COLLABORATION • THE BENEFITS OF WORKING TOGETHER OUTWEIGH THE DISADVANTAGES. THAT MESSAGE IS BEGINNING TO GET THROUGH, AS TCF’S EXPERIENCE OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS DEMONSTRATES
Originally published at hcblive.com by Sam Hearne
Lack of trust and an inherent antipathy to collaboration have led the chemical supply chain to become closed off to developments in technology and the advances that information sharing can bring to the table. In an attempt to break this logjam, TankContainerFinder.com (TCF) created its worldwide booking service for tank containers, matching tank container operators with cargo owners and vice versa.
In the chemical distribution industry, collaboration and trust play a significant role in everyday commercial operations, but key players are reluctant to work together. “Collaboration is needed to create a more flexible and efficient ecosystem with more inner trust,” says Léon de Bruin, co-founder of TCF. “We see a lot of empty returns, just because operators don't want to share information about traffic lanes and are afraid that competitors will use this information to take over the business on these lanes. On the other hand, we also see operators working together and use each other's networks and benefits like better shipping prices, albeit infrequently.”
There are many factors at play which all contribute to this widespread lack of trust in the chemical distribution industry. “A fixed, traditional mindset is, in our opinion, the biggest deterrent to collaboration,” adds de Bruin. “Players are often unwillingly to collaborate due to a lack of trust and a win-lose intention. Companies are not used to sharing information with competitors and creating win-win opportunities together.” This closed mindset – which may seem sensible from an objective point of view – is actually counter-productive and reduces the potential for future growth and collaborative innovation.
“As the discussion about scaling trust and the scaling problems that current power structures have is becoming ever more present, we see initiatives arise to tackle these problems,” de Bruin continues. “This starts with a willingness to open up for collaboration. Newer and younger generations are definitely more open and used to collaborate and will be the main drivers. When the intention for better collaboration is present, people and companies will automatically work on and find new ways to create trustless systems to rely on. As the logistics and supply chain industry is often still decades behind in technology, people with growth mindsets can make big steps forward if allowed within the company. We are living in times where change is inevitable and exponential. Our industry has to follow.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Platforms such as TCF are making great strides in bringing the divided chemical supply chain into a more collaborative environment by providing a fully automated booking platform for tank container operators and users. TCF illustrates this with the case of Adrian Naidoo from TME Logistics, who had to ship 240 tank containers – 20 tanks every month for one year – from Durban to Rotterdam. Through TCF’s platform, which brings together tank container operators from all over the world, Naidoo was able to quickly and efficiently source the empty tanks in minutes, rather than the hours or days that TME would usually have to spend locating, making contact and negotiating with tank operators in order to achieve the same result. The fast, simple and intuitive nature of TCF’s platform lends itself to a collaborative environment. By offering a platform that can be utilised by anyone, companies are more likely to find themselves opening up to opportunities.
Those sorts of benefits are already available and, TCF believes, will be increasingly used by players throughout the supply chain over the next five to ten years. More cloud-based platforms are entering the market, opening up immense potential for collaboration – if the trust is there.
“TCF has created a big network in liquid bulk logistics and is in close contact with both sides of the marketplace.” says de Bruin. “We would like to accelerate and contribute to innovation and collaboration within the ecosystem where we can, and also listen closely to our platform users to move in the ways they want us to. As an internet company and platform, we are leaning towards and focused on technological progress that optimises processes and enables collaboration. We are fortunate that we can move quickly and develop solutions that are needed in the market at any time.”
Feedback from industry is now generating changes in TCF’s service provision. This month, for instance, it is introducing a platform subscription fee and commission for suppliers. “TCF is entering a new phase with the introduction of our subscription plan,” says de Bruin. “We've grown our platform to more than 850 users and $25m in generated business in more than 100 countries since our start in 2017. Now it's time to ask some commitment from tank container owners with the introduction of our subscription and transaction fee. "With the new fee structure, we can guarantee future customer-centric development and service, and further growth of the platform and network effects in 2019."
“If TCF’s success thus far proves anything it is this: that industry is prepared to welcome new ways of doing old things, providing that they can be shown to be cost-effective and efficient,” says HCB’s editor, Peter Mackay. “There are plenty of inefficiencies in the current way of doing things that can be removed, with gains available for all those active in the supply chain. And, as the millennial generation begins to take on managerial responsibilities, their openness and willingness to cooperate will become the norm.”
In the connected world we live in, companies are already more linked than they ever have been before, predominantly through social media. It is only to be expected that a generation which has only known collaboration and connection will lead the way in ushering the chemical supply chain into a new era of partnerships and tactical alliances.
“TCF and other similar platforms are at the forefront of that emerging trend, encouraging logistics players to become a connected community built on trust and the ability to learn from one another and to share the profits,” Mackay adds. “TCF is working hard to bridge the gap between what was and what will be, with more and more companies expected to follow suit as attitudes change.”
Published on 2019-02-07 at 11:30 by Sam Hearne, HCB