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FLEXIBILITY AND VISIBILITY ON A PER-BUNDLE BASIS 

 | 01 June 2022

 

FLEXIBILITY AND VISIBILITY ON A PER-BUNDLE BASIS 

With the industry being unpredictable and unforeseen circumstances constantly skewing logistics operations in Sub Saharan Africa it is extremely important for our clients to have flexibility and visibility in terms of the movement of their cargo. Last-mile delivery is becoming commonplace and the solution to this starts with digitization. Alistair Group’s Digital transformation goes beyond installing GPS-powered tracking systems. We ensure our transportation and logistics networks functions as an ecosystem; gaining access to the visibility needed to optimize routes and shipping processes. Alistair Group is able to identify the fastest routes and most efficient modes of transportation to provide cost-effective rates. This allows us to transition our client’s cargo to the most cost-effective and efficient corridor on a flexible basis.

Working hand-in-hand with our Technology department Alistair Group has recently implemented new technology that allows us to track our client’s cargo on a per-bundle basis. We have visibility of each bundle throughout each stage of transportation. Our technology is moving towards a full blockchain solution with the capability to track the carbon footprint, mine origin, and all transport data in real-time.

Here is a quick overview of how our technology works:

  1. Alistair Group has an inbound report which reflects all trucks headed to our warehouse from the different mines. This inbound report reflects the truck details, cargo details as well as estimated date of arrival at our warehouse. Based on this information Alistair Group is able to request the mine packing list and upload all information accurately on our warehouse cargo tracking sheet.
  2. When the truck arrives at the warehouse the cargo is already captured on our warehouse cargo tracking sheet. The Alistair Group tally clerk is then able to capture the balance of the data for the cargo on an in-house developed App which directly transfers all the data captured to our warehouse cargo tracking sheet. Here all relevant cargo is given a unique QR code that identifies that bundle or bag cargo by the date received, accurate weight and pictures of the cargo received.
  3. The client has access to all of this information via their unique client dashboard. Stock reports are also automated to clients a minimum of 3 times a week. Accurately depicting what stock Alistair Group has in our warehouse and what stock is still in transit.
  4. A booking is then allocated to export this cargo to the client in China. Using a Preliminary packing tool on our warehouse cargo tracking database a preliminary packing list is easily created with the tick of a box. This preliminary packing list is sent to the client for approval. An approved BL (Bill of Lading) is obtained.
  5. In the final step of the process, the cargo is identified by an Alistair Group clerk using our App and scanning the QR code assigned to that bundle/bag and packed into the container. This process allows Alistair Group to accurately capture the container and seal details, photograph the packed cargo and present all this information to our clients on a consolidated platform.
    After the cargo has been safely stacked on board the vessel a final packing list, as well as a shipped report, is created. The shipped report is sent to the Alistair Group finance team from which the invoice is raised.

This new system is quick efficient and accurate and certainly takes warehousing to a new dimension in terms of progression.

 

ALISTAIR GROUP TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATION

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALISTAIR GROUP WAREHOUSE

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ALISTAIR GROUP MANAGED FLEET SOLUTION

 | 01 June 2022

 

ALISTAIR GROUP MANAGED FLEET SOLUTION

 

Alistair Group offers fleet management solutions that allow us to completely manage any of our clients’ fleets. Our clients own the assets and Alistair Group manages all aspects of them. We ensure to keep a fleet running efficiently, on time, and within budget. We monitor fleet activities and handle driver training, fleet maintenance, route controls, automation, fule management and more. The industry is suffering from a lack of trailers and trucks which is closely related to the rising transportation costs and rising network complexity. Alistair Group’s dedicated fleet solution aims at directly alleviating this bottleneck in the industry by managing the movement of goods from collection to delivery site.

 

WHAT DOES THE TERM “MANAGED FLEET” MEAN?

  • Our client acquires the assets and Alistair Group will manage them
  • Specific assets and teams are allocated to each client – the client is always the priority.
  • Cost Plus contract: The client pays for real costs plus a management fee – there are no hidden profits
  • Alistair Group provides complete transparency of costs through monthly reporting – there are no hidden costs
  • Our clients have the freedom to choose the level of service Alistair Group provides. For example, our clients choose if security is included, what are the driving hours and more. The control of operations remains in the power of our clients.
  • The Alistair Group’s proprietary transport management system controls all transactions
  • Full trip expenses are controlled and paid; paving way for future supplier leverage and scale
  • Access to a unique client dashboard allows all clients real-time visibility into their trips

 

WHAT IS THE COST OF IT?

