Planning harbour activities efficiently
This is user-friendliness for you
ArcelorMittal Gent’s maritime location is one of our major assets. Through the Ghent-Terneuzen canal and the Western Scheldt river, our company has direct access to the North Sea. This access is used to import over 13 million tonnes of raw materials and ship over 2 million tonnes of finished products per year. These activities obviously require tremendous logistic efforts, which are all coordinated by LALOSIKA. This computer programme has been developed in-house to steer all harbour activities at ArcelorMittal Gent.
When unloading or loading vessels, there are numerous aspects to be taken into account:
- where can we load or unload this specific cargo?
- have the necessary cranes and crane drivers been allocated?
- are we meeting customer demands?
- is our way of working cost-efficient?
In order to always have a view on the current planning and to be able to monitor its progress in real time, we have developed quite an impressive software application.
The developed application enables qualified planners to coordinate all harbour activities and allows several hundreds of users to consult this planning.
Usually, an employee at the external transport section of the customer relations department orders a vessel to supply or collect goods. As soon as this has been registered in the planning tool ISLA (Integrated Shipping and Logistics Application), it is integrated in LALOSIKA. According to the objective and the cargo, the software then allocates the cargo to the correct cranes and calculates the probable duration of the (un)loading. Afterwards, a planner can alter the planning by performing simple actions such as dragging and dropping. He can allocate the cargo to another crane or allocate it to several cranes, adapt duration, modify the (un)loading starting times and so on.
LALOSIKA shows at any time the vessels allocated to each crane and all other arrangements made for loading or unloading. On the left, the cranes are listed; the coloured blocks represent vessels and their size depends on the estimated time needed for loading or unloading.
A second display shows when vessels are due to arrive at our wharf, their actual time of arrival, the starting and ending time of all activities, their progress and so on.
At the basis of LALOSIKA lies an interface in which various technologies have been combined. By using the ArcelorMittal Dotnet Framework, we have opted for a future-oriented architecture focusing on reusing components within a uniform development platform.
The requirements for the application were strict. In order to fulfil all of them, we had to use the most recent technologies available.
By using GDI+, we were able to offer a system which is highly informative and yet user-friendly. Usually, these qualities are hard to combine. By using colour effects, special borders, various background patterns… users already receive much information at a single glance. The “drag and drop” principle makes altering this planning piece of cake.
One important aspect of a sophisticated planning system is the immediate availability of information. For this purpose, we use event services and a messaging system that has been developed in-house. Each modification to a planning is sent in real time to all users, so they can rely on correct and recent data.
This is also why the communication between LALOSIKA and external systems is of great importance:
- the ISLA transport system: as soon as a vessel is registered in this system, it is imported in LALOSIKA. Automatically, the cargo is allocated to the correct crane and the system calculates the time needed for loading or unloading. This only takes a few seconds.
- the Ghent harbour: because LALOSIKA is connected to the systems used by the Ghent harbour authorities, we are able to see in real time the location of vessels before they reach our wharf.
- the CITS system: this system has been developed by ArcelorMittal Gent and provides up-to-date information on all crane activities. The interaction with this application allows us to monitor the progress of loading and unloading activities and thus monitor our planning meticulously.
Because LALOSIKA is linked to the systems used by the Ghent harbour authorities, it also shows the exact location of vessels.
Efficient planning not only increases the efficiency of daily operations, but it also has a positive cost impact. When vessels cannot be (un)loaded right upon their arrival, demurrages are charged. Because these demurrages are quite high, it is in our best interest to limit the time vessels spend along our wharf.
Thanks to the modern architecture and the technologies used, this application has caught the eye of other ArcelorMittal companies facing the same issues we are. After making minor adjustments – tailored to these companies’ specific needs – we will be able to use LALOSIKA at these companies as well.