Power of modern technology in logistics sector
An ambitious, multi-phase digitalisation and automatisation project has provided unparalleled visibility process at SA’s largest mineral freight logistics company Grindrod.
Keyrus, a leading business data intelligence consultancy, used cloud-based technologies and Industrial Internet of things (IIOT) to develop a comprehensive solution that gives Grindrod’s Terminal business significantly improved performance of their operations.
The solution highlights the power of modern technology to solve business challenges. It includes a combination of data streaming, analytics, logic matching and visualisation technologies and was designed using a range of Microsoft Azure services, Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) and Tableau visualisation software.
The system collects and captures data from multiple operational processes, equipment and locations to update a single, central application as events occur. Management now has access to relevant information, at the appropriate level of detail, enabling improved decision-making. Timely insight and responses to operational constraints is a key benefit of this project.
Keyrus essentially closed and integrated the information gap between Grindrod’s various management activities , enabling the organisation to optimise its entire logistics process.
The first phase involved building a dynamic cloud-based operations solution, named Falcon. Data can be captured from anywhere — from the side of the railway track to head office — from any device.
All information relevant to the business, such as a train or truck arriving at a facility, is captured into Falcon. Much of this information is drawn from Grindrod’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, which in turns collects data from the programmable logic controller (PLC) machines throughout the facilities.
This raw data is streamed in near-real-time directly to the cloud and then integrated with business-related consignment information to provide meaningful insight.
The system is multilingual so that employees in Maputo can convert it to Portuguese for a better user experience. The solution is totally scalable, allowing it to be rolled out to additional sites quickly and efficiently.
Falcon replaces all previous manual data and spreadsheets. It produces accurate, tidy information that Grindrod uses for data analytics and reporting. Governance, security and control are additional features built into the application.
World-class reporting and analytics
Phase two involved implementing the visualisation layer of reporting to turn the data into meaningful business information. This ensures responsiveness by providing an immediate view of the state of operations from any location.
Tableau, a leading world-class business intelligence tool, is fully embedded into Falcon to ensure Grindrod has full visibility throughout its operations, all in one place. It offers complete reporting and analytics capability at an operational, tactical and strategic level. Information consumption is now simpler, and users can easily access reports, graphs and dashboards.
Bridging the gap between engineering data and business information
Grindrod has a number of fit-for-purpose but independent industrial proprietary applications. These applications record data from train and truck weighbridges, as well as from wagon tippler equipment. These were previously “islands of data”, not easily accessible nor integrated. Keyrus’ integrated the data into Falcon providing a more holistic view of the data to support business decision-making.
This phase of the project delivered next-level visibility and analytics. It showed that, regardless of the mechanisms that limit the source systems, Keyrus is able to integrate the data and make business sense of it using Tableau.
Commodities enter Grindrod’s various terminals by rail or road and are stockpiled before being loaded onto vessels for export. The organisation required reliable measurements of the stockpiles as it had to report current stockpile levels to its clients.
Previously manually extracted data from various third-party Excel spreadsheets has been replaced by the stockpile measurement module developed by Keyrus. This system now tracks the commodities in every truck and train that enters and leaves the terminals, as well as in every loaded vessel hold. The result? Accurate stockpile reporting that gives a simple view of movements into and movements out of every stockpile. Tableau’s powerful drill- down capabilities allow users to view this information at extreme levels of detail.
Planning is a vital step in the logistics process and informs Grindrod’s commercial relationships with its clients. Grindrod can adjust commercial decisions based on capacity and utilisation to achieve an optimal throughput.
Falcon’s planning module allows the commercial team to capture and compare actual performance against the planned performance. The commercial team also provides live tracking updates, while the operations team can manage the facility according to plan, making informed decisions as to service intervals for machinery, for example.
This module thus aligns two divisions that are traditionally antagonistic and siloed within organisations.
Now that the major project phases are up and running, Keyrus is concentrating on further enhancements to Grindrod’s operations through technology. Temperature monitoring of stockpiles, for example, has recently been introduced into the Falcon suite to further enhance visibility. The inclusion of a Shift Module to monitor staff on site as well as any delays or downtime during each shift. This information will provide reasons for any potential decline in throughput. Can staffing numbers increase efficiency?
The Grindrod Keyrus relationship
Grindrod chose Keyrus based on its excellent track record in implementing modern technology, local presence and competitive pricing. Keyrus’s experts are highly experienced and able to offer practical solutions using reputable, modern and scalable cloud-based technology solutions. The approach was pragmatic and demonstrated clear understanding of the challenges.
Keyrus has the local presence required by Grindrod, but as a global company is experienced in working cross-border. It understands the challenges of working across cultures, time zones and languages.
Grindrod’s engagement with Keyrus has transformed into a valuable relationship that continues to deliver significant improvements in efficiency, visibility and decision-making. What started as a business transaction has developed into a true partnership.
A large part of the success of the project is due to the foresight of Grindrod Terminals which recognised the need to totally transform its business information and analytical capability. Its CEO was prepared to make the courageous move from a paper-based to fully cloud-based business. The success of the project is a testimony to the wisdom of Grindrod’s leadership team.