***This article originally appeared in the March/April 2018 edition of Maritime Logistics Professional. You can view the original here.
Transforming the Liquid Storage Terminal Through a More Holistic View of Multi-Modal Operations
Over the past few years, web-based collaborative process-optimization tools have played a major role in helping liquid storage terminals absorb massive growth in crude oil transportation traffic from onshore shale finds. Initially deployed at the dock, these tools enabled users to reduce dock idle times an average of 35 percent within the first few months of their adoption and to complete approximately 15 percent more vessel calls within the first year.
The most recent tools have evolved to provide planning, reporting, forecasting, analytics, and alerting capabilities across all terminal logistics operations- setting the stage for new ways to manage multi-modal product movements.
Terminal optimization tools are just one of many technological advances in the oil and gas industry that fall under the umbrella of "Industry 4.0" solutions. Aimed at delivering efficiency gains across numerous manufacturing, transportation, and other sectors, Industry 4.0 solutions aggregate sensor, planning and forecasting data into a single view. They also employ analytics and real-time alerting capabilities to streamline and optimize processes and decision making. At the terminal, Industry 4.0 tools that have been proven at the dock are now helping to reorganize and enhance all supply chain logistics.
From the Dock to Tanks, Trucks, Rails, and Pipelines
Today's terminal optimization tools build on a foundation of steady advancements in consistent and automated asset-utilization reporting. When first introduced more than a decade ago, these tools were first used at the dock to improve visibility into vessel operations and efficiency. They leveraged real-time and historical Automatic Identification System (AIS) data about vessel movements to provide a clearer picture of the liquid-cargo transportation process. so that operators could cut costs and improve safety and security.
They also introduced greater transparency and collaboration into the process of managing vessel traffic and protecting assets. This was especially true in the area of demurrage - before the advent of these tools, tug and tanker operators often differed with terminal owners regarding the root causes of delays that contribute to demurrage costs, and who was responsible for the penalties. Now, these tools give all parties the ability to discuss and dispute these issues - and to improve collaboration for identifying and correcting the root causes of delays - by using the same information about real-time and historical vessel movements.
More recently, terminal optimization tools have been extended to encompass all terminal product movements from the dock to tanks, trucks, rail, and pipelines. This creates new and better ways to improve real-time operational planning and reporting across all transportation modes - from pipeline transfer scheduling, tasking, and line management functions to historical reporting for performance tracking, optimization, and trending analysis. These tools also deliver new forecasting capabilities across all transportation modes and are transforming terminal operations by serving as the most consistently accurate source of information - all available from a single shared source.
These tools' ability to improve asset reporting and automate logging events is revolutionizing terminals through two major innovations. First, because they provide significantly more comprehensive logistics information, they improve asset-utilization decisions by preempting planning oversights and associated scheduling conflicts. Users have complete real-time visibility across many steps of multiple processes that often overlap and affect each other.
The tools combine operational and scheduling data into one place. There might be a situation, for instance, when two products must go through the same pump - with these tools, users can see this and schedule accordingly. Another product might need special handling or take longer to transport than the other. This and other challenges are solved using terminal optimization tools that enable collaborative tank-level forecasting and facilitate proactive alerting to prevent over and under-fill situations and other scheduling conflicts.
These innovative tools also bring real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) and trending analyses into daily operations so operators can plan more effectively for investments in new tanks, assets, and other infrastructure. KPIs have traditionally been used to make capital expenditure decisions related to maritime dock expansion projects. They have enabled operators to demonstrate that existing dock capacities were being fully utilized. Now, the same approach initiated at the dock is being extended across the terminal. Organizations can generate reports on a variety of terminal-wide task metrics and track measurable KPIs ranging from how long it takes to complete one task and launch another. to whether they are complying with emissions regulations.
Terminal optimization solutions are expected to support a growing variety of operational and product scheduling data inputs so users can make scheduling decisions based not only on historical data but also on predictive analytics. An example is predicting estimated times of arrival (ETAs). This capability will combine machine learning with historical data and real-time estimated time of departure (ETD) information to significantly improve dock scheduling and logistics.
Another opportunity to further advance the liquid storage terminal industry is by using terminal optimization tools to optimize port calls in support of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) virtual tender initiative, which is aimed at reducing fuel costs and enhancing berth-on-arrival capabilities. Many companies are also exploring how the tools can be used to optimize Inventory in Motion processes, so they can extend feedstock inventory to ships at sea and improve vessel routing to optimize production facility efficiency.
Terminal optimization tools are taking their place among Industry 4.0 solutions in the oil and gas sector, revolutionizing liquid storage terminals as they become the logistics hub for all product movements. They are changing how terminals operate across all transportation modes by automating significantly more of the supply chain management process, and by leveraging real-time KPIs and trending analytics to improve and standardize productivity best practices and bench-marking while driving better decisions that increase efficiencies.