It's no surprise that certain industrial sectors have problems intrinsic to their activity. The petrochemical industry, for example, has to pay particular attention to the safety of its cargoes, given their scarcity and dangerousness. The automotive industry is sensitive to delivery deadlines, since factory output is regulated to the minute, and very high.
For the agro-industrial sector, one of the problems lies in the volatility of the quantities of raw materials harvested. It is quite impossible for agro-industrial companies to predict precisely how much will be harvested in the fields. This has a direct impact on the transportation of these goods, and on the rest of the supply chain. It is essential for players in the agro-industry to take the right measures to respond to this problem, and thus fluidify and optimise transport.
An unpredictable harvest
A refinery can accurately predict the quantity of oil it will send out; a metalworking plant the number of finished parts; a car plant the number of cars; and so on. The reality is quite different in the agribusiness. The quantities transported from production sites are constantly changing. While it is possible to forecast a range of volumes, precision to the nearest tonne is unthinkable.
On paper, a farm has planted X tonnes of grain. However, the entire harvest will never be used again. Part of the crop will always be damaged, making it unsuitable for further use. There are several explanations for this: climatic hazards, disease, insects.... By definition, harvest volume is always volatile.
The imperatives of volatile planning
Transporting goods by rail requires wagon reservations in advance, to ensure on-time delivery. When booking, it is necessary to indicate the quantity to be transported. However, as mentioned above, this quantity is constantly subject to variations within the agro-industry. It is common for a planned shipment of X tonnes to end up being smaller than anticipated.
However, this variation is only known at the last moment. Harvesting often takes place the day before transport, for reasons of storage and raw material freshness. The teams in charge of transport are therefore informed the day before departure of the actual quantity in the wagons. It is, of course, possible to send a wagon less full than planned, but this is not desirable for companies: a half-filled wagon means additional costs or loss of earnings, as the larger the wagon, the more expensive it is. These are expenses that could be avoided by adapting wagon size and number to the actual quantity of crop. But with this information only available overnight, it's a complex reality to obtain. Often, it's not possible to make last-minute transport changes.
Solving the problem of volatile transport quantities
Being able to make overnight transport changes is essential for agricultural businesses wishing to optimise their transport and reduce their costs. Depending on the transport organisation in place, this is not necessarily easy. Rail freight transport sometimes requires bookings months in advance, and last-minute changes are not always possible or easy to make.
But it's not impossible. TVMS (Transport & Visibility Management System) is the answer to this crucial issue for the agro-industry, enabling agricultural shippers to request changes to their transport plans overnight. Thanks to TVMS's collaborative platform, shippers and rail companies can communicate more easily and more rapidly about planned shipments.
Instead of a series of crash calls and/or e-mails between the rail company and the shipper, it is now possible for shippers to easily submit a transport modification to the platform, and for rail companies to accept or reject it. By facilitating collaboration between the various parties involved, TVMS facilitates transport optimisation and cost reduction.