Article published in Revista Logística Moderna
Grupo Luís Simões (GLS) is involved in a project concerning global goods transport management that will allow them to follow and manage in real time all transport and logistics operations, representing a total investment of 2.5 million euro. Tecmic was GLS’ chosen partner to implement their new XTraN version across the goods haulage market leader’s fleet.
XTraN is integrated into the corporate information system, providing interconnection between all units and documents involved in the relevant activity (see Logistics nº 1, p. 29). The introduction of this system within the company’s own and subcontracted fleet will lead to a reduction in GLS’ operating costs, and to the optimisation of their back-office system, thus consolidating their position as leader within the Iberian Peninsula’s transport market.
Besides the installation of on-board IT across the entire vehicle fleet, which should be concluded by January 2003, an RF system has been installed at their Carregado warehouse (which is 30,000 sq. m. in size). “Today we are able to track all goods even from before we take possession, right up to the moment of delivery to the end customer”, reveals Costa Faria, business development manager at GLS, who adds “the integration of RF technology in the warehouse with the on-board IT units is what allows us to implement the complete electronic tracking of all packages from the moment they are collected until they are finally delivered.”
Everything in the warehouse is managed by IT systems and the use of the RF system. “This allows us to optimise routes and operation times within the warehouse, besides providing total tracking of packages in the warehouse and on the road.” Very soon a portal will be created allowing transactions with customers to be processed electronically.
The “On-board IT Project” consists of a system which integrates Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) with telecommunications and IT. “This is a complex project as its scope covers many different technologies which must work together”, explains Costa Faria.
The same person states that “it is now possible to know in real time the status and location of vehicles and goods, monitor distribution routes and establish immediate bi-directional voice and data communications between vehicles and the group’s operational coordination centres across the Iberian Peninsula.
Operations Under the Microscope
The system consists of a GPS antenna, a communications network (GSM) providing a link to the group’s operations centre and a computer which manages the collection treatment, management and dissemination of all relevant information. Costa Faria highlights a few system functions: “We know at all times who is driving the vehicle, its location, which transport documents accompany the vehicle, when the vehicle is refueled, its inside temperature, whether temperatures are within permitted limits (alarms are generated if not), tachograph information, which may be exported to our operations management system, our driver terminal and on-board computer, which is the heart of the entire system.
One of the system’s principal functionalities is location, with instantaneous information on whether the vehicle is in motion, pause, maintenance or loading/unloading. Route monitoring is another feature which allows vehicles and entire routes to be monitored from start to finish, which for the case of GLS translates to around 800 to 900 requests per day. Another major function is the recording of events “which supplies us with an essential log of vital information such as logistical information, driving times, stoppage times, loading/unloading times, fuel consumptions, and average speeds.”
In the field of transport and logistics, it is much more important to be aware of what goes wrong rather that what goes right. Costa Faria highlights that “receiving information on anomalies is fundamental to this process, therefore the system is set to react whenever this happens in order to provide swift corrective action. Also, the system allows for “tracking and tracing” of packages, and provides information on their exact location and status in real time.”
Whether or not one is involved in goods transport, there exists the concept of “there and back”. Costa Faria mentions a future possibility: “we believe that transport must no longer be managed in sequence but must be increasingly managed as a network. The principal challenge to transport operators is to be able to manage drivers in sequence and operations flows as a network, and we are getting closer to that reality. This tool is clearly helping us to position ourselves at the front line in order to quickly resolve this problem”.
Preparing for Change
Following the choice of a solution in October 2001, a dedicated team started work on the on-board IT project. A complex reorganisation took place at the operations centres, which was forced to face the usual resistance to change. Before initiating the project, GLS prepared an internal communications plan to cover the proposed changes. Costa Faria states that “the objective was that everyone should understand and accept the project, as there was the possibility that the people involved, namely the drivers, would think that the new procedures were being put in place in order to control them. This was not the case.”
We are convinced that we have actually been able to update their job descriptions, that this project has actually improved on the quality of GLS’ drivers”.
José Luís Simões considers that the most important phase is yet to come, namely the post-implementation tasks which will happen in the coming months: “we act as links in the supply chain; it is our concern to add value to a service and we are convinced that the adoption of this tool will allow us to become even better”, he affirms, adding that “we are doing this as we are convinced that this is the only way to remain competitive in the logistics and transport business of the future.”
José Maria Moniz, managing director of Tecmic, highlights that this project was a team effort and a partnership in which much was learned. Only this way was it possible to integrate a component specific to transport operators and which solved several of GLS’ concerns, and which until then were not included in the product. “It was very fortunate that this was done, since we learned a lot from the transport sector and without a doubt the product was improved upon owing to the inputs from our customer.” Temic’s managing director highlights that XTraN 2 was adopted, superseding XTraN 1 “in order to enable us to introduce the new requirements from Grupo Luís Simões. We believe they are a company who knows what they want, who have a customer-centred business, and by creating a product to satisfy their needs we will also be able to satisfy the needs of the transport and logistics sector in general.”
The project was contracted out via an international tender; Tecmic, with their Distribution and Logistics sector-based package, was the only Portuguese company to reach the final phase of this tender, together with some of the major European companies in this sector.
The choice was made based on the potential and quality of both the product and the company, and not so much because of the company being Portuguese-based. However, José Maria Moniz reveals that “it is a major advantage for Tecmic to be able to demonstrate to the market that the product was successfully applied to a fleet as large as GLS’, and that the product chosen by that company was ours. On the other hand, the system is usually aimed at smaller companies and the fact that XTraN 2 was successfully deployed for a customer of this dimension demonstrates that it is a product that has been tested in the most difficult conditions,” José Maria Moniz ends.
Integrated fleet management
Grupo Luís Simões (GLS) plans to conclude by the end of March 2003 the integration of the product “On-board IT” across its entire fleet, permitting the integrated management of transport and logistics across its 1200 vehicles. GLS presented the Fleet Management System, in the scope of the “On-board IT” project, enabling the coordination of its entire goods transport and logistics operation, conveying data in real time between the vehicle fleet and company staff. This project involved an investment of 2.5 million euro.
Designed in association with Tecmic, this system, which integrates IT, electronics and telecommunications, provides real time information on the status and location of vehicles and loads, allows monitoring of routes and provides bi-directional communications between any vehicle and an operations control centre.
The XTraN unit, installed within the on-board computer, is a powerful processing and data storage unit, and may be considered the “heart of the system”. It not only improves the use of resources, improving punctuality and providing information to the driver, but also improves on-board security and provides significant reductions in operating costs. “The application operates as a true dynamic interface between the command centres”, states José Luís Simões, President of GLS.
Concerning software and communications, the system includes an up to date map and the parameterisation of 70 expected on-board events, allowing for the planning of preventive maintenance actions. Managing flows within a networkAccording to José Luís Simões, the advantages to customers are many. “From positioning information and control over goods to a historical record of deliveries, everything is in place in order to guarantee the security of transported goods.”
The great challenge currently facing transport operators is the ability to manage drivers in sequence or as a network. GLS guarantees that by using this application it is actively working to solve this problem. “This system will give our group a competitive edge, both at the level of the internal control of operations, as well as at the level of service provided to our customers”, states the president, guaranteeing that the system will be deployed across all 1200 vehicles by March 2003.