DECODING the Changing Face of SUPPLY CHAIN
We have switched our development process to an agile model. In addition, we have embraced the latest technology innovations by launching our first cloud products, offering data analytics solutions and adding a very popular new interface developed with mobile devices in mind. All these changes have had a major positive impact on the quality of our products, speed of reaction to market needs and cost structure.
Main goal of INTTRA
As a neutral platform at the center of ocean industry, we aim to help all participants in the shipping chain to improve efficiency and eliminate errors. Our customers can leverage the power of the world largest digital network for booking and tracking containers, as well as access data analytics tools and a cloud-based compliance solution for new container weight regulations called SOLAS VGM. We see our role as accelerating technology-driven innovation in shipping and bringing various parties together on a standardized platform to increase operational efficiency and levels of service.
Providing access to a product as a service creates a whole new level of complexity in asset management, supply chains and underlying IT systems
Obstacles Technologists Face in Working in an Agile Supply Chain Model
The agility of supply chains is highly dependent on increasing the number and frequency of interactions between their participants, especially in such areas as transportation and e-commerce, where the timing of a vendor’s response is crucial to the flexibility of the whole system. Today many of these contacts are slowed by the lack of digitization and common standards. As supply chain professionals strive to grow the agility of their networks, the need to digitize the same networks becomes crucial. In addition, as more and more players become interconnected, maintaining the exponentially growing number of connections stretches IT resources and budgets. It elevates the importance of networks that provide connections to many trading partners through a single portal. The 15 percent growth in container bookings in 2016 by INTTRA, a network connecting carriers, freight forwarders and shippers, in a year when global container trade grew by less than 3 percent, illustrates this trend. This greatly increased connectivity also facilitates better data exchange and interoperability between operational and financial workflows, which historically have been automated separately—as well as between various elements of transportation chains (e.g., ocean and in-land container movements) that rarely talk to each other today and even lack the basics of digitization.
While technicians have a whole new set of tools at their disposal today, the pressure to implement such connections, tight spending controls and the shipping industry’s preference for small, focused projects with fast ROI create a major challenge.
The Paradigm Shift between Traditional Supply Chain to Service Offering Model
Providing access to a product as a service creates a whole new level of complexity in asset management, supply chains and underlying IT systems. Good visibility of inventories, agile customer relationship management and billing process, a high level of integration between data supporting operational, financial and informational workstreams, are as vital to success as stakeholders’ acceptance of a new P&L model. The services offering requires greater focus on variable costs associated with the volume of services provided as opposed to upfront investment in assets.
We at INTTRA see our mission as helping the ocean shipping industry to accelerate IT adoption and leverage technology-driven innovation to evolve business models towards greater flexibility and higher profitability. For example, the INTTRA eVGM Service-our cloud-based product for SOLAS compliance-offers shippers an opportunity to submit verified gross mass, or container weight, messages to carriers without having to develop and maintain complex in-house solutions. Since this service is paid for on a per-container basis and consistent with the volume of containers moved, it supports the flexible service model. Our invoicing solution, which is priced by number of invoices submitted electronically between members of the same network, is another example of turning a traditional product into service-based offering, thus helping the customers to reduce errors and accelerate payments.
Future Innovation and Technologies in Supply Chain
While many areas of the supply chain suffer from lack of automation, the ocean shipping industry undoubtedly has the most catching up to do. When INTTRA was created 15 years ago to digitize the submission of booking and shipping instructions forms between freight forwarders, BCOs and carriers, the concept was completely new. And while the company has had great success, touching 27 percent of all containers in global trade today, approximately half of the industry still uses phone, fax or email for the same process. Yet we have seen signs of acceleration of IT adoption. For example, INTTRA’s eVGM initiative, which was formed in December 2015 to promote digital submission of container weights—a totally new process for the entire industry—and develop common standards for doing so, was been wildly successful. Just a year later, over 90 percent of all messages are delivered electronically. I am looking forward to seeing much faster adoption of data analytics, blockchain technology and artificial intelligence over the next few years to eliminate waste and foster a migration to new business models and better decision making across the industry.
Shipping generates a vast amount of data and creates millions of situations when a relatively standard decision needs to be made. This creates a perfect opportunity to leverage predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to solve such problems as reducing the costs of managing empty containers, integrating ocean and in-land container movements and improving customer service. I am excited to see these technologies change the shipping industry.