Logistics service provider Estron is one of the largest transporters of trailers to the United Kingdom. Through Star Flow Transport Planning from Yellowstar, the company is now able to optimally organise all daily trailer transports on a dynamic planning board and automatically book with the ferry company, whilst also being ready for Brexit obligations in the near future.

Planning board provides 24/7 overview and insight
Flexibly plan all trailers daily
Easily consolidate and shift loads
Automatic booking at ferry company, including feedback on trailer status and expected Brexit obligations
Lots of flexibility for planners, reduced workload
Do more with the same number of people
Works supplementary to existing business system
Future: addition of charter app and customer portal

As an all-round logistics service provider, Estron is able to unburden clients from A to Z. The family business has already been operational for more than 50 years, employs approximately 130 people and focuses on four key activities: road transport, storage, air freight and sea freight. Since 2019, it has been operating from a new location at Rotterdam's Europoort port area which among other things features 50,000 m2 of storage space. The transport of trailers to and from the United Kingdom, both for full load and groupage, is one of the specialties. Each day, Estron has some 120 chartered drivers on the roads: 60 on the continent and 60 in the United Kingdom. They deliver the trailers to the ferry terminals, dismount them and collect waiting trailers for delivery to the customer(s). The actual ferry transport is almost always unaccompanied. Every week, approximately 275 trailers go to the United Kingdom and also come back again.

Growing with the help of automation

Estron has the ambition to achieve further growth and considers automation an important tool for this. A few years ago, it implemented an overarching IT system via Microsoft Dynamics. In practice, this proved insufficient for the day-to-day planning of the trailer transport. Patrick Noordzij, who focuses on automation at Estron, explains why Star Flow Transport Planning from Yellowstar has been implemented in addition to this. “We were looking for a dynamic planning tool that is easily surveyable, that provides real-time insight into where empty trailers become available and next makes it easy to plan loads and make changes if necessary. The short transport that we carry out is subject to a lot of changes. Of the 45 trailers that become empty somewhere in the Netherlands, Germany or Belgium every day, twenty percent on average involves last-minute adjustments. At the end of the day, the challenge is to consistently make sure that everything is loaded as efficiently as possible. That requires a system that always allows you to quickly switch.”

On top of the existing IT system

At Estron, Star Flow Transport Planning works as a planning tool on top of Microsoft Dynamics for both transport on the continent and in the United Kingdom. The orders automatically enter Star Flow Transport Planning from Microsoft Dynamics. Following the planning and execution of the transport, all data about the route travelled, costs, etc. is submitted back to Microsoft Dynamics. From here, Estron performs the financial settlements and analyses.

Insight through dynamic planning board

With the dynamic planning board of Star Flow Transport Planning, the planners of Estron have real-time insight at all times. Noordzij: “As soon as a trailer has been emptied, the challenge is always to make the best choices, with as few empty kilometres as possible between unloading and loading.” The consolidation of groupage cargo in particular has its own dynamics. “We can easily consolidate consignments on the planning board and shift them again as well. Our planners have a lot of flexibility to act as they see fit in that respect. At a glance, they can see on the screen how a change will impact the load factor of a trailer and the kilometres that are to be covered. Next, a driver can be directly assigned to each transport via the planning board and the transport order can be issued to them via email.”

Doing more with the same number of people

“We are highly content about what Star Flow Transport Planning offers us,” says Noordzij. “We are really starting to notice the benefits. We are able to do more with the same number of people. The workload has been reduced as well. Planning is not a nine to five job, but we now see that we are going to save time. We can use this to achieve the growth that we are aspiring to.”

Integration with ferry operator

Star Flow Transport Planning also offers Estron a direct link-up with ferry company Stena Line. Noordzij: “This is a good example of ongoing automation. With the click of a mouse, we automatically make the booking from the planning board, including the trailer number and our own reference. We receive a reference back from Stena Line in the same way. Previously, one employee within our company was working full-time to enter all that data – an employee that has now been freed up for other activities within Estron. Furthermore, we now also see the status of the trailers from Stena Line on our planning board. For example, is a trailer already available for collection or is it still on board? We no longer need to manually retrieve such information from the Stena system. This substantially unburdens the planning and allows us to even better manage our drivers.”

Ready for Brexit

Another feature in the integration with Stena Line is the automatic pre-notification of customs documents via Portbase. This new obligation will come into effect as of the 1st of January 2021 due to Brexit. In the immediate future, the planning board will show whether the pre-notification has been submitted and approved. Noordzij: “Because of this integration in Star Flow Transport Planning, we do not need to separately deploy people to meet this new requirement. At the same time, we do want to exercise as much control as possible over these notifications and not leave them up to customers. We want to be sure that a driver can immediately unmount and mount at the ferry terminal. If the pre-notification is not made or is incorrect, the driver will come to a standstill. Star Flow Transport Planning allows us to retain this control and we are able to offer the customer an improved service provision without the need to deploy extra people.

Next expansions

In this way, Star Flow Transport Planning is continuously under development for Estron. The next ambitions expressed by Noordzij are the addition of a customer portal and a charter app. “Through the customer portal, we for example want to offer customers the option of directly tracking their transports. Just like the DHLs of this world are doing. The charter app will be used for all communication with drivers about transport orders, times, reporting empty, etc. The shorter those lines of communication, the clearer they are.”