by Sander Jellema
Alongside suppliers… We like to think they’re the reason why your port calls always take unnecessarily long… But is it legitimate?
When we talk about optimizing the port call, we also talk about alongside suppliers. The cause of delays, the reason for a lot of communication and difficult for them to fulfil agreements. But I wonder if this is the real cause of delay, and it is surprising that suppliers say the same about their customers’ port calls.
Improved communication; shorten the lines
I was in the CC of a port call the other day. Dry bulk, unloading in one of the ports where we provide services. Between the first mail where actors are updated about the ETA berth and departure there were 58 mails! Yes, 58 mails with a standard update, ‘’Dear Sir, Madam, expected time of arrival at the pilot station xx:xx hours, on this and that date.’’ Next day this process repeated itself, and for several days, this email kept being sent to the client, Teqplay and the agent in copy. Halfway through this process, a supplier also had to be updated as well, and this is where it starts to get even more complicated. The email with previous emails attached is now also sent to the supplier and he also reads all the changes in arrival time and the possibility of getting to the berth.
We see that these emails going back and forth don’t contribute to the port call process in a positive sense. Our contention is that all the communication that goes back and forth makes people more cautious about planning something. “It changes so much, I’ll wait until the last moment and really get the assignment” or “I get so much information that I don’t know what time to keep”. In port calls, we call for fewer ”pointless” updates for the port approach and recommend that the parties only update in the event of changes. This way, there is again a basis for relying on the messages you do receive and there is less of a feeling of a pointless message stream in which relevant details are snowed under.
Shared awareness and a single point of truth
Based on timestamps and data, you can be able to provide status information and predictions for the port call. If the vessel is monitored digitally, you can derive events out of sources like big data and AIS. If you create a common story, the story of your vessel, only accessible for relevant stakeholders like your agent, the terminal, and your suppliers then it will become a trusted source, a single point of truth where they can all access information that is relevant to them. Having insight in the overall performance of the port call, whether it is a change in the ETA, Inbound-, Shifting- or Outbound-process, will make sure that a supplier can be in time or even just in time.
In the end, decision making is all about having the right information at the right time. Things around it quickly become a distraction, or tell more than is necessary. We believe that a lack of information is as damaging as a surplus, it is about finding the right balance and passing it on in time to the people concerned. We see in current practice that passing on the right information internally and externally also takes far too long. As a result, it can happen that everyone internally already knows that the ship will arrive 2 hours later, but the agent has not yet let the supplier know. This unnecessarily frustrates a process.
Improved communication, shared awareness and relevant details; a recipe to port call success
We believe that this formula will lead to a better performance of your port calls. In today’s practice, we see that suppliers are often referred to as the source of evil; the reason why port calls are delayed. But our information tells a different story.
Yes ,suppliers are sometimes late, but have we as a supply chain done everything to inform everyone completely and on time?! Often, a poor source of information, failure to update your arrival and departure on time is the reason why long-distance suppliers take a wait-and-see attitude. Only when you arrive with reliable times, and start offering insights on which they can act, only then will a change be initiated throughout the chain of service providers.
This also offers the opportunity to really assess your suppliers on performance. Now it is no longer a bad information position they can use as an argument – a win-win situation.
I can imagine you have more questions or ideas, that would be a good basis for further discussion. Since 2015, on the one hand, we have been developing the tools to inform and alert everyone in time to deviations. On the other hand, we offer our customers the data and the means to benchmark their suppliers on performance.
Practice shows that we save our customers at least 2 hours per port call. A great starting point to ultimately improve the entire maritime supply chain.