidence got bigger and the sea terminals offered commitment to fixed windows".

West Brabant Corridor

Directors Wil Versteijnen and Luc Smits felt that developments were lacking and in January 2018 they decided not to wait any longer and make a start. The planners, at that time still at the Tilburg location, were faced with a major change in working methods. Not only were volumes many times higher, also other sailing methods were introduced (windows, point-to-point sailing). However, within six weeks the first structures became visible, agreements were expanded and sailing schedules adjusted. In June of that year, OCT joined the corridor and the decision was taken to work from one central point and with a central system. The planning department moved to Moerdijk and Modality provided the central WBC system with a very modern interface technology between WBC central and the Modality systems of partner terminals CCT, BTT and OCT.

“When we joined forces, reliability increased and our services were improved. In addition, the performance of our vessels was better."

Higher reliability, better performance
Combining the volumes of CCT, BTT and OCT allows us to sail dedicated routes between the sea terminals and the hinterland terminals. The first effects of the initiative are obvious. The Port Authority reports significant reductions of port-stay times of vessels and clients’ reactions are also mainly positive. Peter: “When we joined forces, reliability increased and our services were improved. We also see improved performances of our vessels. We measure the capacity utilisation, the handling time at the terminals and we make sure that everyone keeps to the agreements that were made. In the short term we are still seeing an increase in the cost price. We see this increase as an investment in the service and reliability of our services. In the long term, high reliability will contribute to higher volumes and a decrease in cost price".

Including Alpherium
Recently the terminal in Alphen aan den Rijn, better known as the Alpherium, has joined the network. The limited draught on the Moerdijk - Alphen aan den Rijn route means that only smaller vessels (and therefore smaller volumes) can be used. By transshipping the containers at the Moerdijk Hub, the Alpherium benefits from combined volumes and experiences less congestion in the port of Rotterdam. In addition, in collaboration with Heineken, a project is now underway to fill the empty export containers with empty beer bottles that are taken to the factory in Zoeterwoude. The glass factory that produces the beer bottles is located next to the terminal in Moerdijk. By filling the empty export containers from Rotterdam with empty bottles in Moerdijk, the road kilometres between the Heineken factory in Zoeterwoude and the glass factory in Moerdijk are limited to the Alphen - Zoeterwoude route. As about seven trucks drive up and down every day, the shortening of the route means a considerable CO2 reduction and less empty transport.

CCT Alpherium

“Sometimes you have to step over your own shadow and get round the table with your competitor."

The secret behind the success
Not all partnership projects are as successful as the West-Brabant Corridor. When we ask Peter about the secret behind the success, he says: "Trust is important. Sometimes you have to step over your own shadow and get round the table with your competitor. The client's interest should outweigh the interest of the competitor. You have to be open to working with your competitor. At the moment, we are the only corridor that has entered into a partnership with joint planning in a joint system. This level of cooperation will lead to maximum efficiency to get the most out of the partnership.

Next steps
The next step in optimizing barge services will be the automation of planning. Planning containers on the most efficient lighter is still a manual job. In addition, CCT Moerdijk wants to further develop in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Further automation will support and simplify work processes as much as possible. Also, a renovation of the quay is planned and the rail terminal will be extended from two to three tracks to comply with the new train length guidelines.

Would you like to know more about the automation and technology that contributed to the success of this collaboration? Please, contact us and we like to give you an inside view.

CTVrede first inland terminal with web-based outdoor operations
CTVrede first inland terminal with web-based outdoor operations

CTVrede BV is the first inland terminal in the Netherlands to have fully web-based outdoor operations. A special achievement that creates flexibility, a scalable business model and cost savings. In this article, we ask André Klous, ICT Manager at CTVrede, about the realisation of the new and transition to the current terminal.

“CTVrede wants to focus on its customers and containers. The IT at our company has to enable and facilitate that, not vice versa.”

