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Rapid and broad sharing of data limits impact disruptions
Rapid and broad sharing of data limits impact disruptions

The blockage of the Suez Canal at the end of March was the subject of extensive media coverage. The public suddenly became aware of the vulnerability of production and transport chains. Impressive images of a (relatively) small excavator next to the bow of a gigantic, stranded container ship, in combination with statements about the ‘tsunami of containers’ en route to Rotterdam, attracted a lot of attention.

Looking back, it is dangerous to say that ‘it wasn’t really that big a deal’. On the contrary: it is actually due to a fast and adequate response, with digital technologies, that problems were averted. Just like the real-time sharing of data actually prevents problems on an almost daily basis. It is with good reason that Portbase immediately launched a web page that allowed for the ETA of the various delayed ships to be continuously monitored in response to this situation.

Any party operating between the deepsea ports and the hinterland, such as a barge operator, for example, knows that there are uncertainties that can disrupt the planning for the timely handling of (intercontinental) cargo. Think of unfavourable water levels on the rivers, strikes, traffic jams or congestion at deepsea terminals - just to name a few challenges.

No influence on the weather
As Modality, we have no influence on the weather, water levels and any labour disputes that may occur in the port. However, we do set up our software in a manner that allows for the supply chain to be monitored as accurately as possible and for disruptions to be immediately and proactively identified. This is only possible with an optimal exchange of data.

Delays at the deepsea terminals (‘congestion’) have less impact on barge operators if information is known and shared in a timely manner. From berth availability to time slots for handling, from delays at sea to water levels on the Rhine: the nautical journey between seaport and hinterland can often be planned more accurately than transport across a section of road – provided that parties properly share and process information. Modality is the hub for the sharing of that data, as is the case for Hinterland Container Notification (HCN), for example.

HCN and integrated planning
Calls involving barges and containers are pre-notified at terminals and depots via a single portal with HCN Barge. In addition, HCN Barge provides input for the integrated planning of each port visit. This yields important benefits, such as a uniform working method for all terminals and depots and the possibility to request the container status prior to the pre-notification.

Various measures
Changes in planning due to congestion will continue to occur. Fortunately, the problem is addressed in several ways. Firstly, physically: through the construction of additional berths for inland vessels.

Furthermore, it is the larger parties who, on the basis of fixed window agreements at the deepsea terminals, try to minimise delays in the seaport.

For parties that do not have sufficient volumes to make such agreements, the establishment of the Barge Transferium Maasvlakte (BTM) has constituted a welcome improvement.

BTM is a collaboration between Hutchison Ports ECT Rotterdam (ECT) and a consortium of inland terminals and barge operators. In this collaboration, ECT makes a section of quay with crane and crane team available to the consortium on prearranged days and times at a fixed rate.

At BTM, the barge operators take care of the planning themselves and the participating parties consult with one another as to when and how often they will moor alongside the quay. For this initiative, the digital sharing of data is also essential in order for the aforementioned ‘mutual consultation’ to succeed.

Modern systems use so-called APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to exchange data. The main benefits of this technology are speed and standardisation. The data that is offered within the API is immediately available to all users in the chain who are technologically willing and able to make use of it.

It is precisely a crisis such as the Suez blockage that clearly illustrates the benefits that digital data can deliver to the chain parties. Modality shares and processes the data for you, so that your customers are not or hardly affected by disruptions.

Do you want to know what sharing and processing data means for your organisation? We would be happy to explain the possibilities in a personal meeting. You can contact us directly via the button below.


Customer Service Monitor offers control over intermodal container transport
Customer Service Monitor offers control over intermodal container transport

Modality introduces toolset for real-time monitoring
Customer Service Monitor offers control over intermodal container transport

Your customers highly value up-to-date information about the progress of their container transport. And for good reason: just-in-time delivery is an essential business requirement for many companies. To enable real-time monitoring of the processes in the supply chain, Modality has developed the Customer Service Monitor (CSM).

In practice, intermodal transport and the - often international - transport of containers involve a supply chain that comprises many links. Actions by all parties involved impact the reliability of the transport process. If all those relevant parties share data from the chain with one another, it becomes possible to centrally monitor the status of the transport. Ideally, you will consequently be aware of the status and position of each individual container in the chain between seaport and hinterland in your capacity as transport director.

Selection based on priority
In that respect, it is particularly important that customer service employees are immediately aware of any deviations in the transport chain. This makes it possible to quickly take the necessary actions when responding to incidents. Processes that run as scheduled can be given less attention. The CSM from Modality offers you a ‘Priority view’, which sorts and presents the containers on the basis of priority. This helps your employees make the correct choice when dealing with issues in order of importance.

The CSM can play a role at any moment in the transport chain. For example, the system checks whether the customer order features all the required data. And the CSM supports your employees with indicators to ensure that the order data is complete in a timely manner.

As part of the CSM, the user is able to set fixed format definitions within the Modality system and for example link these to a specific carrier, so that the system can check these references for correctness when they are submitted. This check verifies whether the entered references comply with the specified format definitions.

Workflow feasibility
The feasibility of the workflow is continuously monitored on the basis of the planned execution of the transport and the data recorded therein. After all, a delay at a certain stage, for example in the seaport, impacts the entire process. This means it must be possible to efficiently adjust the dates of scheduled actions elsewhere in the chain.

It is possible to monitor the transport down to the individual container level because Modality's CSM is able to consolidate and analyse data from a large number of parties via various interfaces. For example, your customers have the option of providing their order by EDI. This contributes to the quality of the order processing, but also to the data from the deepsea carriers that is available within platforms such as Portbase. Apps specifically developed by Modality enable barge captains and drivers to directly communicate the status of the transport by barge or truck digitally.

Modality introduces toolset for real-time monitoring

Filterable overview
The CSM has been developed to be conveniently used across two screens or an ultrawide screen. The overview is fully filterable and allows the user to very quickly identify any problem transports that require action by means of proactive colour coding and a wide range of auxiliary functions. The CSM can be integrated into any Modality ICMS system as a complement to the traditional transport order registration.

With the Customer Service Monitor, Modality provides you with a tool for easily visualising the most current data about the transport process. Thus, progress can be tracked, monitored and analysed right down to the individual container level. And your employees are able to respond should the transport not proceed as planned.

Would you like to integrate this module into your existing system? Then contact us!

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!

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