  • In a “bull” market (lack of transport solutions), you will always be under market rate due to the transparency of costs
  • In a “bear” market (over transport solutions), you may have a hedging cost if some transporters are working under break-even (which is not sustainable and won’t last in time)

 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT IN LOGISTICS

Brian Mezger | Head of Technology | 01 May 2022

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT IN LOGISTICS

 

There are few things more stressful for our clients than having their cargo tied up at the border due to improper documentation. With so much of our attention often focused on the loading times, delivery times, and cost management related to transporting cargo, we often forget about the importance of document management to ensure efficient cross border movements. Different documentation is required for different types of cargo, it’s extremely important to understand and determine which documents are required prior to arriving at a border or delivery location. Unfortunately, the mismanagement of documents is one of the most common causes of issues or delays when transporting, clearing, and storing cargo. At Alistair Group, we recognized the importance of properly managing cargo documents, and have created a robust process to reduce the potential for issues or delays as much as possible. Our process consists of four (4) major components:

 

 

 

1. DOCUMENT PROCESSING & CATEGORIZATION

We recognized the challenge of managing the accessibility of paper-based transportation documents across various end-users, in addition to the importance of detailed document categorization to enable efficient border crossings as well as post-trip processing.

To effectively overcome that challenge, Alistair Group has created a robust document processing and categorization system that transforms paper documents into a digital format and stores them in a cloud-based system that is accessible via the internet. All cargo-related documents are scanned and converted to a digital format (PDF) and uploaded to our document processing system that was developed in-house. The processing system assigns the document a structured file name based on document type and then stores it in a unique folder based on the client’s name, route, and trip identification number. Lastly, the collection of cargo-related documents for each client is presented on the client-specific digital dashboard for easy access. The Alistair Group document system converts and processes on average over 20k documents per month.

Figure: Alistair Group Document Managment Precess

 

Figure: Alistair Group Document Storage Folder

Figure: Alistair Group Client Dashboard

 

2. DOCUMENT AUDITING TEAM

The second component of Alistair Group’s document management system is our human document auditing team. After cargo documents are digitized and uploaded to our processing system, a team of highly trained auditors review each and every document to maintain quality control. During the auditing of a document, the team will ensure multiple criteria are correct:

  • Document classification
  • Required stamps and/or signatures are present
  • Orientation and alignment

If any of the above criteria are incorrect, the auditor rejects the document and notifies the appropriate department for escalation and re-uploading. This process has proved to be a vital component of the document management process and has resulted in high quality and accuracy for border and post-trip processing.

 

3. CLEARANCE PRE-ALERTS
One of the most common sources of delays is the lack of proper documentation available during the cargo clearing process (i.e.: border crossings). We recognized the need to be extremely proactive in providing the necessary documents to clearing agents to avoid delays. Another in-house developed system was created that provides a simple way for our teams to generate and send “Clearance Pre-Alert” via email that includes the necessary documents prior to the cargo arriving. Clearance delays relating to documents have been nearly eliminated since the implementation of this semi-automated process. An Alistair Group team member simply selects the appropriate clearance pre-alert email group and submits the send pre-alert request via our internal system. Once the request has been submitted, an automation is triggered to collect the required documents and create and send an email to the appropriate clearing group, eliminating any possible human error.

Figure: Alistair Group Pre-Alert Example

 

4. DRIVER NOTIFICATIONS VIA WHATSAPP
The fourth and final component of the Alistair Group document management system is the ability to effectively deliver critical documents to our drivers’ mobile phones. WhatsApp is by far the most popular communication platform our drivers use, and so it was a natural solution to integrate with our system. Leveraging the WhatsApp for Business API, we were able to quickly integrate and start sending a variety of documents directly to drivers as attachments such as:

  • Trip briefing and debriefing forms
  • Trip updates
  • Driver bulletins
  • Incident letters

 

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THE ADVANTAGES OF AN IN-COUNTRY PRESENCE

Donald Benno | Head of Clearance and Forwarding | 01 April 2022

 

THE ADVANTAGES OF AN IN-COUNTRY PRESENCE

 

Alistair Group has a dedicated team in all our operating countries to ensure we are always aware and knowledgeable of the customs requirements in each country. This not only allows for our operations to run efficiently but enhances simplified and accurate communication of any new requirements.

