Hugely successful User Group Conference for TBA

4 min read
Apr 29, 2024 10:50:00 AM

In the fast-moving world of software development, it’s crucial to ensure regular and quality communication between developers and users. This is especially true in the world of logistics, where the everyday operations of ports, terminals and warehouses are intrinsically linked to the software in use.  

TBA has long been aware of just how important this continuous communication is. User Group Conferences were a regular fixture in the calendar until the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. As was the case for in-person events around the world, holding a UGC became impossible.  

In total, over 60 delegates attended the event, held at Mercedes Benz World in Surrey, UK, representing over 20 customers, including Associated British Ports (ABP), British Gypsum, Culina Group, Klaipeda Container Terminal, Peel Ports, PD Ports, Nestle and pladis. TBA also welcomed overseas guests from South African operator Bidvest, Cornelder in Mozambique, and Cargill Agricola in Brazil. 

TBA clients (left to right), Dhesigen Moodley and Denzel Govender of South African Bulk Terminals; Sandile Sishi of Bulk Connections; and TBA Doncaster’s Business Solution Manager, Glynn Thomas.
TBA clients (left to right), Dhesigen Moodley and Denzel Govender of South African Bulk Terminals; Sandile Sishi of Bulk Connections; and TBA Doncaster’s Business Solution Manager, Glynn Thomas.

One of TBA’s largest customers is ABP, who use TBA’s software in ten of their terminals around the UK. TBA invited ABP’s IT Solutions Port Systems CoE Lead, Rich Labib, to speak about ABP’s experiences of CommTrac, TBA’s bulk terminal operating system (TOS). His commitment to the platform was underlined by ABP’s aim to deploy CommTrac to even more of their ports, pointing to the four implementations that were already planned. “CommTrac will also be extended within existing ports so that there is a wider coverage of operations supported,” said Labib. “Whilst we work to extend our footprint of CommTrac we will also be looking to make changes to simplify processes and increase the value we get from technology.”

Jamie Pearson, Terminal Manager at ABP’s Immingham Container Port, also gave a presentation, focusing on Autostore TOS and the collaborative relationship between his team and TBA. “The terminal has made big strides implementing new automation and increased efficiencies,” said Pearson. “This would not be possible without strong cooperation from TBA, taking an active role in the project teams and adopting a collaborative approach.”

Many of the developments in TBA’s Autostore TOS were showcased, including automation through OCR, emulation testing, and integration with gate operating systems. TBA also gave a sneak preview of their new user interface, applied to the new Operations Dashboard Module.

There was a further glimpse into the future of container TOS as TBA demonstrated their Container Handling System (CHS) for the first time. This state-of- the-art system is designed for semi-automated or fully-automated terminals. “It’s fantastic to finally be able to demonstrate some of the powerful functionality that CHS offers,” said Wim Verdonck, Head of TOS for TBA Leicester. “The system’s speed, simplicity and operational performance is unmatched in the industry, so we’re very excited to be bringing this product to market in the coming months.”

TBA colleagues (left to right), Ben Parsons, Adrian Thornley and Richard Arthur.

As part of the Konecranes group, TBA welcomed speakers from colleagues representing other Konecranes divisions. Gareth Roberts, Business Development Manager at Agilon UK, gave a presentation on Agilon’s warehouse automation system and how it can streamline processes and reduce internal logistics, resulting in enhanced productivity and cost savings. And Thomas Gylling, Marketing and Customer Experience Director with Konecranes Port Solutions, spoke about harnessing the power of data in material handling, looking at how artificial intelligence can be used to “lift productivity, uptime and throughput to the next level.” 

AI was also the focus for another guest speaker, Karno Tenovuo, CEO of Awake.AI, with whom TBA has recently collaborated to integrate their artificial intelligence powered vessel ETA service into CommTrac. The benefits of knowing a more precise arrival time for cargo vessels are obvious to anyone in the sector, both in terms of reducing vessel turnaround times and reducing emissions. Explained Tenovuo: “Awake.AI allows up to 80% more accurate predictions using machine learning models. This can lead to up to 27% cost savings for the terminal operator.”

TBA’s warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse automation services are used every day in over 70 warehouses, in sectors including automotive, beverages, confectionary and consumer goods. Case studies were presented focusing on two very different customers. 

Linn Products is a world leader in pioneering audio technologies and worked with TBA to replace their obsolete WCS, AGV and conveyors systems, all in parallel with live operation. “TBA’s team had an incredibly high level of knowledge,” said Linn’s Head of Facilities, Fraser Crown. “They had the understanding and customer service to deliver the ideal solution.”

TBA colleagues (left to right), Jo Shepherd, Steve Marshall, Richard Fairgrieve, Sanil Pancholi, Phil Emberson, Imran Giga.
TBA colleagues (left to right), Jo Shepherd, Steve Marshall, Richard Fairgrieve, Sanil Pancholi, Phil Emberson, Imran Giga.

Encirc’s operation in Elton is recognised as the largest and one of the most sophisticated automated warehouses in Europe, linking the production of more than four billion high-quality container glass manufacturing and advanced filling facilities with warehousing and logistics. This case study focused on their migration to Autostore WMS in 2020 and the challenges presented by the pandemic, obsolete equipment and an end-of-life database. Mark Williams, Encirc’s Head of Operations, said, “Autostore’s architecture and TBA’s detailed understanding of our end-to-end operations has allowed an innovative approach to project implementation.”

“The UGC has been a big success!” said Andrew McKaig, Managing Director of TBA Leicester. “It’s been great to see so many of our users in one place, getting to meet our talented and experienced team in person, plus networking and learning from each other. I have no doubt that our products and services will be better, easier to use and more relevant to our huge user base because of events like this.”

One of the final sessions of the day was focused on the future CommTrac roadmap. As Managing Director of TBA Doncaster, David Trueman, put it, “One of the main reasons for CommTrac’s success is that we have always listened to our users. From the very first release over 20 years ago, we’ve always known that the software could only be the success we wanted if it provided the functionality that our users genuinely needed and functioned in a way that made their operation more efficient.”

“I’m delighted with how the UGC has gone,” said Trueman. “The turnout has been amazing, with customers flying in from Brazil, Mozambique and South Africa. Video calls are great, but you can’t beat sitting face-to-face with our users in the same room, understanding their challenges and, crucially, how CommTrac can help them achieve their goals.”

1.	TBA’s Managing Directors, David Trueman and Andrew McKaig
TBA’s Managing Directors, David Trueman (left) and Andrew McKaig (right) welcome customers to the UGC.