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About: Luani Matthyser

Recent Posts by Luani Matthyser

SHIPPING BULK OR BREAK-BULK

Luani Matthsÿer  | 02 September 2021

Containerised shipments have been the mainstay of international shipping since its conception in the late 1950s. A vast majority of organisations utilize the time tested container as their primary method of delivering commodities in a safe and relatively timely manner. However, the rising container shortage dilemma the industry is facing calls for alternative delivery methods to be explored.

Bulk and break-bulk shipping represent a viable alternative to container shipping should the right conditions apply. Multi-national organisations that ship materials of vast quantities or sizes are more likely to utilise this method as loading containers is unfeasible. This does not imply, however, that smaller organizations or manufacturers cannot take advantage of the break-bulk/bulk shipping opportunities. Alistair Group proposes quite the opposite; It is now the ideal opportunity to make use of this alternative shipping method, where possible, to avoid the container conundrum.

There are several criteria to consider when pondering break-bulk/bulk as a shipment method. Here are but a few:

  • Cargo needs to be durable.
  • Third-party handling of cargo might be required. Break-bulk/bulk operators only offer port to port services, therefore should door to door services be required a third party, like Alistair Group, will need to be utilised.
  • Cargo volume needs to be greater than the standard 20-28 MT’s shipped in a container. For break-bulk/bulk to be a financially viable solution upwards of 1500 MT’s per vessel is required.

Should you feel this option is worth exploring, please reach out to us as and we will gladly guide you through all break-bulk/bulk shipping options.

 

Bulk Sulpher from RichardsBay, South Africa to DRC.

SMBS Breakbulk from DAR, Tanzania to DRC.

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SUPPLY CHAIN AGILITY IS PARAMOUNT IN TODAY’S WORLD.

Matt Edwards (Commercial Lead – Road Freight) | 01 September 2021

Businesses with the ability to source globally, limit exposure to volatile costs and ultimately, get their product to market first, will win. Drawing on these strengths will, at the very least, ensure survival during this incredibly challenging period. A period where one is never sure how or when their next container from Ningbo or space on a vessel from Durban will be secured.

Alistair Group’s forward-thinking and mentality of continual improvement has allowed us to be at the forefront of supply chain agility. A few years ago, Alistair Group recognised the need to diversify its offering and grow its footprint regionally; better serving our customers’ needs as they sought to explore new markets and source more competitively. As a result, we are now seamlessly delivering integrated services on multiple corridors, such as Durban, Walvis Bay and Dar es Salaam, serving our core markets in DRC, Zambia and East Africa.

This multi-corridor strategy allows Alistair Group to pivot between corridors when and if necessary; giving our customers the confidence to respond to the ever-changing supply chain landscape while remaining competitive in their respective industry sectors. Alistair Group, therefore, has the freedom to explore all solutions available to our clients without being limited to only one corridor, shipping line or facility. We are able to seamlessly transition our operations from one corridor to another in order to avoid any delays or price surges; always offering the most timely and cost-effective solution.  Alistair Group’s presence at all major ports (Dar es Salaam, Durban and Walvis Bay) ensures that our clients receive the same all-in solution of transportation, clearance and warehousing regardless of the corridor utilised.

Our strategic positioning has been particularly beneficial for the mining sector, at a time when commodity prices are soaring and mines are investing heavily in expansion and modernisation to keep up with the demand. Events of the last 18 months meant that no matter from where in the world our customers sourced their reagents or other inputs, we needed to use our expertise to help them navigate capacity constraints, heavy congestion and security concerns.

By forewarning our customers of likely delays on their core corridors and competitively pricing the alternative routes, we not only ensured the smooth transit of vital imports but also carefully aligned these with export volumes across three corridors (Dar es Salaam, Durban and Walvis Bay) to benefit the industry as a whole.

Alistair Group takes a consultative approach in providing supply chain solutions that put our customer’s needs first; which is ultimately driven by our vision to be the company that makes Africa work better.

Please get in touch to see where we can make a difference to your business.

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CURBING THE GLOBAL CONTAINER SHORTAGE

Daniel du Plo0y (Head of Warehousing) | 01 September 2021

With the pandemic spreading throughout the world in early 2020, many countries implemented strict lockdowns with the aim to prevent the spread. This, in short, also meant that most economic activity and production came to a standstill. The immediate result of this was that large numbers of containers were stockpiled at ports and in turn, shipping lines globally reduced the number of container vessels on the busy shipping corridors to minimise the financial impact of operating costs.

