Onboarding at Simacan - Part 1

Onboarding step-by-step:
from internal automation to chain-oriented optimisation

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Fri | 26 May 2023 | Simacan Solutions

Digital collaboration in the transport sector

Onboarding step-by-step: from internal automation to chain-oriented optimisation
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Onboarding on a collaboration platform like Simacan’s requires a different approach to implementing an internal IT application for use within just one organisation. Command Centers and logistics Control Towers orchestrate and optimise transport operations across (supply) chains. This means that chain partners need to connect their systems and reach mutual agreements about processes and data. This white paper explains exactly what this entails, and tells you how your company can prepare for a new step in the digitisation process.

Automation in the transport sector has really taken off. Transport Management Systems (TMS), planning packages, Control Towers and onboard computers have become an indispensable part of everyday operations for shippers and logistics service providers, who have already benefited greatly from the increased efficiency these tools have brought to their operations. The next step, which will bring even more benefits, is the transition to digital chain collaboration via a logistics Command Center or a Control Tower with smart execution management (SEM). What does this look like, and what steps must you take to make optimum use of these tools?

Imagine that you are working for a transport company, delivery service or shipper. You probably already have a Transport Management System (TMS) to guide your business operations, and you may also have an Advanced Planning System (APS) which you use to plan trips. These systems, together with systems for fulfilment processes or the allocation of carriers, for example, are the beating heart of your transport operations and provide many opportunities to optimise transport planning within your own operations. But options are more limited once the drivers are actually on the road, and are restricted to your own operations.

Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. You may have drawn up optimal drivers’ schedules, but as soon as your trucks are on the road, this is already outdated. What happens if a truck gets stuck in a traffic jam, resulting in a 30-minute delay? Is your plan still optimal or will it need to be adjusted? How are you going to inform your clients? How can you let them have a say in what would be the best loading and unloading times for them? This is where a Control Tower with smart execution management or a supply chain Command Center really comes into its own.

1: Digitalisation across the entire chain

Command Centers are the next step in transport digitalisation and, as we will discover in this white paper, they go a step beyond implementing a local TMS or APS package or Control Tower with SEM options. We regard Control Towers as a digital twin at an operational level, while Command Centers facilitate the digitalisation of the entire transport chain: the digital twin of a complete supply chain. A Command Center doesn’t only improve the functioning of one organisation; it can make an entire network of organisations and subcontractors more efficient.

What is a logistics Command Center?

We see Command Centers as the next step in the transition from isolated operating systems and domain-specific Control Towers to platforms which transcend all these systems. This is a natural development now that organisations are trying to dismantle functional silos, enabling them to work within their ecosystem in a more connected, focused and orchestrated manner.

A Command Center and a Control Tower can both provide all the participants in a transport process with a firm digital foundation. Planners, drivers, dispatchers and receivers can all have access to the real-time data relevant to them; they can see both the scheduled and actual progress of transport flows, and are able to communicate, make adjustments and conduct analysis. A Command Center or a Control Tower with SEM will continuously adjust predicted arrival times (ETAs) on the basis of up-to-date traffic data and smart algorithms, so that DCs, shops or people can always see exactly when a delivery vehicle will arrive. In the event of traffic incidents, delivery routes will be re-planned automatically, taking all conditions into account, while drivers are guided flawlessly to their destination by means of an app or onboard computer.

One characteristic typical of a Command Center or a Control Tower with SEM is that they involve several parties and a great many information flows. If, for example, a supermarket chain chooses to work with such a platform, the transport companies that service the chain will also benefit. Their drivers will be able to set off with complete peace of mind, secure in the knowledge that, if there is a delay, the DCs and shops will have been informed automatically so they do not have to worry about calling them. Another characteristic of a Command Center or a Control Tower with SEM is that everyone involved can communicate with each other and make adjustments together if something doesn’t go according to plan. It’s no longer just the shipper and carrier talking to one other; the carrier can now also communicate with their subcontractors and the shipper with their end customers. The overview provided by this type of collaborative platform makes it possible to minimise the consequences, not only for the journey directly affected by a delay, but also for any subsequent trips.

