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Business App Development Acceleration at Höegh Autoliners

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Christian Olsen, Head of Business Development at Höegh Autoliners, a leading global shipping company specializing in vehicle transportation services.  Christian and his team were in our offices taking part in a new 2 day “hackathon” workshop that involved collaborative app development for vessel scheduling and optimization with AIMMS, Höegh and Ab Ovo, an AIMMS IT implementation partner.

There was a tremendous amount of energy in the office as our R&D and engineering teams worked hand in hand with Höegh and Ab Ovo to develop optimization apps leveraging the new AIMMS Web UI. I sat down with Christian to learn how Höegh is using optimization to transform their operations and to get his impression about the AIMMS hackathon.

Christian Olsen Hoegh Autoliners
Christian Olsen

Hi Christian, tell me a little about your background.

I have been with Höegh for 12 years and in the shipping industry for close to 20 years. In 2003 I moved from the United States to Norway and started to work for Höegh Autoliners. Höegh specializes in rolling cargo and some non-rolling cargo that we carry with roll-trailers. “So we are like big sailing garages”. Initially I spent a lot of time in Japan, where many automotive companies are located. One of our largest customers, for example, is Nissan.

I have mainly been on the business side of things. Moving back to our headquarters in Oslo, I started with business development and worked on the various projects that we have.  Lately, it has been more IT related projects so I have provided the business perspective and have taken the lead to make sure that the projects that we execute do have a business need and reflect our business requirements.

How were you doing optimization and planning before you started using AIMMS?

It was largely a very manual process. There was very extensive Excel programming that was done and also an Access database.  But we began to realize that Excel is not meant for this type of work. It’s hard to troubleshoot if something goes wrong. It was created in-house by an individual and only that person knew how to make changes in it.  So it was very risky from a continuity perspective. If anything happened to that individual or if they decided to leave the company that would create a real strategic business risk for us. 

What led you to selecting AIMMS?

We leveraged input from Gartner for companies specializing in optimization and specifically logistics and supply chain.  AIMMS popped up at that time.  We selected AIMMS as our platform for the following reasons:

  • Lead time – Quick to develop and implement
  • Intuitive – Not overly complex and easy to learn
  • Proven track record – Very impressive and positive references during client interviews
  • Pricing and licensing was very competitive – Reasonable initially as well as on an ongoing basis

Overall the CEO of Ab Ovo explained it well. “AIMMS is about Fit for Purpose”.  AIMMS fits perfectly to our business requirements. It is a solid, reputable, reliable technology that is tailored to your needs. You get exactly what you want without paying for unnecessary features you will never use.

Where are you now in terms of development and roll out?

At the moment we have finished 2 applications (Long Term Demand Forecast and Business Model) out of the 4 planned (Short Term Demand Forecast and Tonnage Allocation remain).  All 4 applications will have optimization down the road. 2 are completed and are now live.  The value is in optimizing vessel scheduling – the goal is to move all goods/cars with the fewest number of vessels so that we can achieve a balanced supply and demand situation as well as free up any excess tonnage for new opportunities. With vessels having a cost in the range of 40-80 million dollars it is imperative to keep them fully employed.

We are very interested in using the new Web UI functionality and that’s why we are here today at the workshop.  From the moment we saw it demoed we felt – that’s what we want, that’s where we want to go. So we want to eventually have all of our apps in Web UI.

Tell me a little about the AIMMS Two Day Workshop. How did it go?

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Hackathon

We are very happy to be at the workshop. It’s been great getting hands on help. So after this 2 day workshop we will actually be close to completing one of the applications fully functioning in Web UI in two days.  That is a proof point that development is just so quick – wow!

Going into the workshop my expectation was that we will get insight into what can be done with the Web UI now and figure out how much development is needed to get it to a level where we can apply it to our current windows UI application. It has by far exceeded our expectations. 

The iterative process of the program was really amazing. Each team had an hour and a half to produce something, do a demo then iterate for another hour and a half and do another demo and so on.  We did 9 demos yesterday.  I told Jan Willem (AIMMS COO) going into this I would have been happy coming out of this with 1 prototype and we got 9! –  and we will have more.

I would hope and really love for something like this to be done from time to time.  It might be too much to do it on a regular basis. When we see what comes out of it, it’s pretty amazing. AIMMS learns a lot, we learn a lot, Ab Ovo learns a lot about Web UI. It’s a Win-Win for everybody.

What do you think the benefits are of this type of workshop?

Overall I think there are a few benefits:

  • Big time saver – we got 9 prototypes completed in 2 days, that’s amazing
  • Working together makes it easier to get to what you need and require – really get that hands on approach. Not as effective when do a phone call or skype session
  • Having it at AIMMS pulls our team out of day to day distractions and ensures that AIMMS resources from the technical and development side can participate. Being here has been a great experience.

I heard the guys were quite nervous before we came here. I am glad to see that that nervousness was gone once we started working together.  Jan Willem as a facilitator is amazing. He has his rules and he sticks to them that’s good and that’s the way it should be.

Any plans for more applications in the future?

The more we get used to using it, we can start thinking about how to apply AIMMS to other parts of our business. There is no doubt that there will be more apps or modules in the future and I think that is one of the things we heard from customer references. You start with one and you end up with many apps because you see the ease and how quickly you can get up and running.  That was a good selling point for us to go with AIMMS.

For further reading, please download our case studyHöegh Autoliners develops global integrated planning solution with AIMMS.

Supply Chain Brief