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 Case Study: Coal Shipping Management System
Case Study: Coal Shipping Management System

In a Nutshell: Software that allows a coal mine to manage coal from when it leaves the coal mine to when it leaves the port shipping facility. This includes coal analysis, coal transport management, and port shipping management.

Business Problem:

Coal Analysis, Transport, and Port Shipping handled by third parties

In many cases coal analysis, coal transport, and port shipping management are not conducted by the coal mining company, but by third parties.
These third parties do not have access to the coal mine’s internal IT infrastructure. They do, however, play a critical role in delivering the coal to the end customer.
These third parties tend to have their own IT infrastructure and procedures that are incompatible with the coal mine’s IT infrastructure and procedures.
Communication and quality management between these third parties and the coal mine tend to be ad hoc; for example, via email or a spreadsheet. This information is then re-input into the coal mine’s internal systems.

Shipping Forecasting is time consuming and inefficient
The coal mine has to forecast how much coal will be at the port, on a future date, to fulfil orders due to be shipped on that date. The Forecasting Manager also has to estimate the quality of the coal at the port on that date based on expected deliveries.

Often the information from the port, transport company, and analysis lab:
is not received in a timely manner. This makes shipping forecasting difficult.
includes data errors. The information from the third parties is often not validated. As the volume of information received is enormous, the Forecast Manager has to manually look for errors in the data received.
is received in multiple formats. All this information has to be compiled for forecasting to be possible.

Shipping forecasts need to be constantly updated as new information becomes available and data errors are corrected. The information flow, as outlined above, makes this extremely difficult and time consuming.

Coal Shipping Management System

Application Components

Desktop client
IMAP email service

Software Required
Server: MS SQL 2003, Windows 2000/2003/2005
Client: XP SP2

Coal Shipping Management System: Overview

Imap Email Service: Email Management

Installed on the database server.
Manages emails as they are sent to and from the system.
Imports emails and their attachments into the database.
Validates all attachments and automatically sends an email to the sender if the attachment fails validation.
Keeps a log of all failed email and attachment imports.
As emails arrive the user is notified. The user is then required to review the new data (whether from the lab, the transporter, or the port), and accept of reject the import into the database. If the user rejects the import, he has the option to send an email to the sender explaining why the information was rejected.

Port Coal Stockpiles
Each stockpile is represented by a tab in the client
The stockpile tab shows the current quantity and quality (elements) of coal on a specific stockpile. It shows the compiled information from the port, the rail transporter, and the analysis lab.
It also shows all historic transactions. These transactions include:
Train information including quality of coal broken down into its constituent elements.
Ship information including:
 Which trains the shipment came from. These are colour coded.
 When the port started and finished loading the ship
Adjustments: If coal on the ground differs from the system, the Shipping Manager can make the necessary adjustment in the system.

Stockpiles and elements can be added, modified, and deleted as required.
A user can manually adjust any transaction and copy or move a transaction to another stockpile.

Coal Blend Forecasts
At the bottom of the stockpile there is the stockpile blend control.
The Shipping Manager can drag and drop available trains on to the stockpile blend control to create blend forecasts. The forecast blends represent future order / shipment fulfilment.

The information in the stockpile blend control then appears on the Blend Calculator tab / window
The Blend Calculator shows the coal on all stockpiles that make up a specific blend forecast.
This control calculates the underlying quality of that blend, allowing the Shipping Manager to adjust the blend where necessary until it is in line with the order request.
The Blend Calculator also shows Conversions and Specifications associated with a blend; for example, total moisture, inherent moisture, ash, and volatile matter. These can be modified as required.

Once the Shipping Manager has completed a blend:
He can save the blend. It is then saved to the Forecast tab for future reference.
He can also colour code the blend on the stockpile, so that the SM can see which trains have been set aside for future orders.
He can also indicate the name of the ship that will receive that blend.

Blend Forecast Management
The forecast shows all historical blends that the SM has created.
It gives information on which trains make up that blend, from which stockpiles, what ship is due to receive that blend and when.
The SM can select a blend and it will populate the blend calculator and the stockpile blend control as before. The SM can then make adjustments and resave the blend as required.
As new information is received by the system the blend forecasts are updated to reflect the more current information.

Element Quality Thresholds
In order to assist in managing lab analysis, the SM can assign thresholds to the analysis data. If the data received breaches these thresholds, the system notifies the SM, and he can take action to resolve the issue.

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