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Safer handling of hazardous liquids thanks to efficient information management

The Rotterdam Botlek area is home to numerous tanks used to store and tranship hazardous liquids and fuel oil, among other things. One of the operators of some of those tanks is Rubis Terminal. Asset manager Ed Kool is tasked with ensuring that all processes around filling, emptying, cleaning and returning the tanks 'ready for use' are carried out safely, efficiently and effectively. This involves a lot and important information and documentation. With the help of premium M-Files partner GeONE However, Kool gets all information processes fully under control.

M-Files for better control of documents and security protocols

Rubis Terminal is originally a French company and plays an important role in the terminal market with several locations in Europe. 'The hallmark of Rubis Terminal is that we are flexible and generate high customer satisfaction,' says Kool. 'Contracts with our customers can be arranged with us within one-and-a-half to two weeks. That is truly exceptional in this industry. However, that flexibility requires us to have a complete grasp of all the processes and information surrounding the storage and handling of these so-called K1 liquids. You can imagine that with these hazardous substances, this is strictly monitored by various controlling bodies'.

Availability of information crucial

How does it actually work at such a company as Rubis Terminal? Kool: 'Our customers want to store their fuel oil, or K1 liquids, for shorter or longer periods of time in order to then distribute further to customers or companies acting as brokers. Rubis Terminal has 38 tanks in the Netherlands for the K1 liquids and then about six fuel oil tanks. Those substances cannot be pumped into the tanks directly from a ship or tanker truck. Therefore, pipes and couplings are laid to pump those liquids from the port where the ship is berthed to the respective tank at Rubis Terminal. Everything - from take-off point to final destination in the tank - regarding pipes, couplings, liquids, tanks, liquid transport, maintenance status, etc. is accompanied with a lot of (mainly technical) information.

A well-functioning 'ecosystem' is crucial for optimal risk management

We have to document all processes and 'hardware' and even certify much of it. This is because of safety and risks associated with the transport and storage and handling of those hazardous chemicals. For instance, we have a total of 46 tanks, and basically 46 different management systems belong to them. It is an almost military operation to ensure that both the process of storage and transshipment is done safely, while at the same time processes are insightful and all associated information is up-to-date, complete and available to the people who need it. The proper functioning of the whole 'ecosystem' of infrastructure and technology is crucial with regard to optimal risk management.'


The acute availability of information was a concern. 'Everything was there and it was complete and available, but the place and way information was stored was not always logical for everyone. If a techie stores something according to his logic, it doesn't necessarily make as much sense to someone else. That could be tricky in an emergency. Hence, I was keen to see a solution for that: information had to be available to those directly involved at all times and everywhere, in the most up-to-date version and preferably at the same time as all other relevant information with it.'

Grip on risks

The main process at Rubis Terminal is the constant 'conversion' of a filled tank to an empty tank, ready to be used again for the next customer. Kool: 'That is where the biggest risks are: are there still residues in it because the tank is not clean properly; are the couplings well maintained; is the documentation about the tank and the substances that have been in it correct, etc. We need 100% certainty on that. Also with regard to the manipulation of substances. It is a complex matter involving significant risks and with potentially major consequences if things go wrong.'

Many of the risks are known in advance and anticipated. Kool: 'But that last 5% depends on an operator, for example, who needs information to carry out checks adequately and quickly. Our kind of company falls into the category of BRZO companies (Company Risk of Serious Accidents). So a lot of checks are carried out there and everything has to be in order at all times. But then there is still the need to constantly and persistently check whether everything is actually functioning as it should, and this must be recorded in an orderly and findable way. Until recently, we used Windows Explorer, with a straightforward folder structure. That is convenient for the person who set it up, but if you get into it as an outsider, it is sometimes difficult to find something quickly. This terminal has been here for 10 years now and there have been countless projects. If I have to be able to ensure visibility, transparency and accountability, I don't want all that information to be in a relatively unstructured system like Windows Explorer. So we first got down to business: what do we want, what requirements and wishes go with it, and what choice flows from that? Then we would transfer the existing information to the new system.'

Knowledge and experience at GeONE

Playing in the background was the fact that the head office in France was also working on a transition. However, that was taking Kool too long. 'It did mean that we had to make a conscious choice for a solution that would not get in our way in future developments, but could move flexibly with us. To cut a long story short, we came to the conclusion that M-Files was the best-fit solution for our problem and partner GeONE was, based on knowledge and experience, the best party to take on that project with.'

The special feature of M-Files is that it is just as capable of managing complex technical information as the more 'traditional' information, as we usually see with DM systems. When transferring all existing information to M-Files, we chose to transfer everything first and then metadata it. In retrospect, it might have been better to do it the other way round. It would have been a good way to clean up only the really relevant information for our customers. maintenance left over. Anyway, that was our choice at the time and was certainly not down to M-Files.

M-Files is the ideal system for us: information always findable based on 'what' something is rather than where it is stored

M-Files is the ideal system for us: based on what the information is, it can always find the right documents quickly, wherever they are. If the search term used is relevant to the document, M-Files finds it. In Windows Explorer had to we follow a certain path, otherwise you never found the document. Another important advantage: once we have linked our systems later, M-Files can also show all other relevant documents, so the user immediately sees the document in the right context. That saves time and money. During an inspection, we can immediately show how everything fits together, what happened and what documents are there to prove it. GeONE, in particular, helped us in setting up that part and setting up the business rules belonging to it very well. Then you see that they have a lot of experience, understand the subject matter and focus on this industry. This allows us to get the most out of M-Files.'

You can see that GeONE has a lot of experience and understands our business

Document Controller

Rubis Terminal has now appointed a new Document Controller who will start work soon. Kool: 'He will be allowed to further optimise the process of storing and managing documents via M-Files within Rubis Terminal, so that we benefit even more. We want to work towards a system of 'one single point of truth', and that will be M-Files. Links to our existing systems, such as the asset management system and the work order system should complete the integration. Then we can maximise the intelligence in M-Files. No techie will then have a problem finding specific documents.'

The second project with M-Files is now also in progress: managing security procedures and protocols. Kool: 'The traceability and timeliness of those documents are obviously crucial for our operations, risk management and accountability. The fact that these are now managed in M-Files directly has the added benefit that our people are getting used to using M-Files more and more. That's good, because we will be using it more and more... Our terminal in Antwerp is also following this process with great interest, as is, of course, our head office.'

Kool concludes: 'M-Files gives me peace of mind. I don't lose much sleep over the hazardous materials we store and tranship for our customers, but I could still get restless over the quantity and importance of the documentation that goes with it. That is now a thing of the past.'

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