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Optimizing barge planning and river logistics

Julien Broucke
February 16, 2024
min read
Optimizing barge planning: the path to maximizing fleet utilization and reducing emissons, through real time location tracking and scheduling.

Table of content:

  1. Problem statement: why are river logistics such a challenge?
  2. Stop planning & reduce manual work in Excel
  3. Make transitions and scheduling with ground staff easier
  4. The value of event data for strategic decisions
  5. Mapping the organization for effective logistics
  6. Conclusion


Problem statement: why are river logistics such a challenge?

When moving products across a limited and well-defined river network, you have by definition a number of key challenges: limited assets, production adherence and restricted space.

To demonstrate these challenges, consider this scenario: There's an incident on a route that will cause a delay in one of your barges reaching the factory. Since the port can only accommodate one barge at a time, the entire plan must be adjusted to inform subsequent barges. Consequently, other barges may require a new plan as their intended positions will no longer be feasible after this journey. This situation is reminiscent of the childhood game of musical chairs.

Now, consider a scenario where you lack timely information and only discover that your barge is now delayed at the checkpoint. Your options for replanning are further constrained, adding significant time pressure.

In this scenario, the importance of maintaining a swift and efficient supply chain becomes paramount, although it's also a complex endeavor. There are two potential solutions: either invest in costly custom-made software tailored to address your specific challenges, or rely on manual, imperfect Excel-based solutions with inherent risks.

Given the typically narrow profit margins in industries like "barges logistics," it's unsurprising that option two often becomes the default choice. A solution such as Metronome was long awaited in this area, which isn't particularly attractive to the mainstream tech industry but could substantially improve day-to-day operations and reduce carbon emissions.


Stop planning & reduce manual work in Excel!

Today, planning for a fleet looks like opening several Excel files that have been built over the years by different people. This file acts as a decision aid but cannot be an efficient planning solution. Although partially catering for a critical need, the current solution carries a lot of risks and downfalls:

  • Few knows the logic end to end, which means bug-fixing, enhancements and maintenance is increasingly difficult and requires dedicated resources. An important point to highlight is that the rules at play are very difficult to specify holistically and rank therefore to automate.
  • Performance and pertinence of such tools doesn’t follow the growth of operations and effectively holds everyone back. Meaning a steep learning curve for anyone taking on this process and a difficulty to retain these people over time.
  • Operations have to manage the risks associated with such tools, with the huge impacts of a failure. – for example, stopping production in a stock less environment because your barge didn’t make it in time, and you could not deal with the issue with your manual tooling.

As useful as Excel is, it will not be able to compete with a solution designed to address this operational need, such as Metronome. Even if as good, it will take much more manual work that a software.

We work with existing data when available, so in this specific case, we integrate with the existing order book available in their ERP. We can also push information automatically to other systems or government like entities to declare goods movements.

Furthermore, we take the stress and uncertainty out of planning so that people can focus on maximizing fleet utilization instead of just getting by.


Make transitions and scheduling with ground staff easier

Effective communication between the planning department, factory staff and captains is critical to smooth operations. Metronome offers both a user-friendly smartphone app that allows real-time monitoring of barge movement and a desktop app with the necessary planning tools and dashboards.

This empowers factory/refinery staff and captains to proactively report challenges and collaborate with the planning team, information is pushed, removing the need for constant calls.


The value of event data for strategic decisions

Previously, gathering insights on their operations was time-consuming and convoluted. Metronome changes the game in 2 main ways:

  • It brings to the surface what requires immediate attention. Your barge is late at the next check point, one of your captains didn’t show up one day? So that day today operations are smooth and dealt on an exception basis through quick actions.
  • It highlights trends and patterns through data intelligence, helping with continuous improvement and clear understanding of operations. It could be that one of your routes systematically takes more time to complete, so you can drill into the data and find out the root cause.

Leadership can use this data to make informed strategic decisions and justify additional investments in critical assets such as additional barges.


Mapping the organization for effective logistics

Metronome can offer efficient planning and dispatch through its proprietary graph model.

We believe we have the right model to replicate any organization, as complex as it might be and in the most accurate way. Handling planning and dispatch is then a case of layering the rules and constraints that are known at the moment with the ability to enrich them over time with data analytics and machine learning.

This comprehensive mapping ensures efficient planning under constraints, leading to the right assets being allocated to the right places at the right time, minimizing delays and maximizing efficiency.



When looking at fleet management and moving products across a constrained network, optimizing the supply chain is essential to achieving operational efficiency. By trusting Metronome, our partners can significantly improve their planning processes, remove the need for manual solutions and collect real-time data to make informed decisions.

Metronome truly bridges a gap in the BtoB SaaS ecosystem, offering an innovative solution by design and at a competitive price point due to its no-code configuration.

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Julien Broucke
Co-founder & CEO, Process Metronome

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