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ISO Limited Revolutionises New Zealand’s Port Services

iso ltd, venture magazineA single word is repeated throughout ISO Limited’s vision statement: respect. That’s something the New Zealand firm has in great quantity, thanks to its international customer base. But at ISO Limited, that core value influences every move the company makes. And it makes a lot of moves.

As part of Qube, Australia’s largest integrated provider of import and export logistics services, ISO Limited provides a raft of services to port industries throughout New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. From stevedoring, marshalling, warehousing, and complete supply chain solutions to industry-leading technology services, ISO is committed to changing the way work is done on the waterfront.

One of the most significant ways the Tauranga-based company is driving that imperative is through the use of technology.

“ISO has a long history of providing information to customers through their in-house technology solutions, which allow them to manage their businesses and make decisions based on the best information,” company Chief Operating Officer Andrew Davies said.

Founded as a family business in 1995 to offer stevedoring services in Tauranga, Gisborne, and Wellington, ISO Limited embraced technology solutions early on. From the development of its pioneering SHIPsys stevedoring data system for stowage, handling, and inventory planning, to its proprietary Log Management System (LMS) — the foundation of the company’s specialized software-as-a-service offerings — ISO Limited uses leading edge port technologies in every aspect of its operations.

A pair of in-house technology group supports ISO Limited’s ambitious efforts. The IT Solutions team stays on the move, finding and developing cutting-edge solutions to “radically improve business efficiency, user experience, and customer interaction,” Davies said. ISO’s IT Operations team develops and maintains the company’s robust IT infrastructure.

In today’s fast-paced commercial environment, an intimate grasp of port clients’ needs is an essential aspect of managing customer-driven change, increased intensity, and the evolving complexity of logistics systems.

“Understanding each customer and their business objectives, and getting to know the customer through a mutual relationship is key. Without this cornerstone, it's hard to know how you can provide a solution,” Davies said.

iso ltd, venture magazineIn addition to stevedoring, ISO provides bulk product marshalling, warehousing solutions and container packing services in several New Zealand ports, as well as a complete menu of haulage services to suit every customer, regardless of size.

When it comes to warehousing, ISO technology links the product floors of each log in laydown yards, warehouses, and containers it oversees to dashboards that give customers inventory data in real time, which helps to tighten costs in the supply chain.

“Our clients look into the system and see where their products are at any time, whether they’ve been packed in the container, at the port, or in the grid waiting for loading at the vessels,” Davies said. “Transparency in the supply chain allows our customers and us to have mutually beneficial key performance indicators that are tangible and assure that we are performing as a service provider, and using this information for the supply chain improves our performance in that regard, as well.”

Davies credits the strength of the ISO team for its market position.

“ISO is a great company,” he said. “The people in our business are what makes ISO such a great company. Whether we are in the technology development department, operational roles, or in support functions, we all strive to keep our customers happy and be great solution providers to our clients. You can never underestimate how much influence people have on your business and ultimately your brand. Without the people, we don't have a business.”

Adaptability at the Forefront of Change

iso ltd, venture magazineWhile ISO serves every market requiring cargo logistics and handling, its sector mix is anchored in commodities such as agricultural and horticultural products and forestry, particularly on the export side.

“In the case of log export markets, our export services need to be as agile as the market itself,” Davies explained. “Our customers have to be adaptable as well if we are to achieve the same result. That result is getting our customers’ logs onto a vessel in the fastest, safest, most efficient way possible.”

The vagaries of shipping logs may seem straightforward to the untrained, but the opposite is true.

“It's fascinating to me that there is so much technology involved in understanding each log that is cut from the forest in our process,” Davies marveled. “At ISO, every log has a barcode, every log is scanned a couple of times through the system, every log is measured and counted before we put it on the ship. In some ports we move 20,000 logs a day, day-in, day-out, six, seven days a week.”

ISO has revolutionized log scaling with its development of the first fully robotic export log measuring solution in the world, aptly named THOR. THOR automatically scans and measures log loads, whilst on the truck, calculating log size and volume, dramatically increasing accuracy, efficiency, and safety. The system significantly increases worker safety while reducing the amount of time trucks are idle in a checkpoint. For exporters, THOR increases the speed of the supply chain and provides, for the first time, documented, image-based evidence about how an individual log is measured.

According to Andrew Peddie, director of operations at Timberlands, “the savings to exporters are significant, and that is critical in the very competitive export log market. The icing on the cake, however, is the ability to instantly verify log measurements, even after logs are exported. This is revolutionary.”

iso ltd, venture magazineTHOR was conceived of in 2013 as an experimental concept inside the ISO IT Solutions team. ISO experimented with automatic log measurement based on simple image transformation and worked on the promising concept through a series of technical challenges. This led to the development of a working prototype based around light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technologies, which ultimately proved the concept.

After further refinement, ISO commissioned Robotics Plus Limited to take the concept and build it out to a full working robotic production system. The THOR robot was commissioned in mid-2018, and is used to measure and catalog he logs received at ISO’s Tauranga operations.

The firm’s passion for innovation extends to its safety culture as well.

“ISO prides itself on our transparency in the safety area because it enables continuous improvement and trends can be addressed in a timely manner,” Davies stressed.

“When the customer’s business goes to implement change in reaction to their needs, we need to support the operational plan that executes the change,” he continued. ISO offers that necessary support as a leader in the space. “As a follower, the customer generally tells you what you need to do. But leading means that you work collaboratively with your customers to react with them in their space. At ISO, we pride ourselves on being a leader, not a follower. It's a great attribute to have in a business.”

It’s also a very respectable position from which to prosper.