Specific to sub-Saharan Africa, the most immediate impact from the container imbalance is the increase in ocean freight. The main ports for metal exports from the DRC and Zambia (Dar es Salaam, Walvis Bay, Beira and Durban) have all been impacted in some way by the shortages.

Walvis Bay has seen vessel operators cancel callings due to inefficiencies experienced further up the west coast of Africa, Beira has seen increased dwell times in outer anchorage and Durban, in addition to the shortage, have been impacted by local riots in July as well as cyber-attacks. Shipping rates to China have seen as much as a 150% increase in some cases out of Durban. Diverting cargo to different ports on short notice has never been more valuable for traders and inland logistics companies.

At Alistair Group, our motto of making our clients business run better has given us the freedom to explore all options available to us without being limited to one corridor, shipping line or facility.

We are completely transparent in our approach to provide solutions to our clients in terms of urgency and price. This type of “Out of the box” thinking is required in difficult times. Alistair Group has been able to curb the container shortage problem being faced in our industry, by offering the following solutions:

                • – Excluding Durban, South Africa has 7 additional commercial seaports along its coast.
                • – Viability of alternative ports and cost comparisons are shared with our clients to make the best decision for their business.
                • – We offer our clients favourable storage terms
                • – Reducing inland transit times
                • – A focus on smaller, fast-moving shipments, direct packed

Please get in touch to see where we can make a difference to your business.

 

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VISIBILITY THROUGH A CUSTOMER DASHBOARD

Matt Edwards (Commercial Lead – Road Freight) | 02 August 2021

Lack of supply chain visibility is a major challenge for many companies and industries, even in this age of digitisation. Whilst manual data entry and antiquated systems remain commonplace, those who leverage technology to better manage their supply chain often claim this step to be a major competitive advantage. 

Alistair Group recognised the need to provide clients with supply chain visibility via our real-time dashboards. This solution, in turn, brings some much-needed visibility for our customers and reduces unnecessary touchpoints throughout a shipment’s journey. 

Each of our clients has a customised dashboard to access real-time updates on the fleet status, and thus the status of each of their shipments. Additionally, our dashboard provides full reports for each warehouse, access to relevant photos and proof of delivery documentation and has the added benefit of allowing cargo to be searched by client Purchase Order (PO) number.

With our customer dashboard the following information is at your fingertips:

  • Client’s internal reference number
  • Cargo Status
  • Last Update
  • Truck details
  • Current Location
  • Estimated Delivery Date
  • Supporting Docs
  • Cargo Photos
  • and many other fields as per client requirements 

However, this major step to bring visibility to our customers did not come without its fair share of challenges during the implementation stage. With a large portion of our customer base in mainland China, we had a rather prominent and sophisticated firewall to overcome! 

For Alistair Group to provide an equally world-class customer experience across the globe and comply with the Chinese government’s data protection laws, we needed to have a separate dashboard with our infrastructure in China. We were able to keep Chinese user data in China and become compliant with Chinese regulations while ensuring the dashboard remained fast, responsive and secure. While the process was rather complex, Alistair Group dashboards and our sophisticated, in-house developed Road Freight and Clearance Document Management System are now truly accessible globally, including to mainland Chinese users via alistairgroup.cn.

Ultimately, we have been able to create a powerful, efficient tool, upon which a number of our customers rely for clear and unrestricted visibility. We have said goodbye to late pre-alerts, manual reporting and misplaced emails.

   

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VISIBILITY THROUGH AN AUTOMATED GRV SYSTEM

02 August 2021

Improved transparency, reduced delay in GRV distribution and higher efficiency – all of which can be achieved with an automated goods received voucher.

 

In the past, a typical day at our North Riding Warehouse included receiving cargo at the warehouse, conducting a material inspection, counting and measuring cargo weight and dimensions, returning to the office, commencing with the manual goods receipt process, printing all paperwork, binding the GRV with the delivery note, scanning documentation and manually sending it to the customer.  This time-consuming and inconvenient process might sound familiar to the vast majority of the transport and logistics industry.  However, at Alistair Group we constantly look for ways to remove bottlenecks and improve our efficiency.

The goods received voucher (GRV), also known as a goods received note (GRN), was oftentimes reported to our team as being a problem area; taking anywhere between two to four days to deliver. This paperwork intensive process was flying under our efficiency radar and costing our business a lot of time and effort to manually process. GRV’s play a key part in notifying customers that their cargo has successfully been delivered. Without a timely and accurate GRV, our customer’s processes are delayed; BV inspections and load planning is stalled and thus transport of goods to the final destination is set back. Whilst auditing our GRV process, in the subsequent discussion with our warehousing team, it was made evident that manually processing the GRV took a large amount of time in data entry and distribution to customers. Additionally, our current process allowed for things such as human error, lack of accuracy, delays in sending the GRV and the inclusion of multiple unnecessary steps. Staff often had to walk more than 300m to book a goods receipt.

