DriverCall gets Freight Moving Faster
Up to 700 lorries a day drive in and out of Thamesport, on the Isle of Grain, Kent, one of the many international ports operated by Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), the world's leading port investor, developer and operator. Each empty vehicle entering the facility has a specific load to collect from the thousands of containers lining the dockside. Now a new pager-based system, developed in-house and in conjunction with Call-Systems Technology (CST), is speeding up the processing of the vehicles.
"In the past, the lorry drivers were informed when their loads were ready to collect by a series of light display boards," says Ashley Sheppard, CST's Group Commercial Director. "When the lorry arrived at the port entrance, the driver would be given the necessary paperwork and would then have to sit and wait until his vehicle's registration number was displayed on the light board. He could then proceed to the relevant point to collect his load."
But the system had problems. Firstly it meant the driver had to stay either in his lorry or at a point where he could see the boards. And in the winter months, visibility didn't always allow him to see the boards clearly, especially if there was a sea mist.
The port needed to find a solution that was more efficient and less time consuming. It turned to its automation manager, a control systems engineer.
"I looked at various paging systems and thought I would be able to adapt one to our requirements by fitting a chip inside."
And that's exactly what he did. Having first decided that the CST DriverCall pager was appropriate for the job, he worked his magic on it and produced a system that now identifies the driver and his vehicle and gives the driver control of the loading process.
"It's a very clever system,” says Ashley Sheppard, "bringing real benefits in terms of time and efficiency."
On arrival at the gatehouse the driver is handed a pager that is programmed for his vehicle. When his load is ready for collection, the pager is activated and signals the driver, by vibration and audio signal. He then drives to the entrance barrier and places the pager against a reader. This scans it for verification and then allows the driver to enter the dockside area. When he parks in his designated loading bay the driver touches the pager against another reader at the loading bay. The crane identifies the vehicle and its location and automatically goes to where the appropriate container is, picks it up and then delivers it back to the vehicle.
On leaving, the driver drops the pager into a chute at the gatehouse and once the system has read the information in it and is satisfied that all the criteria is correct, the gate opens to allow him to leave.
"The system has been developed by Thamesport and is bespoke to them, " says Ashley. "It demonstrates the versatility of CST pagers. Whilst many companies rush to adopt expensive cellular solutions, pagers still represent the most versatile and economic form of on-site communications"
CST is one of the UK's leading suppliers of on-site communications systems. The company's award-winning portfolio ranges from pager systems like the one at Thamesport, through two-way radios and DECT phones to sophisticated software packages that run not only the site's communications but also take over many facilities management tasks.