The Tikaria plant of ACC has put in place a novel method to shorten the long queue of trucks lined up for loading at its plant gate. The logistics model not only helped in speeding up the entire process of loading, but it also eliminated the hassles of paperwork.
Logistics is one of the biggest challenges faced by the cement industry today. The current available rail network is not sufficient to cater to the flourishing cement industry of India and cement manufacturers have to rely heavily on road transport. Managing a large fleet of heavy trucks to ferry cement from plants to the market is a very challenging task and any improvement in fleet management leads to significant profits for the company. Often a typical cement plant will have a long queue of transport trucks waiting outside the facility for their turn to load up. Large number of heavy vehicles stalled near the plant increases the risks of possible road accidents and traffic jams. Besides this, there is the matter of the unrestrained movement of truck drivers and helpers around the plant who are busy with their paperwork etc.
Sensing the need
Technology support to improve operational efficiency and OH&S was clearly required. Realising the need of the hour, the company chalked out a plan to tackle the issue; it had clear objectives of improving safety norms, business sustainability, reduction of congestion inside the plant and at the plant gate and a reduction of SAP process cycle time. This could be achieved by improving traffic visibility of the logistics managers to help in faster decision making.
With these objectives defined clearly, ACC invested time and energy in strengthening its logistics management system and named the project as ACC Speed. The system employed RFID UHF (Radio-frequency identification devices with Ultra High Frequency communication channel) readers and tags, customised software with complete integration with SAP at all key SAP transaction stages. SPEED@ACC was first launched at Tikaria Cement works in Uttarpradesh. With a successful Go-Live in March' 12, the project has since then been successfully replicated to two more locations viz Damodhar Cement Works and Thondebhavi Cement Works. 6 more plants are already in pipe-line for the next phase roll out. The Success of Speed could be gauged by outstanding results delivered by the initiative.
After implementing the new system:
How it works
The key component of the system is the RFID readers installed at various key stages like yard entry, plant entry, weigh bridges, at packing house and at plant exit. RFID tags are installed on the windshield of all the trucks carrying cement. The system employs UHF long- range readers and is the first project of its kind to be used in the Indian cement industry.
RFID readers placed at strategic locations interact with a central database and provide real-time information while at the same time the software through customized business rules automates the traffic flow.. On-line verficiation validity dates of statutory documents like insurance, goods permit and vehicle fitness certificate ensures the "only the complying vehicle" takes the load. Driver has the visibility of his expected loading time so he is not required to physically run around and follow up with plant officials/ transporters. The software automatically calls vehicles inside the plant based on a packer run-rate in a pre-defined sequence. Any vehicle breaking the sequence gets highlighted at the gate for rejection.
As soon as the total vehicle count inside the plant reaches the upper cap, a hooter is sounded and further entry is suspended.
Specific visual instructions are relayed to the driver at every stage. The path is automatically decided based on the location (yard, plant gate, etc), type of vehicle, (bulker, trucks, etc), type of order (outbound, inbound, etc), type of facility (loaders, weighbridges, etc). Since vehicles move on a planned path, there are no chances of deviations or accidents due to criss-crossing of routes. This not only eliminates congestion, it also improves turnaround time and packing efficiency.
The cross- functional team had noted that considerable time was wasted in the documentation process where truck drivers have to get down from the vehicle for doing their paperwork. There was a need for verbal communication at each step in the process. With Speed in place, the documentation is done on the fly without the driver having to step down from the vehicle, even at weigh bridges. Once the vehicle is weighed, the driver is guided to his destined loader.
The software controls the number of vehicles that should be in the queue waiting for their turn at any loader. Once the gross weight is captured, by the time the truck reaches the plant exit gate, the statutory documents (like excise invoice) to be carried by trucker are automatically printed and ready for handover to the trucker without him having to get down. That saves considerable time and spares everyone the customary chaos.
The company needed a cost- effective technology with low maintenance requirements, and high accuracy and stability. Any failure incidence would impact the dispatches and plant operations drastically. This was a technological challenge.
Besides this, there were managerial challenges. With the new system, the legacy of the manual way of working was about to change to a very transparent and disciplined process. Staff had to be trained for working with the new software. Frequent dialogue with key stakeholders, making them participate in the implementation, taking their feedbacks/ concerns, helped gain everybody's support in the initiative. The exercise rendered clarity and transparency in defining the `as-is and to- be` status.
Benefits at all levels
The system deliveres multiple benefits to all stakeholders in the process. Truck drivers have to endure much less waiting time for loading. The saved time helped them make more trips and earn more per month. Transporters are able to utilise their assets effectively. Customers are benefited by faster execution of orders and improved delivery compliance, and have better information about effective arrival times. The company benefits by having real time visibility, reduced congestion, improved scheduling and most of all, an improved quality of work life.
Other notable features include:
1) Visibility of vehicle movement at each of the process steps
2) Yard dashboard provides information to driver of his turn/ expected loading time
3) On-line verification of statutory requirements
4) Truck at gate verified with IP camera
5) Single window visibility to CDS of entire operations
6) Manual interventions minimized
7) Driver does not get down at any point of the shipping cycle right from parking yard to plant out after loading
8) Paperless movement
9) Seamless information flow eliminating multiple verifications/ verbal communications
With 30 million tonnes of cement moved across the country, employing 12,000 heavy duty vehicles, benefits from this initiative can be huge if adopted by all plants. ACC is now geared to take it to all its 16 plants across the country.
STAKE HOLDERS' SPEAK
Vikram Gupta, Director Logistics, The improvement on "in-plant" safety is definitely a note worthy intangible benefit which is an outcome of automated traffic flow managed and controlled through software.
Rajeev K K, Director Plant The project helps in alignment of production, packing house and the logistics team with the market dynamics and stake holder (transporter/ trucker) expectations thus enabling a TEAM effort to optimize the process flow.
Mayur Tolia, Project Manager - SPEED@ACC, The key need of today's logistics fraternity is: Visibility. SPEED@ACC was conceptualized in-house through cross functional team which very aptly caters to this need and intelligently uses this information to automate the operations and thus delivering "Safety of stake holders, Productive utilization of packers, Efficient utilization of resource (trucks) and Ensuring customer Delight through better delivery compliance, as the acronym SPEED suggests.
Rajesh Vijayvargia, Plant Logistics Manager - Tikaria, Real-time visibility and automated flow of traffic inside the plant with has led to improved quality of work-life for all stake holders with more focus now on advance planning instead of day-to-day routine activities and occasional fire fighting situations.