Three things that can take a mine’s logistics chain from good to great
With the South African economy heavily reliant on commodities and an energy crisis in Europe, thousands of mineral-laden trucks make daily runs to the country’s ports. Commodity traders need to know where their ore is, fleet managers need to know where their heavy duty vehicles (HDVs) are and how they’re performing, and subcontractors need to show their progress - all while border conditions change, ports get log-jammed and crime syndicates target loads.
Traditional telematics solutions may track these vehicles, but often don’t give an overarching view. Have subcontractors deviated from a route into a known hijacking hotspot or coal-swap operation? Has the rail connection come today? How many trucks are on the road between the mine and the stockpile at the port? Logistics optimisation software can fill this gap, but is often complicated or clunky to use.
Here are three things to look for in a fleet management optimisation system.
1. Cybersecurity and Control
Logistics optimisation software should be an objective provider of data - some of which will be sensitive. As such, it needs to treat every part of the logistics chain’s information with great care. Optimisation systems should float above any tracking devices, and be based on strong relationships with telematics companies. This allows the optimisation software to give everyone in the chain the information they need about a specific shipment, without infringing on their internal data security.
Also, gone are the days when it was acceptable to demand subcontractors share all their telematics login details to transport ore from a mine to a port. While fleet managers and commodity traders have to see the fleet in action, demanding a subcontractor’s login details for their tracking devices is not the safest or most elegant solution. Neither is insisting that they use only your company-approved tracking system.
A fleet optimisation system should give users increased control over their assets - vehicles, loads, drivers, ships - and let them choose who sees what information. This protects both customer and truck owner from inadvertently sharing proprietary information.
2. Cargo visibility and security
Commodity traders’ commissioned fleets are at high risk of hijacking, as the large quantities of ore making their way to the ports are actively targeted by thieves. Granted, some commodity traders plan for load losses - taking an ‘it is what it is’ mindset - but it affects their profitability.
Fleet optimisation systems should deliver greater visibility of vehicles carrying cargo and provide proactive safety measures, such as geo-fencing. This lets fleet managers specify routes that avoid known hijacking hot spots, irrespective of whether the cargo vehicles belong to the trucking company or its subcontractors.
3. Planning for an EV future
Logistics optimisation software can help companies make the transition to electric vehicles. This is a major risk-mitigating and cost-reduction strategy in a country that already relies on imported petroleum products to meet local demand.
Ongoing load-shedding has already forced many mines to invest in solar power. With SARS offering tax incentives for installing solar power systems, these mines have the potential to expand their solar capabilities to run their fleets in the next five to 10 years.
With two of the four South African crude oil refineries reaching the end of their lives and no real business case or appetite for multinationals to build new ones, it’s not inconceivable that we will run out of locally produced diesel in the next 10 to 20 years.
By then, there will be a glut of alternative power in South Africa, and mines may be producing more kilowatts than they can use or sell. While electric HDV models are not yet standard, the advances in these technologies are impressive. Batteries are being developed with the ability and durability to power more energy-hungry vehicles, and recharging times are decreasing - a must for optimal productivity. The electric motors that drive HDVs are also improving to offer greater efficiency and reduced power consumption.
It may seem like a fever dream as the world gets hotter, but it’s not as far-fetched as you imagine.