Den Hartogh Innovates Logistics with SQL Anywhere
Den Hartogh Logistics consists of five business units: Liquid Logistics, Tank Cleaning, Storage Terminals, Logistics Management, and Gas Logistics. Den Hartogh operates from 17 sites with over 2000 tank containers and 450 tanker trucks; it has taken a lead on the competition thanks to its innovative deployment of information, communication and transport technology.
To build out its vision that intelligent people with intelligent systems can add more value to customers, Den Hartogh Logistics optimizes its internal information systems on a regular basis. For over ten years the company has been working with the logistical applications of InforIT, which run on a SQL Anywhere database from Sybase iAnywhere.
Creative Logistics Solutions
Den Hartogh Logistics continuously works to improve its logistics services to customers by means of innovations and creative solutions. The company has been using advanced information systems, which is now covered by the term business intelligence, since the early 1990s. Den Hartogh Logistics was established in 1920, and has focused successfully on bulk transport for the chemical industry for decades. Initially, its operations were concentrated in the rapidly growing Netherlands, but in recent decades the company has been expanding to an increasing number of European countries. Mark Warner, deputy director of Den Hartogh Logistics, explains, "Since logistics service providers can distinguish themselves from the competition by means of information and communication, we continuously invest in improving the automation of our core operations where possible. For instance, we asked InforIT to develop an advanced solution for logistics management and business intelligence as early as the 1990s. Today, this solution is called Transfusion; it is based on a SQL Anywhere database from Sybase iAnywhere. At the time, there were no standard applications that complied with the high requirements we set for scalability, planning complexity, and the simplest possible user interface. On top of that, we operate from a large number of locations. To have access to the most up-to-date information possible, our drivers have had a mobile office in their trucks since 1991, enabling them to communicate with our headquarters via a satellite connection. As a result, we are now able to process customer orders without using any paper at all and communicate electronically with all stakeholders."
Innovative Information Processing
Den Hartogh uses an Advanced Planning & Scheduling System (APS) that calculates the planning and freight routes as optimally as possible on the basis of every available logistical parameter and advanced algorithms. The APS has resulted in much higher scalability of Den Hartogh's services than would be possible if the company used manual planning. "In our strongly competitive market, every sub-optimization costs money – which can mean a lost order and reduces our profit," says Warner. "Since computers are able to plan with many more parameters and larger geographic areas, APS enables us to optimize our total logistics services. This is because the system calculates within all of Europe, taking account of the constraints at loading and unloading addresses, the dimensions of products and load-bearing units, ship and railway departure schedules, and road transport times. In order to analyze all available operational information quickly and from a range of perspectives, we also use a business intelligence application by Business Objects. This allows our managers to monitor, and if necessary intervene in, the productivity of our company's transport units. Our Sybase iAnywhere system is integrated with the APS and the Business Objects application, as well as with a GIS system and the satellite communication facilities between the office and the mobile computers in our fleet vehicles. Last but not least, we are able to grant customers easy access to their own dataset via a remote Business Objects interface," adds Warner.
The greatest advantages that Den Hartogh Logistics has realized with the InforIT applications and the underlying Sybase iAnywhere database are the completely paperless information processing and electronic communication with customers. It has also increased the scalability of the logistics services significantly, not least in terms of international expansion opportunities. "By continuously leveraging new technical possibilities and continuing to innovate, we manage to grow 20 to 25% annually," explains Warner. ‘We also realize an above-average profit margin even in our strongly competitive market. Because we have become totally dependent on information and communication technology, our complete server farm was realized at a data centre in Amsterdam towards the end of 2006. The centre provides all physical security, power supplies and fire detection facilities that are required to guarantee optimal availability. As a result, our servers are no longer vulnerable to burglary, vandalism, fire or water damage, lightning strikes and power interruptions. Since all of the applications are remotely accessible via Citrix and Internet Explorer, we are now able to grant mobile employees, telecommuters and customers easy access to all of the information they need. And to continue benefiting from our investments in the future, we also participate in innovation projects focusing on information and technology and workgroups in the chemical industry at the European level," concludes Warner.