In March 2015, Transnet Port Terminals’ Saldanha Iron Ore Terminal (SIOT) in South Africa deployed a sophisticated software solution by TBA Group – CommTrac, to optimize its bulk operations and terminal management. This bulk and general cargo dedicated Terminal Operating System (TOS) is an integrated application linking the outside world and physical infrastructure and allows the SIOT’s operators to support and control all administrative and operational processes. Since the deployment of the CommTrac application, the system has been proven to be stable and reliable in the eight years that it has been running at Saldanha without any downtimes and has increased this bulk terminal’s performance levels significantly.
SIOT is the largest iron ore export facility in Africa and is situated 140km northwest of Cape Town. In 2012, as part of Transnet Port Terminals (TPT)’ Market Demand Strategy to drive economic growth in South Africa, SIOT embarked on a journey to use the latest technology to improve the operational performance of TPT’s terminals. As South Africa’s only dedicated iron ore terminal, the bulk terminal can handle up to 60 million tonnes of iron ore and accounts for roughly 96% of all iron ore exports from South Africa. TBA’s CommTrac terminal management system was selected to replace their obsolete in-house system with a state-of-the-art software application.
Fernando Goncalves, the IT manager at SIOT during this project, stated: “We tried to take our former (in-house developed) TOS to the next level by linking and/or integrating with other systems both on the financial and automation side. A business decision by Transnet, was to look at a new terminal operating system and go out to the market with an open tender. CommTrac was then selected to become the ‘new’ TOS for the Iron Ore Bulk Terminal of Saldanha. I was involved right from the start with implementation, development, customization, processes, reporting, etc. to the end product that it is today. We did venture into some unknown territory but with the assistance of both Delton and Daubert and the development team from TBA, we got to where we are today and CommTrac has served us well.”
Alvin Gulzar, Acting TPT ICT Executive Manager stated: “In 2014, TPT had developed a viable General Cargo Operating System (GCOS) in-house which while efficient for breakbulk, automotive, container and skip-handled bulk operations — it was unable to cater for the bulk operation handled by SCADA systems integration. It was important for us to find a technology solution that was, adaptable, created visibility and increased the performance of our bulk terminals nationally. In an open tender to market, we were able to secure CommTrac because they offered a solution that best fit our operation. Their customization offered measurable value, along with dedicating a South African-based support person.”
By installing an integrated application that is linked to the outside world and physical infrastructure, this allows the SIOT’s terminal operators to support and control all administrative and operational processes.
CommTrac forms a real-time and near real-time operating system in the layer between high level systems such as ERP and weighing and conveying equipment at a terminal. The software collates and processes information from other systems and automates manual processes where feasible, whilst improving the user experience in being able to perform their function more efficiently.
It provides real time accurate reporting, inventory tonnage position, real time overview of loading and discharge progress and real time overview of delays and variances among many other important functions and insights.
Goncalves said: “Information became available and reliable at a touch of a button, so there was enough data for decision-making and data analysis including real-time scale reading which are critical to our vessel loading operations.”
On the question asked what the major changes between the former system and CommTrac are, he mentioned: “Using CommTrac made an impact and one of the successes for Saldanha Iron Ore Terminal is, that users have access to information all the time. It’s accessed in such a way that users cannot change or modify data and therefore, the integrity of data is maintained. Users have the ability to view the data on screen at any given time, as PDF or to download to Excel, providing management information that does assist in operational decision making and improve efficiencies.”
He further added: “In the six to seven years (using CommTrac), I don’t think we’ve had any downtime from CommTrac. So yes, it’s been very reliable.”
Goncalves said: “We’ve gone beyond the off-the-shelf CommTrac that we’ve got. Our SAP link, SCADA tag reading, anti-contamination rules, stockpile management, permit system, vessel graphical representation in near-real time, automated scheduled reports, amongst others has contributed to its success.” …. “We did request a lot and TBA was accommodating to reach this point (of success). We intend to do more and look forward to the next version of CommTrac”
David Trueman, Managing Director TBA Doncaster, says: “TBA and TPT have worked well together over the years and that collaborative approach delivers real value to the users. We are proud of the levels of optimization afforded through the use of CommTrac and look forward to many more years working together with ever more powerful iterations of the product.”
TBA Group is a respected international consultancy and software company, that uses in-house simulation and emulation software, to provide integrated and sophisticated solutions to simplify the operations of ports, terminals, and warehouses.
CommTrac is the software for bulk terminal operations, which enables the terminal operator to plan, track and manage in real-time all agribulk, breakbulk, mineral, marine and general cargo, manned/automated assets, and people right across the terminal or terminal network. It provides the tools, control, and management information the operator needs to maximise the operations, profitability, compliance, and growth potential whilst reducing risks.