We are delighted to be featured in this month’s issue of Dry Cargo International, the world’s leading dry bulk publication. Their September issue focuses on the topic of grain handling systems. It goes without saying that grain is a vital commodity in the bulk handling market, and the systems and equipment that is used to handle it is an important topic.
Given our experience in this sector, and the fact that we have provided our CommTrac terminal operating system (TOS) to numerous agri-bulk terminals around the world, we were asked to contribute to the magazine, specifically on the importance of a robust and feature-rich TOS.
What follows is an abridged version of the article. You can read the full version on pages 148-150 of the September issue of DCI, which also includes a case study of our work with South African Bulk Terminals at the Port of Burban. You can also download an online version of the magazine.
Waterside grain terminals are complex facilities handling many product varieties through intricate conveying systems. There are a number of factors that are paramount in operating a successful grain terminal: cross contamination, food standards, traffic management and accurate billing.
CommTrac from TBA Group addresses each of these factors, along with many others, to provide a scalable, robust and feature-rich terminal operating system (TOS). CommTrac is a highly respected and multi-award-winning product, designed to manage all aspects of bulk cargo operations. Developed over the past 30 years, CommTrac is in use in over 40 operations around the world and operates in sectors including coal, breakbulk and fertilisers; however, TBA’s CommTrac team have specific and long-standing experience in grain handling.
Traditionally, grain terminals will have an ERP system in place that takes care of commercial inventory, finance and maybe some order processing. They will also have weighing and control systems, but these will be completely separate and lack a centralised system to tie everything together. All too often, this gap will be filled with spreadsheets and manual processes, providing the links between the various systems, but prone to failure and inefficiencies.
Without a central hub, we end up with several isolated stakeholders (such as operations, management, finance and the customer) with multiple points of data collection and different IT systems. This inevitably leads to difficulty in obtaining real-time operational data, but it’s also hard to scale and maintain. This is where a terminal operating system (TOS) such as CommTrac comes into its own. By integrating with all of these previously isolated and separate systems, we not only end up with a more efficient and well-managed operation, we also have a ‘single version of the truth’ – a hub of all the terminal’s information, which enables us to gain better insights, spot problems early and plan for the future.
Alternatives to CommTrac are often developed locally, either in-house or in partnership with local software suppliers. There has long been the perception that the large variation in operational processes necessitated bespoke development, specifically designed to meet the needs of individual sites. However, software such as CommTrac is highly configurable and can be customised to meet the needs of any type of operation. Furthermore, by selecting an established and mature solution such as CommTrac, terminals also get the benefit of the millions of pounds invested into the product’s development. Such an investment would naturally be difficult to justify for individual ports – TBA has the resources needed to continually invest in the software’s security, functionality and stability, plus the industry expertise to satisfy the hugely variable needs of its customers.
CommTrac Mobile seamlessly operates over WiFi, 5G and offline modes, and can greatly enhance their efficiency and that of the whole operation.
One example of how this investment has resulted in real-world benefits is in use of mobile devices. “On the ground” workers cannot work effectively with desktop computers as they need to be in their working environment close to the activity they are performing. Traditionally they might have to resort to paper-based means of documenting events and information, which then need entering digitally later. Similarly, they may have to refer to printed documentation, which may be out of date and difficult to manage.
However, if they can receive timely information and record their activities directly into the system, this can greatly enhance their efficiency and that of the whole operation. Software designed for this environment needs to be simple, easy to use with minimal inputs and able to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone.
To ensure that operations are uninterrupted, CommTrac Mobile seamlessly operates over WiFi, 5G and offline modes, switching between the modes as required. If the app needs to operate in offline mode, it automatically synchronises with the main system when going back online.
In summary, implanting a system such as CommTrac can dramatically improve the effectiveness of a grain terminal. All aspects of operation can be positively impacted, providing a central hub of information, integrating with all stakeholders and maximising revenue, profitability, compliance and growth potential while reducing risk. Discover more about CommTrac and how it can be used to simplify your dry bulk operation.
Discover more about CommTrac and how it can be used to simplify your dry bulk operation.