Start-up Looks to Fill Talent Holes
BreakBulk Magazine, By V.L. Srinivasan
Managing project cargo logistics is by no means the same today as it used to be. Companies involved in such operations across the world have had to
become more customer-centric, innovative and efficient.
Logistics management companies give further definition to project cargo movements by sharing expertise with their partners in different countries, introducing information technology and experimenting with digitalization, such as blockchain. All this has served to shift project freight and logistics from traditional freight forwarding to complete management of all transport and logistics activities.
While traditional project freight forwarding takes care of project logistics, it does not address requests for quotation, or RFQ, processes and negotiations. Nor does it adequately address shippers’ demands of reducing the project cost and staying on schedule.
Amsterdam-based XELLZ aims to redress the balance. By taking care of the complete process – from RFQ processes, negotiations, contract design and evaluation, project scheduling and planning to project execution and project closing XELLZ claims that it can not only control the entire project, but it is also able to keep costs down while maintaining quality.
In essence, XELLZ has created a method and matching online information technology approach, designed from the shipper’s perspective with in-house
integration into the transport and logistics
and supply chain process.
Peter H.J. Bouwhuis, president and CEO of XELLZ, said his new company promises operational excellence in the project logistics industry. XELLZ’s
methods have closed projects within budget and schedule with an average saving of 25 percent on the project logistics cost, he said.
He noted that, traditionally, project teams spend a great deal of time designing and planning projects from a logistics standpoint, administering and
negotiating the pricing and project execution with the project forwarders.
“This takes time, people and money, but we take care of gathering of information, pre-planning of the project deliveries, the RFQ design, contract design and negotiation with carriers, cost tracking and management as well as cost savings and avoidance programs and remain 100 percent transparent throughout the process,” he said.
Bouwhuis said that the advent of the “sharing economy” can improve project logistics management during the project life-cycle to reduce costs – if the right people are brought into the project for its life-cycle. Here, XELLZ leans on its good relationships and agreements with its network of companies.
“This understanding allows us to draw expertise from these companies, which is needed for a project,” Bouwhuis said. “This network of companies is also being trained and the personnel are fully capable of working on our system. Sharing expertise this way will allow us to also keep costs in control, which is important in the project business”
Regarding use of IT, Bouwhuis said it is obvious that every breakbulk company must make use of it to stay in touch with and continuously improve and develop the business. Yet, while the advances made in technology look promising, too many project cargo and breakbulk companies are not keeping pace with changes, and are not making the financial investments that are necessary. Bouwhuis noted that this dawdling could lead to greater consolidation in the industry.
For its part, XELLZ has worked on several mobile applications that will link directly to its online system, promising to make the entire operation in the field much easier to manage and monitor, while at the same time removing duplicate activities.
“We have applications for truck drivers that transport freight for the projects; for ocean carriers that ship freight across the seas; and for terminal handling, yard marshaling and others to make the flow of activities controllable and instantly available online,” Bouwhuis said.
HACKERS ON THE PROWL
Bouwhuis acknowledged the risk of increased cyber issues with more applications and greater connectivity. This threat was hammered home by the NotPetya attack on Maersk’s IT systems,
which crippled its network for days. Companies need to be on high alert and ensure constant updates are being made to the main systems, he said, pointing out that employees in breakbulk and project cargoes should have moved on from Windows 2000 by now. From a security standpoint, this should be unacceptable and it is, in his view, only a matter of time before a security breach occurs.
“Keeping all systems up to date means the latest virus and malware attacks are taken care of,” Bouwhuis said. “This does not mean that companies are completely immune to any attack, but it does rule out a lot of them.” Staff should also be trained to detect malware and virus-sensitive communication. Part of the challenge is to change the way people communicate and share information to make it less sensitive to outside intrusions, he said.
However, billions of dollars of investments are still needed to bring the industry up to speed with new digital technologies, which means that only large project cargo companies can afford to
keep pace. But that’s not an excuse for disinterest: “One thing is sure, no investment means that companies are losing out on future business as customers are almost demanding us to have it,” Bouwhuis said.
TRANSPARENCY IN PROJECT PLANNING
Detailing XELLZ’s activities, he claimed that its model is unique, offering full transparency across projects at the best cost and services level. As companies work to reduce their head count without losing the expertise and know-how in project logistics, XELLZ is bringing back the same with its online project logistics management technology.
“Our model is pretty unique. That doesn’t mean we are the only ones out there working on project logistics, but we set ourselves apart from others by working from within the customer and very close with the project team,” he said.
Bouwhuis believes that XELLZ could help fill the gap left by the loss of talent and expertise in a project cargo company. While it will never replace people, he hoped it will be accepted as a critical tool in project planning and execution.
He certainly has the courage of his convictions: the company plans to open 80 offices around the world by the end of 2020 and is ready to take on any project. “We can help companies with their project logistics even when their own logistics departments are gone and or teams are limited in size. With a minimum of 25 percent saving in project logistics cost we are ready to offer our services and ready for the future,” he said.
V L Srinivasan is a senior journalist covering
finance, infrastructure, energy, shipping,
transportation, IT, environment and political
and regional developments in India and the
Gulf Cooperation Council region.