Will the new BLS logistics control system replace the VAS-II dispatch automation system as Berthold’s flagship product?

Rudolf Berthold (RB): The core vision behind everything our company does is helping companies around the world to become substantially more productive.
We can only do this when we deliver solutions that not only use the latest available technology, but that can also completely meet the requirements of the years to come.

Since 2000, VAS-II has set standards on the market – and now we are continuing our innovation strategy with BLS and ensuring that we remain the world’s trend-setter in transport logistics control systems.

Why launch BLS now, under such difficult economic conditions?

RB: We chose this point in time on the basis of a number of factors:
In 2009/2010, were were informed that the development tools we use for our current flagship product, the VAS-II dispatch automation system, are being discontinued and that they will no longer be supported by their manufacturers starting in 2015.

In addition, VAS-II has become an extremely extensive system because of the numerous expansions and refinements we have implemented over the years.

VAS-II is a “uniform” software with licence fields: Every customer is given the complete software, and the necessary components are activated.
Further expansion would only have been possible at considerable cost because we are committed to maintaining the high quality and reliability of the system. We are not willing to make any compromises here.

With BLS, we are using a core software component with additional industry-specific modules. This allows us to remain highly flexible in all further development work.
BLS is a system for the future.

In addition, we used the “hard times” of the economic crisis: Because of the lower number of projects, we deployed the free capacity we had for the development of BLS.
In this way, we were able to keep all of our employees during the challenging times, and at the end of the crisis are now ready to take the market by storm with a new product.

It was very important to us to apply our extensive experience with logistics control systems to a new solution.

So this means that BLS is an entirely new development?

RB: Yes. We began our development work in 2010 at zero, with a clean slate.
We conducted a complete preliminary assessment with absolutely no limitations, looked for new development tools and defined new functions and concepts – it was a developer’s dream!

And I am proud to say that we made no major mistakes during the preliminary assessment. Roughly 20,000 technician hours later, we have BLS as a high-end product that will surpass everyone’s expectations.

What were the biggest challenges in this development project?

RB: There were several:
First, free configurability was expanded massively in BLS.
VAS-II was already a system where various additional data could be configured for orders very simply, without additional programming work. And the process steps could be arranged individually by mouse.

With BLS, there are absolutely no limitations anymore: Everything can be freely configured without having to create a new software version for each new feature.

The implementation of the open concept with regards to internal data manipulation and the internal and external interfaces to other systems was also a challenge:

Here, we needed to create a coherent structure that is fast and flexible at the same time. And that can be expanded with little effort.

And third, we had internal security and data transfer between the modules:

Here, we worked with planned job rotation, where every development engineer working on the project participated in the programming of each different area.
This means that every technician has at least a basic knowledge of every development area – which provides the highest possible degree of development security for Rudolf Berthold Ges.m.b.H.

We also had to use a special tool for documentation (including a version management tool) so that every development step was fully documented. The documentation also includes a change log, so that we can roll back to any version immediately. We call it a “return button”, kind of like an undo.

This allows every individual step to be documented and tracked at any time, and cover all of the requirements of ISO 9001-2008.

What can companies that are already using a logistics system expect from BLS?

RB: We had to identify the problems of tomorrow today to create such a powerful tool for the future. This requires a great deal of experience, close collaboration with our customers, and the ability to listen.

Every user will be on the safe side for 10 to 15 years with BLS.

And I am sure that every business will be glad to hear that the license fees will be lower than for VAS-II.

How can companies today improve the handling of their logistics tasks?

RB: I can name one very good example: In 1980, a company with 10 dispatch employees could process about 60 runs a day, and error correction and handling required an enormous amount of work.

Modern logistics control systems from Rudolf Berthold Ges.m.b.H allow the same team to process 500 runs with no errors, despite the fact that the tasks, legal requirements and the associated amount of data have virtually exploded.

The core tasks of every logistics control system have always been in data automation, data processing and documentation.
A more recent facet of this is the highly important task of quality assurance:
The amount of data to be collected is a hundred times greater than in 1980! There would simply be no way to do this without logistics systems.

And the data needs to be collated from warehouse management, production, customer data, orders, disposition and much more – and that with our just-in-time supply chains.

Ancillary processes have been integrated.
Access control systems and plant security are now fully integrated into the logistics package.
Logistics control systems are downstream systems of the ERP system. ERP systems today work with a control system and subsystems in every plant.

Our new BLS logistics control system also works with central data storage – a solution that was made possible by the Internet and open interfaces in the BLS system.

Thanks to this central functionality, one plant can immediately replace another one (in terms of software and hardware), including access control and plant security.

In addition, every plant today specialises in certain products, for example in the building materials industry: One plant supplies insulation materials, another facade elements, and a third paint, etc.
But the customer orders a complete facade – BLS is an end-to-end system and breaks this single order down among the individual plants, entirely eliminating the need for manual planning.

BLS also monitors all processes: All inconsistencies in orders and disposition instructions are eliminated in advance. This ensures that when bagged goods are ordered, a canopy lorry comes to the plant and not a tank lorry.

BLS also monitors inventories, replenishment orders and much more.
BLS is a powerful tool with a wide range of options.

Who should take a closer look at the BLS logistics control system?

RB: All companies that manufacture, sell or receive bulk goods and materials in different packages that are billed according to weight.

Because of the quantities involved, this especially includes companies in the construction materials, waste handling and biomass industries.

Food, chemicals and feed manufacturers can also achieve substantial cost savings by using BLS.

Especially companies operating multiple plants and producers whose suppliers and customers are associated firms can benefit from unique opportunities to cut their costs and ensure production security.

We can show any planner or operator where costs can be saved, and how simple it is to implement a modern logistics control system.

How does that work? Every company works in a different way.

RB: Our advantage is that we can account for individual customer requirements the first time we present our logistics control system.

This is possible thanks to the unique structure of BLS and its rapid configurability.

The customer sees immediately that BLS can meet all of his requirements and that he will not have to wait for individual functions to be programmed, functions that he will only see after he has placed the order.

But it is important to note that a logistics control system must always be adapted to the existing or planned ERP system; the ERP system or processes must not be based on the abilities of the logistics system.

Is BLS your personal “legacy” for the next generation?

RB: My personal duties in the company will focus increasingly on strategy in the coming years. Responsibility for operations is gradually being transferred to the younger generation.

BLS is a giant leap forward that also forms a unique foundation for us to build on in the future. Further releases are already being planned.

We estimate that BLS will be a leading solution on the European market until 2025. This puts us several years ahead of the competition.

This will secure the future of our company, and is certainly a kind of legacy for all employees of Rudolf Berthold Ges.m.b.H.

So you are not yet planning your retirement?

RB: Everyone who knows me knows that I am an entrepreneur to the core. BLS is a giant achievement for our company, and we will see what tasks this will bring for me personally.


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