Goods constantly enter and leave the country through the port of Antwerp.
To make sure that all these flows run flawlessly, more than ever the key lies in advanced, but at the same time rock-solid, ICT applications. “If you want to get it right, even in the logistics sector there is no way other than solutions that start from the workflow,” says Patrick Van De Looverbosch, CEO of Antwerp-based specialist Intris.
“Especially because of its small margins, the development and maintenance of software for the logistics sector is far from easy,” explains Patrick Van De Looverbosch.
His company Intris, short for International Transport Information System, has been serving this market for 25 years with digital solutions that improve administration efficiency along the different links of the logistics chain.
Customs agents, shipping and line agents, transporters, large shippers, and especially forwarders call on the Antwerp market leader in its sector.
“With my experience in the transport and customs world, Intris has focused on platform-independent software from the outset. This way, we have avoided having to spend too much time on adjustments when updating those platforms, which has also allowed us to pay more attention to the features of our products. This allowed us to quickly establish ourselves firmly in the market,” says the business manager.
“Our focus on forwarding companies instigated our further development into an integrated logistics service provider. We developed an initial software solution that allowed our customers’ business systems to communicate with their customers’ or third parties’ business systems.”
Since an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) such as this responds to the processes between packages, it allows for fast switching. “Because it keeps you, as a developer, from having to adapt the underlying packages to the client’s needs over and over again. This innovative step made an initial acceleration happen,” he states.
With sophisticated solutions tailored to the workflow, Intris took the next innovative step about ten years ago. “While this approach was already well embedded in the industrial sector for example, it was slower to gain ground in the logistics world. Even if mapping out the business processes also makes it clear to a logistics company which steps it no longer needs to take.
Those are often only taken because people are so used to them that they no longer wonder if there is any other way. Even though the margins in the sector are under considerable pressure. At the same time, customers of logistics players wish to have an up-to-date overview of stocks and want documents and invoices to be processed automatically. It is impossible to achieve this without a clear workflow. That’s why this is the best way of working for us today,” Patrick Van De Looverbosch stresses.
“The concept of a customs package is simple in itself. But the constantly changing context creates a more complex story.”
With customs to him being the beating heart of logistics, it was obvious that Intris was initially going to focus its developments on that. The challenges in this are the changes in regulations and features that frequently need to be integrated into the software package.
“The concept of a customs package is simple in itself: you deliver something, then you receive a document. But the constantly changing context, such as trade restrictions, creates a more complex story. Under no circumstances should our customers bear the brunt of this. If they have a maintenance contract with us, we will keep them up to date without an additional fee.
Incidentally, with Michel Van Giel, we have had a former director of customs in our ranks for several years now. He assists our 45 employees with the conversion of those customs rules into our packages. His expertise also helps us to assess perfectly whether questions from customers fit within the legal framework,” the CEO points out.
Brexit Proof by Australian Alliance
Since the spring of 2018, Intris has formed part of the Australian WiseTech Global Group, which is already number 1 in the same segment in America and Australia. “In terms of philosophy and approach, we were already on the same line, so this alliance was a logical next step.
Looking at the future, the collaboration with a financially powerful group allows us to keep shifting gears and developing at the pace that the market demands,” says Patrick Van De Looverbosch. The international connection also helped Intris to work out solutions for Brexit, whatever the outcome will be.
Reliable across the board
In addition, the obtained certificate of Authorized Economic Operator proves that customs considers Intris to be a reliable partner in cross-border trade. It is a company that, for that matter, has established itself throughout the entire logistics chain, because over the years it has also developed cloud applications for communication with customs services, declaration of hazardous cargo, warehouse management, tax representation, and more.
“With Squid we now offer customers a user-friendly integration and communication platform to quickly connect with both government and private platforms. For example, we have already joined NxtPort and RX/SeaPort for the Antwerp and Zeebrugge ports respectively, and integrations with the Rotterdam Portbase platform are also possible.
We didn’t pick the name Squid by chance; it was chosen because of all of [our] tentacles reaching far and wide,” explains Patrick Van De Looverbosch.
“With a quarter of a century of experience, we can rely on architecture and components to be able to respond proactively to new situations. For example, after installation and configuration, a new customer can quickly plug into any part of the full package he finds appealing.”