Case Study – AET
DALOSY CONTRIBUTES TO HIGH OPERATIONAL EFFICIENCY AT ANTWERP EURO TERMINAL
For a port terminal like Antwerp Euroterminal (AET), optimal connectivity is essential to support operations. Fifteen years ago, the organisation suffered from an unstable WiFi network. To replace it, Dalosy provided a solid narrowband solution combined with the right scanners. This raised stability and operational efficiency to a higher level. At the same time, it was the start of a close working relationship. Dalosy has since grown to become the point of contact for robust and reliable Enterprise Mobility solutions.
Antwerp Euroterminal acts as the Northern European hub within the Grimaldi Group. Its location on the left bank of the Scheldt in the port of Antwerp is ideal for loading and unloading seagoing and inland vessels, train carriages and trucks. AET also provides a logistics platform for various car manufacturers.
Currently, the terminal has an area of 150 hectares and a quay length of 2.2 kilometres. Every year, it handles over 200,000 containers, 750,000 vehicles and 230,000 tonnes of general cargo. The terminal also has two semi-open warehouses. These offer 11,000 square metres of space for the storage of weather-sensitive goods and a workshop of 7,000 square metres for repairs and the preparation of new vehicles for delivery. To manage all these activities, AET employs 110 permanent staff and 236 dockers and temporary workers.
CUSTOMISED AET SOLUTION
From its central Terminal Operating System (TOS), AET continuously sends orders to the employees in the field. They register the execution of their tasks by means of mobile handheld terminals (HHTs) and vehicle mounted terminals (VMTs). All transactions are sent back to the back office in real time. In this way, operational business processes can be efficiently managed and monitored.
It goes without saying that reliable mobile connectivity for these activities in the port terminal is a must.
“At the time, we relied on our own Wi-Fi network. Of course, that was not yet as advanced and stable as today’s standards. The persistent connection problems and the inconveniences associated with this made us look for a more stable alternative almost 15 years ago. We realised, of course, that a stable solution for an area of 300 football pitches was no easy matter.
Mark Engels, CTO bij AET
This is how AET came to Dalosy. “At the time, they recommended a network based on narrowband. That technology guaranteed very broad coverage and a robust connection with just a few antennas,” says Mark Engels. “The mobile communication was controlled via special middleware. This ensured that even if there were connection problems, the sessions were never interrupted. After a ‘proof of concept’ under Dalosy’s technical supervision, the solution was successfully installed. Dalosy then provided the appropriate scanning equipment.
EXPERIENCE IN THE PORT
For years, this narrowband solution worked flawlessly. When the technology became outdated, the network was renewed about four years ago. The increasing demand for bandwidth on the terminal and the various third-party equipment prompted AET to invest heavily in a solid wifi set-up.
“All those years, Dalosy continued to provide us with the best industrial scanners on the market. We can safely say that Dalosy has become a partner in that field. A big advantage is that the reseller has a lot of experience in the Antwerp port area. This means that we always get scanners that are at home in our environment. For example, our scanners have to be very robust and shock-resistant. No less than ninety percent of the scanning takes place outside. User-friendliness is also of paramount importance for us.”
Mark Engels, CTO bij AET
PARTNER WITH EXPERTISE
“It also gives us peace of mind that we can always call on Dalosy’s expertise. Not only during the selection of mobile devices, but also in daily practice”, continues Mark Engels. “Dalosy knows the software on the devices through and through. Furthermore, we can always call on the after sales service for troubleshooting in the event of a malfunction or for additional advice. The technical team always helps us out.”
A specific additional challenge in the business is that vehicle manufacturers regularly add an extra character to the barcode.
Mark Engels: “If we read out such codes, they will not correspond to the data in the database. That is why we – together with Dalosy – have configured the devices in such a way that the data is still usable, independent of changes to the barcode by the various manufacturers. Dalosy’s technical support is also important for that kind of thing.”
AET deploys around thirty VMTs and fifty HHTs every day. AET swears by the devices of Zebra Technologies. The manufacturer’s Omnii XT 15 hand scanners had become a fixture in the field. “We recently switched to its successor: MC93 hand scanners from Zebra. Our users are so enthusiastic about it that we will be purchasing more. This model runs on Android and is completely up to date. The roaming is flawless thanks to the optimisations of Android versus the outdated Windows CE. Even scanning a barcode through a blinded window works flawlessly. Moreover, the bandwidth between the hand scanners and our servers has more than doubled,” says Mark Engels. “Furthermore, we recently purchased a number of robust ET56 tablets. We use them, for example, when handling batches of wood or rolls of paper.”
CHALLENGE FOR THE FUTURE
AET is currently busy with the further expansion of the terminal. Horizontal expansion was not possible, so it had to go up. Therefore AET started building a seven-storey covered parking garage to receive new cars. This will provide an available surface of 175,000 square metres in total.
M. English: “It will not be easy to create a stable WiFi environment in that concrete structure. The question is whether we will always have guaranteed reception on every floor. We also expect that the mobile devices in that environment will be able to buffer data. This will allow our employees to continue working, even when the connection is lost. As soon as there is a new connection with the network, the data can be sent back to the server. We trust that Dalosy will also provide the right support in this challenging environment.”
“We can always call on Dalosy’s expertise. Not only during the selection of mobile devices, but also in daily practice.”
Mark Engels, CTO bij AET
Antwerp Euroterminal nv is the largest multi-purpose terminal in Europe. It is also the home port of the Grimaldi Group. AET is specialised in various types of cargo. We handle breakbulk, containers, project cargo, heavy lifts, vehicles and all kinds of other RoRo units on a daily basis. In total there are 149 hectares of handling area and a quay wall of 2km200m.