IN its effort to make businesses in the bulk liquid industry safer and more efficient, the Intermodal Tank Container Association (ITCA) provided experts who discussed best practices on topics in both critical areas at the 2018 Intermodal Bulk Liquid Symposium in El Lago, Texas.
Bryan Markland, Lucite International’s emergency response and security manager, talked about his company’s response to an accident involving a driver who flipped his ISO container trailer.
And Steve Bourque, president of Bourque Logistics, and Tank and Container Management Systems (TCMS), detailed the system his company developed for managing tank and bulk product logistics.
Markland, who spent 25 years with the US Coast Guard before joining Lucite, employs a PEAR approach to emergency response to protect People, Environment, Assets and a company’s Reputation.
“If you have any emergency response, and you hit those things in that order, and let them know that you are concerned about those things in that order, you will probably do OK,” Markland said.
In the example Markland cited, a driver who was delivering an ISO container missed an entrance, then flipped the trailer while attempting to turn around in a tight space, twisting the trailer chassis.
After establishing the tank wasn’t leaking, and, if it was, the chemical inside would not immediately explode, Markland’s attention turned to keeping all the people involved safe, which typically entails limiting access to the incident and removing non-responder personnel and vehicles.
The next step is to mitigate risk to the environment.
A key consideration here is where the chemical will go if it spills, and in this case, they were concerned about a nearby drain.
“Luckily, it was a fairly large parking lot area,” Markland said.
“The only slope was toward the drain, and not a whole lot either direction, so we felt comfortable that, if it spilled, we could keep it out of the drain. And this particular product flashes off very quickly.
“It makes it very flammable, but it also goes away pretty quickly if it sits in an area for any length of time.”
‘A good day’
Next, responders with heavy-duty boom trucks righted the trailer, then prepared to transport the ISO tank, still connected to the bent trailer chassis, using cables and a sling, but the local fire chief wasn’t having it.
“He says, ‘No, I want you to transfer the container to a new trailer,’” Markland said.
“So I used my one ‘but sir’ and said we talked to these guys, and they do it all the time. And his answer was, ‘I don’t care, you’re not going to put that trailer on the road through our community.
“‘Transfer it to an undamaged trailer.’”
Markland complied, and the incident was resolved without injuries, spills or other negative impact to people or the environment, thanks in large part to excellent communication between all stakeholders.
“It wasn’t necessarily a good day for me, although it was just work, it wasn’t a good day for the truck driver, for sure, and it wasn’t a good day for the customer who got their delivery slightly late—we were able to unload it without any issues—but in the fire chief’s view, it was a good day.
“(So) make your best effort to make it a good day if you have something go wrong with your transportation.”
ISO tank logistics
TCMS, which launched two years ago in The Woodlands TX, leverages Bourque Logistics’ experience, developed over 30 years of working with rail cars, to manage tank and bulk product shipments.
Its first client was Honeywell International, whose assets include ISOs, cylinders and chassis.
Bourque said rail car management is well-developed, but similar systems for ISO tanks were less refined.
That’s where he and his company stepped in.
“When we first started developing a system, we identified several areas, what we call disciplines, where we were going to need to develop control systems to allow us to help Honeywell manage its fleet,” he said.
The six disciplines the company addressed were shipment tracking, tank maintenance and compliance, certificates, load and return management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) integration, and business intelligence (BI) and dashboard technology for visual graphic presentations.
TCMS started by modifying its rail car tracking, which typically doesn’t monitor international shipments (outside Canada and Mexico), with the ability to follow ISO containers around the globe.
“We had to develop a new process to handle international moves and multi-mode segments, as well as interchanges,” Bourque said.
Tracking issues include managing complex trips, and reconciling transit data and interchange activity reports from varied sources (e.g. shippers, freight forwarder) and methods (e.g. spreadsheet, email).
“One of the critical things was, when you’re tracking an asset internationally, you have to define in the database and in the system a trip that establishes where that asset is going … then you have to address all the mode segments within that,” Bourque said.
“And, of course, between each segment, you’re going to have an interchange.”
Bourque suggests integrating trip, mode segment and interchange components, and standardizing transit data, based on 200/300 series electronic data interchange (EDI), and tank condition codes.
With tank maintenance and compliance, communication with depots, and tank owners and lessors, is vital, as is paying bills.
TCMS standardized codes for tank status, developed codes for interacting with depot software systems—paying close attention to clarifying essential information, like ‘to CLEAN’ vs. ‘CLEANed’—uniform listing of files for on-hire tank profiles (e.g. specs, test dates) and lease details (e.g. start, end dates; cost), and standard line-item coding based on vendor and activity type for billing.
Businesses also must be able to handle certificates of all types.
This discipline includes recognizing varying certificates (e.g. inspection, cleaning), delivering them on time, and filing and sharing certificates that originate in different formats (e.g. fax, email, manual).
Bourque suggests going electronic and standardizing layouts, coding date formats from different countries, using DocuSign or other providers for required signatures, and “Metadata” standards for documents (e.g. tank ID, certificate type, creator), and tying documents to the transactions.
The emails and URLs provided to trading partners then are linked to shipments.
“We’ve actually created a portal that’s been very successful with what we’ve started down the path to do, which is to electronically standardize layouts of those certificates,” Bourque said.
Load and return management issues include differentiating orders in the system from deliveries that need to ship now, tank assignment and dispatch, and customer inventory. Bourque suggests providing customers with tank selection criteria; analysis on tank location, assignment, ETA, maintenance status, etc.; and the ability to interactively release inventory assets in the system on their own.
“You need to be able to assign empty tanks, usually with a 60- or 90-day lead time, to those orders,” Bourque said. “What we do is provide a selection of criteria to the users that lets them look at the variety of tanks inbound to any given location and define the selection of those tanks based on … test and maintenance status, and any other user-defined data set assigned to that particular tank.”
Bourque said it’s “critical” for shippers to integrate tank transactions with customers’ ERP systems, like SAP’s payroll software. He suggests using a homogenous file network with simple technology for data transfers (e.g. FTP; avoid web services), and mode- and container-agnostic interfaces.
Integration should include customers’ orders and deliveries, shipment generation for PGI (Post Good Issue) and PGR (Post Goods Receipt), freight pricing and payment, and fleet costs and payment.
Finally, tie it all together with a nice graphic dashboard.
TCMS draws on BI trends in associating business logistics information to present it in a way that’s more user-friendly than rows of raw data, with plenty of visuals and interactive tools that make spotting trends and gaps, and collaborating with trading partners, more intuitive and effective.
Bourque suggests cloud-based databases for smoother consumption and performance internationally.
“There are a lot of new products that are out on the market that make it fairly easy and direct to visualize data sets,” Bourque said. “For us, it’s much more effective to look at a dashboard in a visual than to crawl through reams of reports.
“You can spot the trends and the gaps in data very easily, and the dashboard is very collaborative in nature.”
For more information, visit www.tcms-global.com.