Start-ups & innovations

Window of opportunity

Hungarian startup GLABs explains why it’s time tier suppliers started seeing the benefits of time window software to connect and manage their supply chains

An optimised warehouse is an asset to the logistics market, but with multiple loading docks where goods are being received and dispatched, the workload of warehouse vehicles needs to be considered. Shippers want to avoid traffic congestion to ensure timely dispatch of goods, and carriers want to minimise truck waiting times and charges. Yet with some logistics booking systems not considering warehouse resources, such as the availability of ramps, forklifts, gates and manpower, service is not always guaranteed at a particular time slot, frustrating the drivers.

The cost of using booking systems is also a concern; often a customer will be charged a fee per booking. Whether it is the company running the software or the individual who wants to book an appointment, many suppliers are not incentivised to use the technology and simply do not bother.

Communication is clearly key when using logistics booking systems to maximise effective scheduling. Carriers need to be told when to send trucks, and what tasks those trucks must undertake. Shippers need to know which carriers are sending trucks, and what the truck turnaround times will be. And freight handlers need to be told in advance about truck arrival times and loading or unloading requirements.

According to Hungarian startup GLABs, tier suppliers can have access to all this information using one platform, saving time and money. Established in 2014, the company provides an online time window where partners or assigned freight forwarders can schedule appointments for shipping goods.

Bridging the gap
Time window software systems are widely considered to be a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry, but how does GLABs think it is offering something different? “We are providing a relatively simple solution to an ongoing problem,” explains project co-ordinator Alexa Lyczba. “We hope that if we have a customer who is registered on our system who is connected with a carrier, then customers and partners can reach each other easily, even if they’re not yet each other’s customers.”

GLABs is hoping to provide a ‘high level of interconnectedness’ with its software and says lack of collaboration in the supply chain is a problem. 

“Each company has its own issues and problems, and often we don’t see them trying to work with others to find solutions,” says Lyczba. 

“Many companies want the work to be done but they are not sharing information or trying to communicate with partners, so it can be quite chaotic. We are hoping that GLABs can help to bridge the gaps.

“We’re not just providing a platform, but aiming to optimise logistics resources,” continues Lyczba. “We hope to convince more tier suppliers that by investing in time-window software, arrivals can be planned in advance, so the warehouse service can be organised more efficiently, providing a real opportunity to save time and money.”

Companies can manage their own deliveries through a platform, including modifying bookings, uploading documents and viewing statuses of ongoing loadings, as well as connecting to a network of suppliers within the automotive supply chain.

Part of SME Colibree Design & Development, GLABs, which has customers in Germany and Hungary, was set up in response to a request from one of Colibree’s clients, which had too many idle trucks on its premises, resulting in paying extra fees in penalties for waiting. “Warehouse capacity and use of resources is not optimised through much of the online booking software we see today,” says Lyczba. “Often trucks have to leave the warehouse premises because they can’t wait any longer, resulting in the company organising a new carrier, incurring additional costs. 

“Tier suppliers are oppressed. They don’t have the power of OEMs and are often dealing with one-sided trade agreements.”

Lyczba explains the problems with online booking systems are between logistics, freight forwarders and the warehouse, because they’re not connected. 

“Traditional booking systems isolate users and activities within the platform,” she says. “Companies want to see their appointment with ‘carrier one’ but have to use another platform to see their appointment with ‘carrier two’. There is also the issue of irregular arrivals overwhelming warehouses, driver notification problems and latency administration.”

Time management
GLABs worked with IT and logistics experts to develop its system, which records reservations and can be managed on the platform. Thanks to this, says Lyczba, different regulation systems can be set up for partners or even for a single product, based on the company’s given requirements.

Alexa Lyczba“At the beginning of the implementation process, we go onsite to carry out an assessment at the company and we parametrise everything,” she explains. “We have implemented a smart resource management, which is considerate of our customers’ resources, so we can see where free time is lost so that we can make the necessary resources available, including optimising the loading and unloading processes using each warehouse’s capacity.”

GLAB’s resource management module enables partners to book appointments only for times when the service is guaranteed. For this, the software takes into consideration the recorded resources for loading, the set regulation systems, and other partners’ bookings. Lyczba explains that the resource-based booking enables optimal warehouse operations, even while having minimal capacity.

GLABs encourages companies to contribute to the predictability of their warehouse processes. The startup also provides data, based on its observations, so the workflow can be adjusted to each customer. “By regulating these processes, companies can regulate their logistics systems. The online time slot system saves all tasks and events, which makes all kinds of statistics obtainable, which can be exported directly to Excel,” explains Lyczba.

The software also supports the management of deliveries. Users have the opportunity to sign in arriving trucks, to call them to the ramp, to measure loading times, and to sign out transporters.

GLABs says trucks’ arrivals will be evened out, reducing the warehouse’s congested periods. It also states that the number of waiting vehicles and waiting times will be reduced, decreasing demurrage, the charge payable for failure to load or discharge a ship within the time agreed.

Counting the cost
“Customers who have warehouses with 30 loading positions, but only have enough warehouse resources to serve five trucks at one time, will only be charged for five loading positions, based on available resources,” says Lyczba.

According to GLABs, the first reported advantage from its customers is a reduction of trucks waiting on the premises, meaning less penalties and a reduction in organising new shipments. “In just a few months, one of our clients reduced their fees for organising new shipments from €1,500 ($1,700) to €200 per month” says Alexa. “There is a better standard of communication between LSPs and their customers, which contributes to higher efficiency scheduling.” 

By eliminating waiting times of trucks and giving companies the option to track where trucks are, including arrival and loading time, the vehicles will accumulate better mileage, Lyczba explains.

 


“It is hard to get to the decision makers at companies. It takes time to show people why this system would be good for them and where they could save on cost to improve operations” – Alexa Lyczba, GLABs


 “Sometimes trucks would be waiting for ten hours during a day. With effective planning, waiting time can be reduced to half an hour, which means they can go to the next premise and pick up the delivery, which is increasing the usefulness of trucks. They can fulfill more journeys because they’re spending less time waiting.”

Every transaction on GLABs’ platform is time-stamped, which provides real-time information. Moreover, data security is taken ‘very seriously’. “We sign a data security agreement when we sign a contract with our customers and operate using servers with the highest security level of ISO27001,” explains Lyczba. “We handle all data confidentially and are mindful that it doesn’t get lost because we understand how crucial it is for company operations and even for their KPIs.”

Changing mindsets
GLABs is hoping to roll out its model globally but says that trying to convince companies in central and eastern Europe (CEE) can be a challenge. “Many companies in CEE are not familiar with new technology and for solutions in logistics,” says Lyczba. “Even if we do present a solution, they can be resistant to change, preferring to use internal systems they have developed or using an Excel spreadsheet, even if they know there are problems. There is often a mindset of ‘We’ve had this running for so long, why we would change it now?’ 

“It is also hard to get to the decision makers at companies. It takes time to show people why this system would be good for them and where they could save on cost to improve operations.”

One way for GLABs to grow globally is to get more customers and therefore opportunities for firm to reach each other. It hopes to secure funding from European Commission-backed scheme Horizon 2020, which focuses on research and technical development. “Horizon 2020 part of our global growth plan,” says Lyczba. “We believe we have a good idea with facts and experience to back it up. We are a relatively small company, but we have many ideas for the future and want to submit our proposal for our ideas, which have not yet been exploited.”