Making IT happen for high fliers
An Indian player has created a respected brand in the technology that fuels travel and logistics management
Total solutions: Comprehensive software to drive transport, travel and logistics is developed at the Thiruvananthapuram headquarters of IBS.
It is the world’s busiest airport: handling 67.3 million passengers and 471,000 aircraft movements every year; Even before the fifth terminal opens this year, it stands 264 aircraft at a time and checks-in passengers at 531 desks for 90 airlines flying to 180 destinations worldwide.
London Heathrow is a truly massive operation in the moving of people and cargo from ground to air and back — and without a precise, automated, mission-critical system to manage its heterogeneous operations, it would be a logistical nightmare.
Interestingly key areas of management at Heathrow (and at Gatwick, also operated by the same company, BAA) including the complete airport management database, passenger and baggage handling as well as all flight announcements have been entrusted to solutions provided by a niche Indian player in the management of what is known as TTL — Travel, Transportation and Logistics — the Thiruvananthapuram-based IBS Software Services ( www.ibsplc.com).
“I don’t think any other company offers such a wide range of services and solutions across the spectrum of TTL,” says V.K. Mathews founder-Chairman-CEO of IBS. It is no idle claim, that this MTech in aeronautical engineering from IIT Kanpur makes. Yet so low-key has been the profile of this company that few outside the TTL industry are aware of its name or that this is the international epicentre of an operation that is a decade old and now spans 15 global delivery and support centres.
A lean team totalling less than 2,000, creates and delivers solutions for airports, seaports, airlines, oil and gas companies, tour operators, cruise lines, that have received the highest ISO ratings of the software industry.
Only last week, Air New Zealand, became the third airline to adopt IBS’ cargo management system, iCargo, which supports the complete chain of supply from shipper to consignee harnessing the Web.
In fact the application was developed in cooperation with Air New Zealand, South African Airways, GulfAir, Quantas and Australian Air Express. By working hand in hand with key customers, IBS ensures that the product functions in real life in a way that airlines want.
Land, marine variants
Some of the largest private sector energy corporations including Shell International and British Petroleum have deployed land and marine variants of iLogistics, an IBS solution for end-to-end management of the logistics involved in exploration, production and operations of oil and gas companies, including movement of personnel and material via air, land and sea, analysis and performance reporting, health, safety and environment compliance and crucially in places like oil rigs, personnel tracking.
The marine, engineering, commercial and cargo operations of sea ports form another niche in the spectrum of TTL. In December Maldives Port Authority signed up to deploy the IBS iPort solution, which integrates cargo, container, marine, yard and delivery operations in a manner that ensure the shortest turn-around time for ships and cargo in an industry where every minute means money for shippers, fleet owners and container trans-shipment agencies. iPort already fuels the operations of three ports under the Sharjah Port Authority.
In one of the most interesting operations I saw at IBS, the Cunard passenger liners Queen Elizabeth 2 and Queen Mary 2 were being supported by Ship Partner, an on-board property management system.
In creating these management solutions, IBS has had to constantly update its arsenal of high tech tools to embrace the latest cutting edge technologies that the travel and transportation industry deploys.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is replacing bar coded systems in many cargo operations.
Tomorrow, RFID tags might be attached to passengers’ check-in baggage to better monitor their progress through the complex handling system and ensure less aggravation due to ‘missed baggage’.
Mobile and handheld wireless-enabled terminals are replacing many desktop based tagging and retrieval system allowing field staff unprecedented levels of autonomy in logistics management.
Things and people need to get from here to there in the quickest possible time, by the shortest, most cost effective route — and IBS engineers have created a truly Indian brand. Ironically their offerings, while performing in some the most demanding environments abroad are rather thin on the ground in their own country where paying for quality has not always been a compulsion. But that may change.
As Indian airlines and ports and tour operators grow and compete for business in the global arena, they will be under intense pressure to deliver the best — and the quest for the best may see them turn to the biggest Indian name in the business.
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