The supply chain of new and used cars is antiquated. Paper, waybills, opacity. Vinturas in Leek is putting an end to that. Together with IBM, the startup is creating a new, digital platform based on blockchain technology that allows cars to be tracked similar to the way it is done with parcel post. A European initiative with global potential.
The road from the car factory to the consumer is one full of operations, modes of transportation, data exchanges and time. The cars go on trailers, then on ships, and through the shipper at the port again on trucks to the dealer. Along the way, waybills are exchanged, stamps placed and data recorded. It takes a long time for those movements to show up in the IT system.
'Many people are familiar with it, that you have ordered a new car but never know exactly when it will be delivered. This is not the dealer's fault, but due to the use of old-fashioned processes and manufacturers still working with old systems. Surely it would be much nicer if you could see exactly where your ordered car is? Then you also understand that it will be a little later if there is bad weather at sea for a while.'
Jon Kuiper is CEO of the brand-new startup Vinturas. As a former director of the Koopman Logistics Group in Leek - specialized in transport and storage of new and used vehicles - he knows the challenges and problems in the industry. 'Actually, it's out of date that you can't track your shipment. People just expect that too. Not only consumers, but also the parties involved in logistics.'
In this regard, Kuiper has a clear vision. 'I am convinced that if we don't pick up this digitization ourselves, digital parties will come up with it and we will soon have to deal with companies from outside the industry taking over our work. We have to be ahead of that, of course.' He decided to gather companies around Koopman that could play a role in that endeavor.
And just let IBM's "blockchain headquarters" be in Groningen, the ideal party to work on a new platform that can help the supply chain into the future. A proof of concept by Koopman with importers PON and VKV became a success. 'The reduction of paperwork, the transparency and the extra service to dealers and thus to consumers were highly appreciated.'
So much so, that Vinturas was created, a partnership with a number of logistics service providers, which is now continuing to work on the digital platform that should go live in the fall. It is quite a job, because it appeals to the industry's way of working and the will to share data with each other. 'The benefits are so great that it is definitely moving in the right direction.'
To name a few of those benefits: the end customer can track his order; fraud with reversed mileage becomes impossible; the standardization makes for better financial reporting; the statistics can be used by insurance companies to gain visibility into accidents caused by carriers; trailers can be shared more easily to avoid transporting half-empty trucks; the participants on the platform can use their data to add value to their transports, from which they benefit themselves.
Not surprisingly, Kuiper and his team found investors for their startup. Axess Logistics from Scandinavia is participating, Ireland's NVD, AutoLink from the Baltic States, pan-European EML and, of course, Koopman Logistics Group. NOM also decided to invest in the startup, which is quite unusual at such an early point in a company's life.
'This is such a promising company, you don't see it come along very often,' says Investment Manager Jens Ruesink. 'Not only because of the international partners, but also because it can really turn the supply chain on its head. The calculations on industry savings and efficiencies are impressive. Add to that the fact that the product is enormously scalable in a global giga-market headed by an industry expert, and then you understand why NOM dared to take the plunge.'
Importantly, too, Vinturas wants to be a thoroughly northern company, a regional initiative with global appeal. Kuiper: "The Northern Netherlands is essentially the best place for us, and not just because it started here. With IBM in Groningen, we have the desired partner. But also the presence of knowledge at the university, the blockchain focal point that Groningen is and the whole ecosystem that originated here are ideal.'
It's a bit like it is with the best ideas: you wonder why it doesn't exist yet. Kuiper: "I had that too. Why can you follow a cookbook almost from minute to minute, but not something as expensive as a car? And if you're not home this afternoon, you have your cookbook delivered tomorrow. That should be possible with a car, too. I know a similar system does exist for other valuable commodities, such as diamonds. But for cars, the smaller initiatives have all foundered. They remained experiments. We are doing it. It is time to really change the market.