It was these conditions that led Alistair Group to develop and introduce an automated GRV system. The countless back and forth to receive cargo in the warehouse and input the data at the office, all of which was captured manually, has now been replaced with a user-friendly web-based application (see screenshot below). Our staff are now able to utilise their mobile phone or the office tablet to immediately capture all information while with the cargo. Thus, data entry can be done on-sight as soon as the cargo arrives; resulting in real-time data capturing and delivery transparency to customers. 

The new application is equipped with predetermined fields, automated customer information, cargo and delivery-note photo capturing and uploading capabilities, automatic GRV distribution and dashboard delivery status updates. This allows staff to book the cargo much faster. Through this improvement, Alistair Group has been able to make a substantial leap in the digitalization and automation of delivering GRV’s. Reducing the goods receipt process and drastically shortened the GRV delivery time; now allowing us to deliver GRV’s to customers within ten minutes of cargo delivery. The same data which is captured in the GRV note is then used to automatically prepare further documents such as Road Consignment Notes, Packing Lists and Clearance Documentation.

 

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MORE THAN A DECADE OF DEVELOPMENT

2021 marks 13 years of Alistair Group; a significant milestone for a company that began with one truck and the desire to solve problems. As of today, Alistair Group is the preferred logistics provider for a vast majority of industries in South and Eastern Africa. The Group operates across 20 countries worldwide, employs over 800 staff, manages 1039 assets and has 18 offices across Africa.

“Did we expect to still be here; to have grown this much? Honestly? No.” says Founder and CEO, Alistair James. “I suppose we always had our heads down and focused on the job back then. So, this is a good moment to look around and see all that has been accomplished by everyone involved.”

The company took its current form from a problem-solving basis. Alistair was originally based in the bush when he began working in Tanzania back in 2002. Due to his remote location, he had to overcome many logistical issues in terms of accessing food, spare parts and basic requirements. It quickly dawned upon him that there were many commercial opportunities to solving the present logistic restrictions within the community. His initial investment was in grain trading. He had witnessed the frustrations caused by the fluctuations in price and thus, became particularly good at predicting them. With a rented warehouse and a single small truck, he began trading in 2008. When he struggled to make the financials add up on such a small scale, he knew it was time for a bigger truck.

 

Alistair did not claim to be an expert in vehicles, he was learning on the job. However, with the potential of upscaling to a larger truck, he recognized the need for an experienced opinion. It was at this point Angelo Caruso joined forces with Alistair to provide hands-on maintenance and advise on the next investments. Angelo’s professional background in mining and road maintenance, coupled with his fascination with all thing’s vehicle related made him an ideal fit and a key component in the Group’s team. Angelo, now one of the three directors, is often described as “a well-oiled German machine; a petrol-head with a real heart for what we do”.

With Angelo’s input, the company invested in two fuel tankers, leading to a little more success. Unfortunately, only a few months later, amid their rising success, one of the fuel trucks caught fire. When describing these events Alistair makes it apparent that they “could have given up then and there.” Instead, Alistair sold the remaining fuel tanker and his personal car to cover the cost of the lost fuel and to finance two new flat-bed trucks. Little did Alistair and Angelo know that these two flatbeds would be the start of their ever-growing fleet. A stroke of luck turned things around in the form of a rental contract on Mafia Island for the oil and gas industry.

As business improved, the focus never wavered. Two years later, Clementine James, Alistair’s sister, joined the company and become the third director. Clementine had the expertise and skills to assist with finding the resources to grow the business. At this point, the company only had around ten trucks. Fast-forward 13 years – Alistair Group now has a fleet size of over 400 trucks and transported more than 200,000 tons of cargo in the last year. The company may be asset-based but its culture of efficient execution and best practice has set it apart in the world of logistics solutions. Alistair stated that “sometimes when people ask me what I do I just say I’m a trucker but it’s no longer really true”. He continues to explain that the company has grown into the success it is today because of their ability to continually make things work better.

Our past is our foundation, and that’s vital to remember. However, it is in the future where all of the opportunity lies. However, for the present; Alistair Group is going from strength to strength and it’s hard not to notice the buzz in the air as the company expands into more countries, gains new assets, embraces new technology and continues to evolve. It’s a new era for Alistair Group and the company is poised for further success.

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