By Gustav Anderson
Jan. 21, 2022
Operating in the Gulf of Paria between the shores of Venezuela and the island of Trinidad and Tobago, Bridge Control Services (BCS) has remained a cornerstone of the local shipping industry for 17 years. With a fleet consisting of 10 ships and 37 crew members, the marine transportation company specializes in taxiing people to and from major shipping vessels that arrive in Trinidad and Tobago ports.
For general manager Troy Persad, the role of BCS encompasses much more than just transportation. “When you live on an island that is surrounded by water, [shipping] is an important industry because that’s how we get things like food,” he says. “I know I’m playing a role and supporting those important things, you know?”
With rigid pandemic health and safety protocols limiting nearly all stages of operations, BCS management found it difficult to accomplish previously simple tasks such as scheduling and replacing shifts.
“The pandemic is having a negative impact on our manpower planning,” says Persad. “When staff members contract the virus we lose them for 14 days at least and we have to find a replacement for them.”
Dealing with manpower planning limitations like this was even more of a headache considering BCS’ complex scheduling process. Persad schedules two different shift patterns, one a 12-hour pattern and the other a regular 8-hour pattern.
Crafting consistent schedules for both 12-hour and 8-hour groups and managing last-minute changes proved very cumbersome. To make matters even more difficult, Persad and all his coordinators were operating with a completely manual system for both scheduling and attendance. It was up to these on-site coordinators to know who was working when, confirm over the phone between bases, and manually plug the information into spreadsheets.
BCS needed a workforce management platform that automated the whole process. “We need that to ensure that we manage our manpower stringently and monitor it very precisely,” says Persad. “Utilizing the manual system, you have the risk of errors,” says Persad. “In order to circumvent those errors, you have to have various layers of contingency which basically increase the administrative time.”
BCS knew immediately that Workforce.com would be a perfect fit. “The Workforce.com system was so easy to use and easy to develop. It really was not an imposition,” says Persad regarding the implementation process.
The new workforce management platform overhauled BCS’ outdated scheduling and attendance processes, making daily life easier for Persad, the coordinators, and all crew members. “I now have a greater understanding of the operations of the company simply by logging onto the [Workforce.com] dashboard,” says Persad.
With staff attendance and scheduling now all streamlined through a single, live platform, coordinators have enhanced abilities to manage formerly complex tasks like last-minute shift replacements, maritime certification tracking, and 12-hour shift planning.
Together, BCS and Workforce.com are reinventing the logistics of maritime transportation in the Gulf of Paria. Since deploying its new workforce management system, BCS has successfully resolved all its inefficiency issues revolving around pandemic restrictions, shift planning, and attendance tracking. Here are only a few specific ways in which BCS has experienced success with Workforce.com:
On-site coordinators at each of BCS’ three bases now have the capability to see in real-time when and where crew members are working.
“At my fingertips, I actually know who is present and if someone is not present, what’s the reason for their absence,” says Persad. “It takes no time for me to actually get a full view of my whole operation.”
Coordinators also no longer need to manually report attendance, with Workforce.com allowing staff to clock in and out themselves. All attendance data is then automatically compiled into accurate timesheets and reports.
BCS can now actively track their labor costs while scheduling, helping them mitigate issues in overspending. “We know for each shift, what its cost is without having to crunch any numbers on a spreadsheet,” says Persad.
While building schedules, every shift tile displays wage costs. Persad can use this information to optimally design shifts that suit crew member needs as well as the organization’s budget. “It allows me to make more effective decisions on a timely basis,” he says.
BCS operates on a 24-hour basis, with three separate teams cycling through six-day rotations. The rotations consist of 24 crew members working four days on and then two days off.
“I go in and build the teams, identify the persons for each team and for each of the shifts, build one shift pattern, choose how long to replicate it, and just click ‘build shifts,’” says Persad.
With Workforce.com’s intuitive scheduling system, Persad can easily craft the perfect 12-hour shift patterns for every team and save them as templates for continued use.
BCS now has the ability to understand the usage and availability of every vessel in its fleet. Coordinators can update shift tiles on the schedules to indicate which vessels are being used and who the operators are for each shift.
“We can pull a report at the end of the month, showing person X worked on boat one, boat two, or boat three,” says Persad. “This is very important to us in understanding the availability and the uptime of all boats.”
Using Workforce.com’s Qualifications feature, BCS can organize and track vital employee credentials. “[Workforce.com] allows us on a real-time basis to know that all of our crew members have things like their captain’s licenses,” says Persad.
In the maritime transportation and shipping industry, complying with laws regarding qualifications is essential for safe operating conditions. BCS can automatically schedule according to these qualifications, with Workforce.com flagging any non-compliant shifts that are accidentally scheduled.
At the end of the day, it’s about the clients and the island community at large for Bridge Control Services. Without their vital transportation services, the shipping industry in Trinidad and Tobago would not be the same.
“We have a very close relationship with our customers in the industry,” Persad reflects. “Ensuring that they are happy, that’s very important … that’s what keeps me coming to work every day.”
BCS understands its importance to the local economy; this fuels its continued drive for perfection. A major part of this perfection is the curation of proper workforce management practices. With Workforce.com, BCS realizes its workforce management potential, resulting in optimal outcomes for all its stakeholders.
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