By having a fixed team at entry points, Alistair Group is able to stay updated with new customs regulations and act accordingly to ensure all shipments are cleared on time upon arrival at the border/port. Below we highlight a few of the advantages Alistair Group possesses by having our presence (permanent staff) at each entry point.

  • Cargo is cleared in record time  
    • The clearance documents are shared with our border team prior to the arrival of the trucks which gives them enough time to proceed with pre-arrival clearance.
  • Bond validation for transit shipments is done on time. 
    • This helps to avoid unnecessary penalties from the customs by delaying validation.
  • Clearance/customs clarification requests are sorted within a very short period 
    • The customs officers can communicate directly to our team and therefore all recommended actions are executed immediately.
  • We have built a good relationship with the relevant customs authorities 
    • This helps with resolving any customs queries quickly and efficiently
  • Proper and accurate documentation of cleared shipments are done, which may be required in the future for auditing purposes. 
    • The teams at the borders are following Alistair Group SOPs (Standard operating procedure) and therefore once a truck is cleared all the original clearance documents are well kept and shared with the central office for proper filing/archiving.
  • Clearance documents are always treated as confidential.
    • Clearance documents can often contain vital information. All such documentation is handled as per the Alistair Group’s confidentiality policies/standards. Therefore, all Alistair Group clients are ensured that information will not be shared with potential competitors.
  • Facilities and equipment at points of entry reduce delays caused by power outages or equipment shortages.
  • Points of entry occasionally experience power outages or a shortage of printing material such as paper or toner. Alistair Group has ensured that our facilities at these locations have back-ups; we have a printer, extra printing materials and a backup generator at our border offices. These facilities improve our efficiencies as we are not subject to these delays like other operators.

 

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PROVIDING VISIBILITY THROUGHOUT THE CUSTOMS CLEARANCE PROCESS

Donald Benno | Head of Clearance and Forwarding | 01 April 2022

 

Efficient customs operations is a prerequisite for a fast supply chain. When introducing visibility throughout the Customs Clearance process, clients are able to identify the progress of their shipments at any given moment. Alistair Group’s Dashboard, is a modern, fully web-based platform with real-time customs status, shipment information and documentation available to our operations teams and clients.

Key features of the Dashboard include:

  • Web-based, highly scalable, reliable, and secure platform.
  • All data and documents are encrypted and only accessible by approved users
  • Ability to monitor the clearance status of cargo, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • An easy method to upload, in advance, necessary data and documentation
  • Data extraction is flexible and available for customized reporting
  • High level of privacy protection and access controls using US/EU standard security practices
  • All information is stored automatically in specific folders with unique names, allowing for an easy way to find and share information.

The dashboard is user-friendly and clients will be able to search any shipment and access any information and documentation relating to the shipment.

The Alistair Group Dashboard features a proprietary document management system that allows an administrator to specify the required documents (e.g.: bill-of-lading, clearance documents etc). As documents are added, a visual confirmation (green = verified uploaded or red = upload failed), provides an easy method for our team to determine if the documents have been successfully submitted.

With our resources in place, we are confident that there will be no delays, and that communication lines are as clear as possible.

Custome Clearance Dashboard

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CUSTOMS CLEARANCE – AN INDISPENSABLE ASPECT OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Donald Benno | Head of Clearance and Forwarding | 01 April 2022

 

Customs clearance is an inevitable aspect of any business’ supply chain. The rules and regulations pertaining to the import, export and transit of goods are different for every country and subject to changes. Having a reliable partner that is up to date with the most recent regulations can help to avoid extra costs and delays.

Customs Clearance operations can often lack transparency as laws and regulations are not always easily accessible. This can negatively impact the delivery time of cargo or increase the cost of standing charges and delays due to incorrect or incomplete documentation. For this reason, Alistair Group has implemented multiple processes and initiatives to reduce these effects on our clients’ shipments.