Digitalisation is more than just the implementing of a package

Companies that have implemented a TMS, APS or other software package already know what this entails. A system is installed, links are made to other systems, consultants set the parameters, users receive instructions and you are ready to go. A system-transcending platform requires an extra onboarding step, as the new system must be embedded in an ecosystem consisting of several companies. IT links have to be made, and it will be necessary to reach agreements about data. Who owns what data? Who will be allowed to access this data in compliance with GDPR legislation? Who has what user rights and who is authorised to make which adjustments? This also poses specific organisational challenges. For example, how can you ensure that people who are not currently working for your company will also start working with the system?

[Text continues below image]The Simacan platform

Planning data and GPS data

Command Centers and Control Towers with SEM are at the heart of transport activities. For them to function properly, it is necessary to bring two types of data together: planning data ‘What are our plans?’ and progress data ‘How are things really going?’ The following links are required:

  • a link between the Control Tower / Command Center and the planning system;
  • a link between the Control Tower / Command Center and the driver’s TMS;
  • a link between the Control Tower / Command Center and the Fleet Management System (GPS locations).

These links involve several companies. Usually, the plan made by a shipper is sent to the planning department of an external carrier. The plan is entered into a TMS with links to vehicles and drivers. Companies working with onboard computers use a Fleet Management System (FMS) for this. Making a link to this FMS is sufficient to access vehicle GPS data.

It is possible to use the driver’s mobile telephone if a vehicle does not have an onboard computer. An app can be installed on the mobile phone so that drivers can receive, view and handle their journey, while their location data can be sent back to the Control Tower or Command Center.

OTM5: The language of the transport sector

Of course, it is best if shippers and carriers speak the same IT language and use the same data protocol when they exchange information about transport movements. How do you define a delivery drive? How do you describe a cargo? Which information fields are used to enter the loading and unloading locations? How do you record the actors involved in a delivery drive, such as the client’s company name or a driver’s ID? For software to function properly and parties to be able to communicate in a meaningful way it is necessary that this type of data is communicated in a simple manner and that everyone interprets it in the same way. In the transport sector, a system containing agreements on such matters is called an OTM5.

Enriching data
The basis for the OTM5 protocol is the Open Trip Model created at Simacan. ‘The unique aspect of this model is that it makes it possible to combine and enrich data from different phases in a transport process,’ said Bas Meesters, Simacan developer and OTM5 expert. ‘You have a transport order, followed by a journey plan, followed by the execution, followed by invoicing and administrative processing. The final step is performance analysis. The disadvantage of traditional protocols was that they were suitable for only one part of the process, but with the Simacan version you can combine all this data. This means that you could enrich your planning data with, say, a truck and a delivery address, with execution data about the vehicle’s progress, traffic information and new ETAs. There was no such protocol in existence, so we at Simacan decided to develop one ourselves.’

Ongoing development
When the first version of the OTM standard became available, other IT suppliers were quick to spot its benefits. A standard that applies to all chains in the process prevents errors and means that it is no longer necessary to build expensive interfaces. In 2018, it was decided to transfer ownership to Stichting Uniforme Transport Code (SUTC) to safeguard the independence of the OTM protocol. This foundation is allied to the branch organisation Evofenedex. ‘Of course, although it is no longer officially our protocol we will still help to develop it further,’ said Meesters. ‘This means that improved versions, such as a version that was released recently allowing you to add road works to a delivery drive, will continually be made available on the market. SUTC will ensure that older versions will continue to work. It is a standard, so naturally you want as many companies as possible to adopt it and continue to use it.’

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Software-as-a-Service: every euro is recouped more quickly

A platform like Simacan’s is made available as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, so there’s no need for clients to install their own IT infrastructure or incur high implementation costs; they only pay for use. The benefit of this is that the investment is recouped more quickly, for example, by achieving a higher utilisation rate for transport capacity while also providing better service for customers, and it is relatively easy for companies to cancel the service if they are not happy with the results.

SaaS applications are basically designed for data exchange between organisations. Sharing data is not just a nice extra, it is the core of a cloud solution. Different stakeholders can log in to access relevant data. Another benefit is that users always have access to the most recent version of the application they are using. This is hosted, maintained and continually improved by the SaaS provider.

- End part 1 -

More information

This 'Onboarding at Simacan' blog is part 1 of a series of 3. This blog series can be requested in its entirety and with additional information as a free white paper.

Go to 'Part 2: Simacan’s onboarding process' >
Go to 'Part 3: After you go live' >

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