Optimal vessel scheduling to lower costs, prevent bottlenecks and de-risk the aluminium supply chain
The Customer

The customer produces multiple grades of aluminium billet, slab, and T-bar for domestic and global markets from their manufacturing facilities in Australia and New Zealand.

The Challenge

Each day, the customer manually plans and coordinates a vast transportation network to move different product grades from multiple mines to a range of domestic and international customers. Synchronising the schedule for this network of transportation providers (trucking, rail, and vessels) was highly complex due to constraints related to contractual obligations, capacity availability and varying rail and vessel schedules.

The complexity of coordinating schedules across multiple forms of transportation often results in costly delays. These delays stem from the following:

  • Scheduling Conflicts: missing a vessel at port due to a trucking delay can result in product waiting weeks for the next available vessel, resulting in storage fees.
  • Capacity Constraints: if production and logistics are poorly coordinated, a plant’s stockyard runs out of capacity, which results in production being halted.
  • Varying rates: each vessel and trucking operator has variable rates and contractual requirements, making it challenging to develop the best low-cost transport plan.
  • Contractual Obligations: the varying contractual requirements for each transportation provider must be considered when scheduling product.

Before Polymathian, the customer coordinated their dynamic system using multiple spreadsheets, which resulted in the disjointed management of vessel scheduling and production teams at different plants. Planning was a labour-intensive, decentralised process, as trucking operators and vessel carriers had to be contacted on-site individually. Furthermore, scheduling was only able to forecast two weeks in advance.

The Solution

BOLT, Polymathian’s supply chain optimisation software, was deployed to plan material flow through scheduling vehicles to transport the product. Though BOLT typically focuses on the flow of materials, the team at Polymathian demonstrated its breadth of modelling capabilities extended into the vehicle availability and scheduling space. The production and logistics scheduling complexity were captured from various sources, including cleansed and revised data from multiple spreadsheets, vessel schedules, pricing structures, provider capacities, rough production schedules, and customer contracts.

By the end of the project, the client was producing optimal schedules eight weeks into the future at the click of a button. Planning became centralised, meaning plants could share their capacity to fulfil orders, and operators and carriers no longer needed to be contacted individually. BOLT reduced manual entry by allowing outputs to be loaded directly into their existing system. The client can now operate an autonomous, closed system to create optimal plans. Capital is saved through lowered transport costs and the mitigation of production loss issues.

The Benefits

Competetive pricingLonger planning horizons provide more opportunities to find and negotiate with carriers to secure the lowest prices

Constraint-based planning BOLT considers all the operational constraints when producing optimal plans

Maximised capacity Centrally managed planning allows for a holistic use of storage capacity across the entire supply chain

Decision Support

BOLT helped to answer business critical questions such as:

  • Which truck providers should be engaged for specific deliveries?
  • When should the product reach the port, and how much should be loaded onto each vessel?
  • Which vessels should be used to deliver the product to customers overseas?
  • What production timing and quantities will match demand and stockpiling requirements?
  • When one facility is struggling to fulfil an order, is there another plant with similar stock or available capacity?

Find out how we can optimise your supply chain with innovative industrial mathematic solutions.