  • Appointing a clearance representative at each entry point (ports and borders) where we operate.
    • These representatives ensure all documentation and communication to the various entities are presented in a correct and timely manner; acting as seamless facilitators for our client shipments across international borders
    • They allow us to detect any potential issues that may arise ahead of time.
  • Our customs specialists aid our clients through concessions on tariff and costing issues pertaining to valuation, documentation, rules, taxes, duties and more
    • Customs rules and regulations are constantly reviewed to ensure our client’s cargo reaches its destination in an optimum time
    • Every document is double-checked by our specialized team
  • Implementing an online system that provides our clients with complete visibility into the clearance status of their shipment
    • Our Dashboard provides our clients with real-time updates on documentation verification, shipment tracking and document management

Unlike standalone agents or freight forwarders, Alistair Group is incentivised internally to clear cargo quickly to avoid standing time on our vehicles. When it comes to customs clearance, Alistair Group offers a one-stop solution. We have gained a reputation for being among the most timely and customer-focused operator in the market. Our efficient integration of services means that we control the entire supply chain and cut out unnecessary mark-ups and middlemen. With our network of international partners, we can clear your goods almost anywhere in the world and ship your cargo by road, rail, air or sea.

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PALMA EXIT – LOOKING BACK A YEAR AGO

Pauline Desmet | Head of Material Handling | 01 March 2022

 

Looking back a year on our Mozambique operations is a bittersweet affair for us at Alistair Group. Alistair Group has had an established presence in Palma town since 2012 and are proud employers of dozens of Palma residents. In March 2021 more than 88,000 people were displaced from the embattled Palma district. Locals, civil servants and foreigners fled as Islamic State-linked insurgents overran the coastal town. We were extremely lucky to get our team out safely, but many of our friends and colleagues were not as lucky.

Now, almost exactly a year later, the signs of the horrors are starting to wash away. With the help of 1,000 Rwandan troops, the Mozambican government has recently reclaimed Palma town and displaced citizens are starting to return. These events had a drastic effect on the Oil and Gas industry in Mozambique, subsequently affecting all major players, suppliers and third parties involved including ourselves. Pauline Desmet, our head of Material Handling based in Mozambique, reflects on the last year and how Alistair Group has been able to adapt.

1. How did the events in Palma affect Alistair Group as a business?
Since the inception of the attacks, we have tried to remain optimistic. Firstly from a psychological standpoint, we have continually looked ahead and planned for the long term value that Alistair Group can create as a company. Secondly, from a business management perspective, we believe that there is value in investing in “loss-leading” activities if we have a conviction that the result, in the long run, will be one of value creation. Alistair Group takes pride in our ambition to go where no one has been before and to make it work. After the attacks, and for the first time since inception, we were forced to scale back this approach.

The consequence of the Palma events resulted in Alistair Group losing out on a lot of our long term efforts as a company. Projects, investments and people who we believed would generate long term value for our organisation were suddenly removed from the equation. Irrespective, our focus as an organisation remains committed to adapting to the circumstances we are presented with. The medium-term macroeconomics of our industry remain positive and if Alistair Group consolidates effectively we will soon be able to revert back to the “long game” strategy.

2. How has Alistair Group adapted to these circumstances?
Alistair Group was forced to scale back to a ‘lean and mean machine’; hungry and eager to grab every opportunity that presented itself. To ensure we stayed relevant in the industry, Alistair Group continued to systematically train our staff in defensive driver training, appointed lifting person training, dangerous goods training and more. Although our team scaled down considerably we made a conscious effort to increase the skill-set of the remaining team; guaranteeing our ability to deliver the same quality of services.
These events reiterated the volatility of the Oil and Gas sector. It demonstrated that a sudden event can have massive effects on our business. To mitigate this from occurring again, we re-grouped and decided to move into new geographies, diversify our playing field and not limit ourselves to only Mozambique. Alistair Group’s material handling department is now expanding into Uganda and redeploying assets to Tanzania. We have been actively digging into new markets, such as the mining and construction sectors and also added cross-border work to our trucking fleet.

