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Startup profile 2020: Dockflow

Dockflow is using Internet of Things (IoT) technology to bring advanced container tracking capabilities to companies lacking the big budgets of the sector’s major players.

While the concept of container tracking is not exactly new, Belgium’s Dockflow brings with it a fresh approach that combines IoT sensor data with live carrier shipping updates and a clear focus on simplicity and ease of use. “We started from a blockchain consulting perspective, which introduced us to some very specific problems the maritime freight forwarding business is facing,” says Pauline Van Ostaeyen, product lead and company co-founder along with CEO Michiel Valee and business lead Troy Muyshondt.

During projects with various big-name shippers and logistics service providers, she continues, it became apparent that there “was a need to approach collaboration and information management differently”. Developed in line with this, the Dockflow platform “takes the hassle out of maritime logistics”, with its “complete suite for maritime container and cargo monitoring” allowing shippers and freight forwarders “to see more, collaborate and gain control by unravelling data hidden in the logistics chain”.

Offering seamless integration with any live temperature or tracking device, the platform offers users instant insights, analytics and reports that can be readily shared internally or with customers and outside partners as and when needed. “With analysis reports, forwarders, shippers and transporters can finally become smarter and get more done,” Van Ostaeyen states.

Indeed, Dockflow, she reports, particularly lends itself to tackling the problem of in-transit damage to sensitive cargoes as its combination of sensor data and live alerts means users can take a proactive approach to potential incidents, being able to contact the carrier to fix issues as they emerge and thus head off any possible escalations. In doing so, the platform is therefore able avert the occurrence of inter alia stockouts, lengthy damage claims, product wastage and higher insurance premiums.

Similarly, the platform’s automatic demurrage and detention live tracking overview means users are spared “fee surprises”. At the same time, its ability to offer expected time of arrival (ETA) predictions and updates means they can also plan ahead more accurately, increasing efficiency while reducing costs and avoiding the headaches of last-minute or chaotic cargo handovers.

Furthermore, by providing a single means by which to integrate partner-generated data, Dockflow eradicates the need for users to sift through significant amounts of decentralised information, a time-consuming process that can lead to potentially costly errors and mistakes.

And when it comes to costs, the company remains keen to ensure its platform stays within the budgets of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with its “low-threshold pricing” policy another factor that marks the platform out on the market. “There is no easy-to-use project management software for SME logistics companies available,” Van Ostaeyen says, noting that many such firms still find themselves working with traditional spreadsheet systems that lack the insights, simplicity and functionality offered by the Dockflow platform.

“In contrast to typical logistics software, we offer unbeatable pricing [and] free and easy integration with existing systems,” she says. Consequently, SME forwarders that use the platform are able to offer their customers “a next-level digital experience previously only attainable by large corporations”.

Founded in April 2018 and currently listing such companies as Belgium’s foodcareplus and India’s Intercont Freight Liners among its customers, Dockflow this past January successfully raised seed funding worth around $440,000 from a round of investors that included Fintro, PMV and Belfius. The company also represents the first maritime startup to be accepted into the Birdhouse accelerator programme and has additionally launched a free tool to help forwarders deal with the current COVID-19 situation.

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia