Belgian Avantida takes empty shipping containers to the cloud

They’re everywhere. They come in all colors and sizes – and in the millions. Mounted on trucks or lined-up on trains, stashed away in storage yards or piled up in port terminals, shipping containers are the backbone of modern trade and global supply chains.

With over 20 million units circulating the globe every year, containers account for more than 90% of all non-bulk cargo worldwide. But despite this huge capacity and a well-oiled machine, the shipping industry has long been faced with a cumbersome logistical challenge: empty containers.

Repositioning and repurposing empty containers is not an easy task, especially given the pace and complexity of modern container logistics. Despite all efforts, an estimated 20% of all containers are moved around fully loaded with…nothing. Which translates to millions of containers that could potentially be reused, and a €15-30 billion loss each year for ocean carriers.

But one Belgian startup has found an innovative and cost-effective way to deal with the empty boxes: cloud-based pay-per-use apps that bring together all the key players in container logistics to make sure those containers remain filled.

“Our goal is to reduce the number of empty containers on the road, and at the same time lower the cost of repositioning for ocean carriers.” Luc De Clerck, CEO of Avantida

Founded in 2012, Avantida aims to bring new perspectives on container logistics and focuses on the landside processes of the container shipping lines. With a crystal clear business model, the company has already convinced more than 1,700 transporters around Europe and 15 global ocean carriers to adopt their apps.

Avantida’s innovative technology is entirely based on the cloud and runs on Microsoft’s Azure.

According to Luc De Clerck, CEO of Avantida, this enables them to adapt rapidly to volatile market trends in the shipping industry and effortlessly scale their business if needed. “We get a lot of new demands for additional functionalities and the cloud helps us save a lot of time. What might have been a hassle in the past, is now only a matter of a few clicks. Being able to scale rapidly also shows our customers that we’re advancing as a company,” explains De Clerck.

Empty runs represent a major issue for both ocean carriers, transporters, forwarders and end-customers. In addition to providing no revenue, empty runs slow down shipping supply lines and wear down equipment. A solution was needed, and it required bringing together both transporters and ocean carriers in a cost- and time-effective manner.

“Repositioning empty containers represents a significant cost for the ocean carriers, and on the transporter side, it is seen as highly inefficient to run around with empty boxes and then spend hours at terminals, unloading empty containers,” explains De Clerck.

With applications running in Azure, Avantida has been able to create a highly flexible infrastructure that is easy to extend globally. The cloud-based platform allows for an easy integration with their customers. Ocean carriers can easily make the tools available to their logistics partners and customers, and transporters can access the apps from their smartphones and tablets, while on the road.

“We don’t do anything locally. We develop, test and deploy in the cloud. We’re 100% cloud-based.”

One of Avantida’s ground-breaking solutions goes under the catchy name of ReUse, an Azure-based app that serves as a matchmaker between transporters and ocean carriers looking for ways to reuse their containers.

Traditionally, once the final destination is reached and the shipment is unloaded, the empty containers are immediately returned to the ocean carriers. Through ReUse, transporters can easily enter a request through the platform.

The system will automatically check if the container can be reused based on a few details, such as shipping line, container number, export booking reference and date of reuse. Once the request is approved, the transporter can immediately drive the containers to the export customer in order to load and drive it back full.

Apps like ReUse not only save truck companies and freight forwarders time and money but also eliminate the waste of trucks driving empty containers, thus reducing negative impacts on the environment. In 2015, Avantida helped avoid an impressive 7 million km of empty runs.

Last but not least, ReUse is just one of many solutions offered by Avantida, and their suite of apps cover everything from finding alternative drop-off locations, secured container releasing, handling data and automated stock records system. Read more about Avantida’s innovative solutions below, and find out more about the company here.

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