3. Where do we see ourselves a year from now?
In terms of Alistair Group’s material handling department, our passion and specialisation remain dedicated to offering support logistics services to the Oil and Gas sector. We believe there is a positive narrative within the East African region and we see Alistair Group as a prominent supplier to these Oil and Gas operations. Recently the FID on the Tilenga project in Uganda was signed and the project is set to kick off this year. Additionally, we see a major push for the start of the EACOP project in Tanzania and the prospects within Mozambique are getting more positive by the day.

 

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Why Alistair Group is the Safest and Most Efficient Material Handling Provider in the Industry

Luani Matthÿser | Marketing Coordinator | 01 March 2022

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ENSURING AN OPERATORS’ COMPETENCY IS TOP PRIORITY

Pauline Desmet | Head of Material Handling | 01 March 2022

 

When working with any type of Material Handling Equipment (MHE), ensuring an operators’ competency is a priority. The larger the piece of MHE being used, the more extensive training is needed. Much like a semi-truck driver is required to obtain a class A driver’s license before hitting the road, many MHE operators must obtain third-party certifications by accredited operator testing organizations before they can go to work.

Alistair Group believes that a competent and trained workforce is essential for customer service, safety and consistently high service standards. Training for material handling employees is divided into three phases: Basic, Specific job and familiarisation. Firstly, Basic training is conducted by a recognised accredited instructor or organisation, on lifting operations, slinging practice, crane directions and signals, mode factors and SWL’s (Safe Working Loads). Secondly, specific job training ensures the individuals are provided knowledge of the workplace and experience of any special needs and lifting operations/equipment. Lastly, familiarisation training ensures the individual will then operate on the job under close supervision until deemed competent.

Alistair Group ensures all lifting operations should be planned to ensure that they are carried out safely and that all foreseeable risks have been taken into account. Planning should be carried out by an appointed lifting person who has the appropriate knowledge for the lift being undertaken. Six Alistair Group employees were trained and certified on Lifting Planning – Appointed Person In accordance with the UK Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and British Standard BS 7121. They’ve all obtained their certification at the end of last year.

We, at Alistair Group, ensure continued evaluation of collective performance to provide assurance that team competency has been completed to the required Standard, that any risks have been assessed and that the collective training delivered value, and is recorded on the training competency records.

 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF EQUIPMENT COMPLIANCE

Pauline Desmet | Head of Material Handling | 01 March 2022

 

Material handling equipment represents a critical part of the industries we operate in; from oil and gas to mining to renewables and more. The primary requirement for any equipment being used is their ability to operate safely without being a source of hazard. We, at Alistair Group, ensure that all work equipment complies with recognized international standards and the applicable regulatory requirements.

Our maintenance management system covers periodic inspections issuing work orders for each piece of equipment. These periodic inspections go along with annual thorough examinations based on statutory requirements, recommended accepted standards, and manufacturers’ instructions. The annual thorough examinations are carried out by independent certified 3rd party inspection companies. We make sure that only certified lifting equipment is used during our Lifting Operations.

The purpose of this periodic inspection and a thorough examination is to identify whether the equipment can be operated, adjusted and maintained safely and that any deterioration (for example, any defect, damage or wear) can be detected and remedied before it results in unacceptable risks.

The current reports of thorough examination for any equipment are kept inside of the equipment and are also stored electronically on the Online Lifting Register. Any components that are replaced are recorded and pictures of the damaged or worn-out component are saved to the equipment’s profile on our online database. This allows us to monitor the rate of failure of each component, flag any abnormalities and come up with a feasible solution that will prevent the same component from failing on any of our other assets.

Honing in on our fleet and specific compliance of equipment we’d like to highlight two specific measures we put in place: Firstly, our trucks are equipped with trailer stanchions and headboards. This is important for the safe transportation of oil country tubular goods (OCTG). Apart from preventing harm to personnel, safe transportation of OCTG reduces any repair costs and ensures the pipe is in optimal condition when used.

Secondly, a wheel nut indicator is one of the main features of our trucks. One of the common risks involving the transportation of goods using trucks is the detachment of wheels from the wheel stud. Therefore the wheel nut indicators allow identification of loose nuts before this can occur and prevent accidents.

Alistair Group is committed to the continuous effort for improvement and safety; these implementations are only a handful of the precautions we take to ensure our operations are carried out safely and our operators work in a safe environment.

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