CTVrede has a clear vision, particularly in terms of automation. André: “CTVrede wants to focus on its customers and containers. The IT at our company has to enable and facilitate that, not vice versa.” A lot of my time is spent on keeping up the IT infrastructure. I want to use that time to create innovative automation solutions that benefit our customers.” About three years ago, CTVrede started working out a roadmap. The central issue was how the organisation wants to operate tomorrow’s terminal and how to change the way in which work at the office is organised, to bring it more in line with today’s wishes. We drafted several scenarios and compared them. In the end, we opted for a model where only a limited server park would be placed within an external data centre. Most administrative packages (e.g. accounting), as well as all Modality outdoor applications, are hosted in a cloud environment. That means the cloud supplier is now responsible for hosting and maintenance. This new set-up also means that we use a different licence model that allows for most of the software to be invoiced on a monthly basis.

Anticipating developments faster thanks to scalable business model
CTVrede’s new terminal at Hoogtij in Westzaan has been fully operational since September 2019. The existing terminal in Amsterdam switched to using web applications at the start of this month. How much CTVrede benefits from switching to web-based working was clear from day one. The switch from a full office team to working from home, for instance, was made in one day and outdoor operations also continued without too much downtime. The transition to web applications for outdoor operations results in the following benefits:

  1. A scalable business model
  2. Flexible market anticipation
  3. Cost reduction

André: “Using web applications allows us to develop fast. Thanks to this transition, we were able to keep the construction costs for a new terminal within budget. This new way of working also meant that after implementing the stricter measures concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to make the switch within one day, without interrupting our own operations and those of our customers too much.”

Although the vision of a modern, automated terminal was there three years ago, there was no priority for it at that time. The project gained momentum early 2019 when it was decided to construct a new terminal. The new CTVrede Hoogtij terminal was fully operational within six months of the design phase. Another six months later, the existing terminal in Amsterdam had also switched to web applications without any downtime. How? According to André, some of the success can be attributed to Chantalle Blok, D&I coordinator. Chantalle analyses demand on the shop floor, and the office and André translate this into the technical bit. This is a unique function that was incorporated in the roadmap at an early stage. By creating this new function (even though it is an extra cost item, initially), IT projects can be realized faster and more efficiently and it results in a shorter payback period.

Although the project was implemented incredibly fast, it is not without its challenges. André: “With a cloud model, you prefer to have everything standardised. But what works for one terminal doesn’t necessarily work for the other. So you have to coordinate procedures and methods and make concessions sometimes. That’s a particular challenge for those who have to use it in the end. At CTVrede, this process is supervised by the Terminal Manager and the IT Manager, but you mainly need the operators’ input, of course, you can’t offer a proper solution without their input and insights. Right now, we’re still optimising the processes and set-up of the standard basic model to be able to scale up. There’s always room for improvement, but you have to remain cost-efficient.”

“We believe in long-term relationships. We also like partners with a flexible approach to achieve the business targets.”

Long-term relationships
Strong partnerships are vital for automation processes such as this one. Suppliers must follow at the same pace. CTVrede and Modality have been partners for 23 years, quite an extraordinary collaboration in such a fast-paced world like IT. We’ve also always had a strong partnership with Secure logistics, who supply the CargoCard functionalities. They played a crucial role in this transition as well because solid teamwork between the (external) partners helps to make such a big project a success.
André: “We believe in long-term relationships. We also like partners with a flexible approach to achieve the business targets.”

Ready for the future
So thanks to the transition to web-based applications, CTVrede can grow faster and can anticipate developments better. As they no longer have a data server to manage, they don’t have to worry about maintaining it, and it has facilitated the new way of working. Also, this ties in with the vision that office workers can do their jobs regardless of where they are. Not only did it ease the relocation to a new terminal, but it also meant that the developments concerning the COVID-19 virus were dealt with smoothly. In collaboration with Modality and Secure Logistics, a new terminal was built that's ready for the future!

Want to find out more about this specific automation process or the possibilities to make your outdoor operations web-based too? Please contact us to discuss the details.

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