Barge Management System Increases Efficiency

Tuesday, September 04, 2001
ALK Technologies, Inc. and Midland Enterprises have created a new Barge Management System (BMS) to help Midland increase efficiency and competitiveness. Using the Intranet to tightly integrate communications, business, and systems processes on an enterprise-wide basis, BMS offers a palette of e-commerce functions. Ideas for the system were solicited from Midland departments including sales, finance, transportation, operations, and information systems. Phase II, constituting the detailed design, was completed in early 2000 and Phase III, encompassing delivery and installation, was completed in June 2001.

Two primary business goals of BMS are to improve equipment utilization and manage yield potential by analyzing new requests for service. In past years, most barge transportation services operated on long-term contracts with well-defined traffic patterns.

However, recent market changes are causing complex changes, inducing barge companies to re-examine the way they do business.

"Not only has there been an increase in short-term requests for service," said David Seneko, ALK vice president, "but Midland Enterprises is also juggling more customer requests for specific types of equipment. There is a need to know specifically what equipment is available in what location at what time before Midland decides if it makes sense to accept a new order. If the company were to accept new business and then had to move empty equipment over long distances to fulfill it, for example, the yield would not be maximized and existing service might be compromised."

BMS allows Midland to match customer orders with available equipment at specific locations over a 90-day planning horizon. The system reduces barge cycle times by highlighting idle equipment awaiting re-assignment and curtails detention periods for loading and unloading by providing equipment on a just-in-time basis. "Our customers need a transportation partner with expertise, flexibility, innovation and commitment," says Nick Lonnemann, vice president, transportation services at Midland Enterprises. "Our goal is to deliver their commodities safely and expeditiously, and our new Barge Management System will help us meet that goal every time."

Midland Enterprises commenced business as The Ohio River Company more than 75 years ago and currently operates 2,400 barges over more than 7,000 miles of America's inland waterways. Carrying coal, grain, iron, steel ores, and other dry bulk commodities, Midland offers an integrated array of transportation-related services.

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