The two locations, which are around 1,000 kilometers apart, process some 140,000 vehicles per year. There was a particular challenge in the area of IT. That's because, from the order to the rollout, BLG CIO Jakub Piotrowski and his team had a window of just twelve weeks during the pandemic – and for commissioning they had only two and a half days.
When we think of South Africa, we think of Table Mountain, safaris, wine. But the country is much more, for example one of the world's most important automotive markets after Germany. So BLG LOGISTICS had no hesitation when the opportunity arose to take over two terminals for a major German automotive manufacturer in South Africa. Even though the project came with plenty of challenges. In particular, BLG's own yard management system "JC@rs" had never before been implemented outside Germany.
The system is the BLG Group's central tool for vehicle handling and transport. IT-supported management of the vehicles at the terminals means that more rail transports can be planned and sustainably mapped. The customer in South Africa, a German automotive manufacturer, has also boosted employee productivity since handing over to BLG LOGISTICS. The implementation of digital processes has made price savings, efficiency increases, new functionalities, increased transparency and better traffic connections possible.
Responsible for the implementation were Jakub Piotrowski, CIO and CDO of the BLG Group, and his team. The two vehicle terminals in Uitenhage and Kaalfontein have been operating with JC@rs since October 2021. Cars are taken directly from the production line in Uitenhage and loaded onto trains or trucks. After arriving in the external warehouse in Kaalfontein, they are transferred to customers and dealers. Staff at the terminals not only check the vehicles but also provide other services such as technical adjustments and fitting safety features, maintenance work and reworking as well as repairs.
The project was conducted at top speed and using unconventional methods. It was implemented in just three months. A vital factor was the excellent cooperation between IT and Business. The two company areas worked hand-in-hand and took decisions jointly. A generous portion of passion and exceptional hard work contributed to the success of the project.
Background: Although the two locations Uitenhage and Kaalfontein are situated more than 1,000 kilometers apart, they operate as one. For the vehicle manufacturer, the terminals are the most important infrastructure in South Africa for the import and export of vehicles. Given that 140,000 vehicles per year are handled at the two terminals, it was vital to avoid process disruptions or even stoppages during the transition.
Therefore, a strict timetable applied. The previous service provider suspended operations at the end of the month, on Friday at 1 p.m. in the middle of the process. BLG took over at 6 on the Monday morning. The challenge: At the time, not all processes had been uniformly digitalized, so there were gaps in the data. However, ahead of the takeover the BLG IT team had already defined a process to close the gaps. "Responsibility for the process starts very early – as soon as we take the finished vehicles off the production line," explains Jakub Piotrowski. "If there's a problem with processing at the terminals, backlogs build up which in the worst case can stop production. That would be a disaster for the OEM."
But the tight time schedule wasn't the only challenge. Because of the pandemic, the country's borders were closed throughout the entire project. The normal procedure, with multiple on-site workshops involving the people responsible for operations and processes, had to be transferred to a digital format within three weeks. The configuration of the hand scanners, training courses for key users and initial tests all took place remotely from Germany. "The IT process managers and designers hadn't even seen the terminal live, yet they were still able to implement a tailor-made yard management," says Piotrowski. "That was from a distance of around 10,000 kilometers." The entire onboarding, concept and implementation process took place digitally.
What had initially been seen as a problem in the end proved to be an advantage. Experts were simply called in to online meetings with no need to travel. Pre-pandemic, it had been usual to deploy five to eight IT employees at each location, depending on the project phase. In South Africa, two employees were on site for the rollout four weeks before and after the implementation.
Every day, #blglogistics demonstrates that IT doesn't have to be boring. Our team managed to take over two locations in just 3 months – from order to rollout. The two #automobile terminals in South Africa are more than 1,000 kilometers apart, yet they operate as one.
Sounds like an exciting challenge? It was! Are you looking for a job with some excitement? Then check out our current job offers – our IT department is looking for new talent.