“Supply chains compete, not products, commodities or companies. All nodes and links in a supply chain should be engaged and integrated to be able to provide seamless and transparent logistics services from origin to destination,” said Gerard de Villiers recently at the Australian Rail Association’s (ARA) Rail Freight Conference in Sydney, Australia.
Gerard, a logistics specialist at Arup, believes South Africa can draw on its past freight and rail planning limitations to research and commission more practical logistics solutions for the country, and the region, for the future.
“A key element of any successful implementation of intermodal terminals is a comprehensive and accurate location analysis. The need for practical terminal placement to reduce freight congestion around key transportation hubs is imperative.”
He adds, “These new intermodal terminals can in turn become distribution and logistics hubs in their own right with trickle-down benefits to associated industries and increased employment opportunities.”
Various Southern African countries are landlocked, and have a dire need for efficient logistics connectivity for imports and exports between coastal ports and their capital cities. Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo are examples.
Several studies conducted on freight transport corridors look at how the implementation of intermodal terminals can ensure a more effective flow in the logistics chain. Supply chain planning is normally carried out on four levels: strategic, structural, functional and operational activities, while the design of inland terminals and logistics hubs is usually undertaken on a structural level. Much more input is required, for example, from logistics functions such as transport, warehousing, and materials handling on a functional level.
Gerard comments, “There are certainly parallels between the South African and Australian scenarios. The sheer length of transportation corridors/nodes requires careful analysis and attention. Location analysis will look at factors such as existing and future anticipated demand, the location of existing and future customers and transport costs (inbound from origin and outbound to destination).”
“It is critical in supply chain management for logistics to be coordinated with a practically routed intermodal terminal needs analysis. Freight and rail activity at existing ports already place an enormous amount of pressure on city feeder roads established long before the current increased container and freight loadings.
“In South Africa, I believe we are on the right path. We have an in-depth experience to share with those confronted with similar challenges,” he concludes.