Telematics for southern-Africa
Telematics makes the world go round for fleet managers and freight forwarders, but these systems might be wanting for the African continent … until now! Enter TelematicOne, an integrated, manufacturer-neutral portal for logistics service companies.
It’s no secret that it’s sometimes very difficult to do business in Africa, as red tape can be found “around every corner” – especially when travelling regionally …
Michael Frans, head of business development for the automotive sector at T-Systems South Africa, agrees. “It is very frustrating to do business in Africa – when you go to Europe, you need one visa to get in and travel around the continent.” He adds, however, if you’re a Cameroonian in Africa, you need a visa to visit Kenya and do business there.
To illustrate his point further, Frans shines some more light on the matter from his own personal experiences (sharing it at the Transport Forum’s recent Special Interest Group meeting in Cape Town, themed: Regional Expansion: Overcoming logistical challenges to enable southern African
Before he joined T-Systems – a German global IT services and consulting company, with the South African derivative being one of the most successful T-Systems companies outside of Europe – Frans was responsible for rolling out the Volvo Group’s dealer network for its truck operations in sub-Saharan Africa …
“When I’d meet dealers and undertake partnership negotiations with Angolan companies, we met in Namibia, because it is the one country for which both South Africans and Angolans don’t need visas,” he recollects – adding: “We Africans are really making it difficult for ourselves.”
Restricted movement isn’t the only thing plaguing African logistics, however, as data isn’t always readily available – making for some congested environments.
Anyone who has been to an African port (and this includes the one in Durban) knows how chaotic things can be. Congestion hampers efficiencies, but headway is certainly being made. “T-Systems has a global solution called TelematicOne. This system aggregates data between all the stakeholders in the supply chain – from the moment a consignment is loaded onto a ship to when it reaches the customer,” explains Frans.
So, instead of transport operators having data only from when they pick up a shipment, all the interested parties know exactly where the goods are – all of the time. “The idea is to create a portal for the presentation of logistics objects and for central data visualisation,” says Frans. “What this means, in English, is one platform, into which everybody pushes their data and then extracts what they need, allowing all users in the system to see their particular data throughout the region.”
He continues: “It isn’t just about picking up a consignment at the harbour and knowing when it is on the truck, before I can give you all the information about that shipment … it is about when the ship is going to dock, when it is going to be offloaded, when the truck needs to pick up the consignment and then push it through to the customer.”
Frans says: “T-Systems believes that the aggregation of data is important to ensure efficiency and better communication, planning and execution – but confidentially is still key. T-Systems is part of Deutsche Telekom – and Germans are fanatical about governance and data integrity and security,” he reassures. “So we follow and comply with those legislative rules that are already written. We are probably going to wait a while for our own government to put those legislative processes in place and then manage them.”
The system was also piloted in Germany, in the Port of Hamburg. “Here we created a cloud, which is an IT term for a data centre that everybody can plug into and use the information – no matter where you are. We provided the infrastructure and we feed the system with up-to-date information that enables users to make smarter decisions.”
The system also has the potential to plug into various telematics systems – it could be an aftermarket system, such as Ctrack, or an original equipment manufacturer’s own unit. “It also doesn’t matter what hardware you use, be it a Samsung tablet, iPad, or a monochrome cellphone with SMS technology,” Frans points out. He says that the data can also be presented in different formats – depending on what you would like to know.
TelematicOne also includes non-traditional supply chain stakeholders as T-Systems aims to include the cities that are part of the logistic cog. “For example the City of Cape Town, which is in the process of bumping up its smart status,” explains Frans. Here the city can feed information into the cloud and drivers can see on their devices what is happening around the port.
This system really is a one-stop shop for the data needs of the whole supply chain, as all the interested parties have access to everything that they need to know about their consignments – from delays at sea due to weather, to the time it will take to get to the port by road in current traffic. This intermodal traffic management system has the potential to save time and money across the southern African region.