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Driving towards uniformity

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As part of the chemical and food logistics chain, the European Federation of Tank Cleaning Organisations (EFTCO) and its associated cleaning stations have always focused on their responsibilities for food safety, hygiene and, of course, sustainability.
Becoming more environmentally friendly and cutting waste has become an urgent priority.
That is why the ECLIC board, in April, approved its business plan 2025 for the coming years and expressed its further support of the development of the digital eECD 2.0 industry solution.

Environmentally friendly

There are hundreds of cleaning stations operating across Europe and every year, millions of EFTCO Cleaning Documents (ECD) are issued.
For example, last year 4.3 million sets of paper ECDs have been exchanged between different actors when transporting food, feed and chemical products.
As Lutz Harder, EFTCO secretary general, was keen to point out as each document consists of four pages each “you can see how big the potential is to save paper”.
He warned: “There is a huge amount of paper that we produce every year and, which, we would like to avoid.”
So the development of a new digital solution has been born. The digital eECD 2.0 industry solution, to be precise.
The eECD 2.0 project strategy aims to install an interoperable eECD process that allows all stakeholders to work digitally together and to automate their internal processes.
As Peter Devos, the managing director of the European Chemical Transport Association (ECTA) explained, the paper version becomes supportive of the new digital eECD that allows all stakeholders to work digitally together and to automate their internal processes.
He said: “In other words, the paper ECD version is no longer a must and becomes secondary to the new digital eECD process, while today the paper ECD is still the norm.” The requirements of the new eECD 2.0 has been put together and the IT developments are planned to start in Q3 2022.
“Digital collaboration and the timely sharing of reliable, accurate and smart data among logistics service providers and its shippers and customers form a future cornerstone where each actor can take the right decision across the digitally connected chemical logistics chain.”
Devos said from an association’s point of view “we are trying to improve the compliancy and also the efficiency, avoiding fraud and making sure we are taking data from the source and we can digitally collaborate and create that interoperability, not just within ECLIC, but with other organisations as we look for harmonisation and standardisation”.
He continued: “We are trying to reduce the IT complexity by creating a harmonised process and make it as uniform as possible.”

Digitally connected

Erik Baetens, owner of Lynx Automation that develops tank cleaning software, was keen to stress that having a common platform was key.
He said: “Now in 2022, if you want to improve your processes, you have to look outside your local tank cleaning station, you have to share your data with others.
It doesn’t matter what platform we are using as long as it is a common, European Industry platform, so we don’t have to make a new digital connections with A, B, C or D and we can work on one standardised platform.”
Currently, a lot of the required transport order data is exchanged digitally in an unstructured data format and the share of non-electronical order exchange is still high, which leads to inefficiencies in logistics processes across partners in the supply chain partners. Hence, the opportunity lies in defining a more uniform order data exchange standard for the chemical bulk transport sector.
Even though the industry developed the typical bilateral electronic data interchange (EDI) standards in the early 2000s, these ‘point to point’ standards no longer comply with the future more open, real-time connected supply chain ecosystems.
So what do logistics companies like HTC think of the new 2.0 system? Jochen Van Hoydonck, the firm’s business manager, said initially there was some degree of mistrust as each cleaning station had its own data.
He said: “We know the products and we know how to clean them and initially, when this new platform came before us we were a little bit afraid.
“However, with the integration that Lynx Automation made, we can link the product data base from ECLIC with our own product and data base.
“In my opinion this is one of the biggest advantages of this platform, we have the product data base from ECLIC and, of course, on the other side we also have our own system that can all work as one. We can also choose between a paper ECD and a digitalised ECD within one system.”
Devos agreed with this analysis adding that “Today, digital processes work in closed loops, but what we need to do is to extend the current eECD process so it can always work digitally in non-closed loops across all actors and that is where we aim for with our eECD 2.0 industry solution.
“So, if a company says they don’t want to follow the digital eECD process because they are not ready to digitalise and they want to continue with paper, at least that doesn’t stop others who are ready to digitalise.”
Devos said the alternative was to have digital and paper processes that ‘run in parallel’ however that is not beneficial in the long term as it requires two ways of working.

Operational success

Bert Lamberechts, supply chain and site logistics operations projects and processes at BASF Antwerpen NV, said the aim of digitalisation is to ‘move all the administrative steps which are being performed at the loading bays to a process that takes place much earlier’.
He said: “At BASF , as soon as a tank truck arrives we already know whether it has been cleaned, we already have the eECD information and we know immediately if it is allowed on site.
“We don’t have to ask the driver for ECD papers before going to the loading station. By moving these administrative processes early on, you improve your efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with that individual shipment.
“The more information we get upfront on the platform, the more we can improve our way of working, for example, equipment master data to check if the tank is appropriate or not and whether certifications are up to date.”
Some smaller companies and cleaning stations work with their own systems and have raised concerns that this new system could potentially give them extra work.
However, with the system developed by Lynx Automation everything is integrated into one system.
All EFTCO members are aware of this new platform as are the members of ECTA and Cefic-essenscia. The food and feed industry is also keeping a watching brief over what is being rolled-out in chemicals.
Devos concluded: “In 12 months’ time we hope to demonstrate the success of the uniform eECD process which will contain a uniform and unique EFTCO QR- code. We need to motivate all the actors to further go after the millions of paper ECD’s.
“We need to look at the benefits and don’t look at the negative sides and the risks. Otherwise, in 2030 we might still be working with paper.
“It is difficult and it is tough, that is all true, but we all know in logistics that paper is not the future, so as an association, we need to prepare ourselves towards that future digital path.”

For more information: Visit: eftco.org and eclic.eu