The YEP MED Port Virtual Lab - A new kind of simulator for training of logistic operations
In 2020 the Escola Europea launched a call for tenders to help identify a company that would help it develop the system behind the virtual training paradigm that was under development for the YEP MED project. ClickandCargo has only recently begun to work on the development of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms, ended up being the winning company, and thus brought about the birth of the Port Virtual Lab.
The system now focuses on the information flow surrounding the freight forwarder’s core business operations. The most important asset that these transport chain actors have is the control of the information flow, as they sit in the middle of the logistics chain as the architects of import-export operations. With e-commerce flooding international trade in recent years, and the ever-increasing demand for faster and more efficient shipments, digital information systems are a must. And since they are so fundamental, it is critical that new professionals understand how to operate within them. It is under this line of thought that the simulated system was developed.
What is the simulated setup
In the YEP MED courses, students become employees of PlayForwarding, a freight forwarding company operating in YEP MED’s logistic virtual ecosystem. With branches across the Mediterranean, students from each country handle their local (virtual) client base, planning and managing door-to-door logistic operations.
Playforwarding’s ERP is ClickandCargo, from which students create commercial offers, handle the shipment records and execute the entire documental flow needed for import and export operations.
The ERP is configured just as if it were a real company. All third parties involved in the operations - including clients, agents, shipping, etc. - are pre-registered in the system, alongside ports and other data to replicate real-life transport operations. Event though each branch operates separately, they have the ability to share basic information about clients. Default quality control rules apply just as in real life, so students cannot leave any required fields blank to move forward with an operation.
ClickandCargo simulates the integration of the ERP with YEP MED’s virtual Port Community System, that serves as the communication point with shipping companies and shipping agencies for the according documental needs. The virtual environment also simulates e-mail communication of PlayForwarding with customs agencies and transport companies. This simulation allows students to receive customs clearances and container information from these companies - as they would in real life.
Operations: From commercial to invoicing
Through the ClickandCargo platform, students can play different roles during the training. They are first asked to execute commercial tasks by creating a quotation directly in the ERP system. For this, the ERP has preloaded tariffs that allow the students to get familiarised with pricing and commercial tasks. How do you charge for sea freight? You are most likely to understand all the pricing concepts after quoting in the simulator.
After having an accepted quotation, students get their hands on handling all the documentation flows needed for a sea-freight operation. Using the different simulated communication channels (Port Community Systems (PCS), e-mail), students create and send the booking requests, transport orders, customs clearance requests, shipping instructions and House Bills of Lading (B/L). They get the chance to work both with import and export operations by sharing export shipment files with their branches at the destination ports.
In the near future, it is the hope of the YEP MED team to be able to close the operations cycle by allowing the students to invoice the clients directly from the ClickandCargo environment, make the final invoice reconciliations and close the records. This administrative work is an important step to understand all aspects of the freight forwarding business, and it will soon form part of the training.
Shortening the learning curve and setting precedents in good practices
The ERP simulater gives an unprecedented value to the training of future professionals in the logistic business sector overall. It allows students to get their hands on a realistic software used for freight management and get the “learn-by-doing” experience – all the while maintaining the Covid-19 restrictions mandated by the public health authorities. In this extremely turbulent year, the YEP MED team with the help of the ClickandCargo expertise was able to create an irreplaceable and invaluable learning environment for future freight forwarders. In the near future, the Port Virtual Lab will expand to incorporate the training of other actors involved in the intermodal transport chain, therewith completing the training of all aspects of the transport cycle.