Logistics is an important part of most businesses, but it is critical in the marine outfitting world where work must be completed quickly and something as simple as materials arriving at the right time and in the right order can make the difference between a successful project and a failure.
While many logistics and courier companies offer their own tracking services for shipments, they can have shortcomings. The most significant issue is that these systems typically track the delivery vehicle, not the goods themselves.
UK-based marine interior refit specialist Trimline wanted to develop a more effective solution. The firm wanted to be able to track everything – including every pallet, box and piece of joinery – anywhere on Earth, from the time it left the safety of its warehouse to the moment it arrived on the ship.
“It wasn’t good enough just tracking the vehicle with our goods on,” says Nick Farrell, co-owner of Trimline. “What happens, for example, if your goods are moved from one vehicle to another, and they make a mistake and don’t load all the pallets? What happens if the goods have been delivered to a warehouse dockside, at which point the courier stops tracking but then a box goes missing?”
Initially, Trimline considered only tracking the high-value items, but quickly realised that this would not enable it to achieve the outcome it wanted.
“You’d think that keeping tabs on the high-value items made sense, but if you’re truly interested in project success then you need to look at everything,” says Ross Welham, co-owner of Trimline. “For instance, if you need two pallets of screed for a project, and one pallet goes missing from the dockside, you might not be able to finish the project on time, and that would be a big issue for both us and our client. By tracking each pallet, we know exactly where the missing item is and can arrange its retrieval.”
In 2022, Trimline began developing a logistics tracking system to help with all these issues. Every piece of a shipment is fitted with a tracking tag, which links to Trimline’s TAPP management system and emits a ‘ping’ roughly every 15 to 20 minutes so the firm knows its exact location at any given time. The joined-up nature of the TAPP system also means that the Trimline team can see the latest location of each pallet or site-box, and with a simple click of a button, can see the manifest of items inside it, including commodity codes and values. Trimline’s clients also have full visibility of this on a 24/7 basis.
“We can now see all of our shipments in transit, and if there’s an issue, we can catch it early and organise a response,” says Owen Hamilton, director of project support at Trimline. “As an example, we had a problem earlier this year where a trailer broke down, and the lorry had stopped in the middle of France. We spotted it before even the logistics company knew about it and were able to organise a set of sprinter vans to offload the trailer and get the goods to the destination on time to complete the project. Without this system, it could have been a different story.”
The intelligent system can also notify the correct project team when a package has unexpectedly stopped moving for a period of time and when a tracked item enters a specific geofenced area. For example, it can send a notification when it gets within two hours of the dock to help teams efficiently offload items to the dock warehouse or loading them on to the ship.