American Journal of Transportation Interviews Octopi by Navis

November 25, 2019

The American Journal of Transportation's Robert Wallack sat down with Luc Castera, Founder and Director of Octopi by Navis, to learn more about the Octopi platform and the recently announced expansion of general cargo functionality. Together, they discuss how Octopi has found ways to automate a huge portion of terminal operations and ease some of the bottlenecks and inefficiencies that would otherwise occur.

An abridged and lightly edited version of their discussion is below. If you're interested in learning more about general cargo, watch our recent webinar Understanding General Cargo: Challenges and Opportunities and be sure to check out the full AJOT article.

1.) In general, containerization is most of shipping. What are the problems facing  terminals for breakbulk, general and mixed cargo? How will Octopi resolve these issues? Will automation and features in Octopi improve the use of breakbulk, general, mixed and project cargoes? Will these new improvements take business away from containerization? 

One of the major challenges facing general cargo terminals is that technology  providers have ignored them for many years. With no commercial software available to manage their operations, they are left with using pen and paper, excel spreadsheets, or limited software solutions built in-house. This has deep implications. It means they track their inventory loosely and management does not have good visibility into what’s happening with the cargo at the port. This, of course, can cause cargo loss and operational slowdowns. All of this has a direct impact on the operating cost of the terminal. 

Octopi allows even the smaller general cargo terminals to manage their cargo inventory in real time. When a terminal uses Octopi, their inventory is maintained very tightly, their vessel discharge and loading operations can be monitored in real time, dock receipts are done with tablets as cargo arrives at the terminal, and a manager can sit at his desk and have full visibility in real time of everything that is happening at the port. 

While it would be a stretch to say that these improvements could slow down containerization or take away business from container ports, we can say with certainty that it can make general cargo terminals more efficient and cost-effective so that they can better compete in the marketplace.

2.) Productivity is important to terminals. How is Octopi improving terminal productivity?

There are two main ways in which Octopi improves the productivity of terminals. The first one is that it significantly reduces the amount of back office data entry work that is done at the terminal. Information is entered once on the system in real time using user friendly interfaces that reduces the amount of time and clicks one has to do to operate the terminal. Some of our customers have had processes that would take them a whole day converted to a 15 minute process in Octopi. That’s a significant productivity improvement! 

The second way that we improve productivity is by helping our customers build a culture of key performance indicators. When you take employees that have never had a gauge for their performance and give them a business intelligence dashboard where their performance is easily measured and tracked, you basically apply gamification to terminal operation processes. People start to compete with themselves, the team gets motivated to beat their numbers, and inefficiencies are quickly exposed. The culture of accountability results in a huge improvement to productivity. We track many different metrics but our favorite are crane moves per hour, truck turnaround time, cargo dwell times, and cargo volume throughput. When the customer's team becomes more efficient, they can handle more cargo. Improving efficiency is one of the easiest ways for any business to improve productivity and Octopi helps terminals make that happen.

3.) Describe a typical breakbulk shipment at one of the Octopi TOS sites. Which functionality is most important? How do the new Octopi features and updates improve general cargo movements in terminals?

When one of our customers receive breakbulk cargo, they first upload the manifest into Octopi. Before the ship arrives they prepare for the operation. Octopi allows them to record all types of voyage events such as the time the port pilot boarded, whether they provide services like fuel or trash removal to the vessel, etc... Once the vessel has berthed, they start recording every crane move as they happen. So even if you are discharging 500 pallets, you can record crane move by crane move, what you discharged from the vessel as these 500 pallets will require many crane moves. Octopi handles keep that cargo together and give you visibility into what is happening at any point in time.

For example, out of the 500, you could have completed 50 crane moves (each with 2 pallets, for example) and started delivering some of the cargo already to your customers: so Octopi would show you that you have 400 pallets on board the vessel, 80 pallets at the terminal and 20 already delivers to the customer. If you happen to receive more than the 500 pallets that were on the manifest, you can record the additional pallets as overlanded cargo. 

Many other software we see would make you just record that all 500 pallets have been discharged in one go, without this level of details or real-time tracking. We believe our real time approach gives you a lot more transparency about your operations and that the extra data allows you to better analyze your operations to figure out how to improve it. 

Of course, it’s a lot more difficult from a software development perspective to write the sophisticated features that we have built into Octopi for general cargo. That’s why many software vendors prefer an easier approach that are limiting and not as user friendly. At Octopi, we are passionate about doing the hard work and solving the tough challenges to make our customers life easier. It means we have to hire incredibly talented, experienced software engineers and designers to tackle these challenges.

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