Advantages of Digital Technology
Q: INTTRA recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Can you describe how digitization in ocean shipping has evolved since 2001?
A: Some carriers and shippers moved to adopt standardizing form exchanges early on; then bespoke, single-process products (e.g., rates management), and later ERP systems. Cloud-based Transportation Management Systems (TMS) allowing shippers to avoid expensive in-house implementations are now a fast-growing market segment. Today, INTTRA believes that effective use of technology will be the major driver of transformation in ocean shipping—and the primary differentiator between competitors.
Q: How would you characterize the pace of digitization?
A: In an environment of low rates, fierce competition and rapid consolidation, the pace of digitization has passed a tipping point. It is accelerating rapidly, and we expect it to further accelerate. Digitization is no longer an "option." It is a competitive necessity. At INTTRA, our main objective is making the adoption and use of digital technology as advantageous as possible, with constant improvements to the customer experience and portal functionality, and data analytics tools to help customers harness the largely untapped power of data. INTTRA experienced 16-percent growth in ocean container orders in 2016, demonstrating strong demand for digitization that truly facilitates operational excellence.
Q: How do you foresee digitization evolving in the coming years?
A: We believe the use of networks, communication standards and interconnectivity will rapidly accelerate. Adoption and expansion of broader physical networks for data exchange and analytics, across multiple vendors in the same transportation chain, will facilitate optimization and increase velocity in logistics—powered by Cloud technologies and predictive analytics.
This networked environment will facilitate far greater integration and interoperability of the three workstreams of shipping—operational, financial and informational. Operational interconnection encompasses space utilization, booking, tracking, intermodal, empties repositioning and other aspects of physical container movements. Financial flow includes rates management, letters of credit, invoicing and freight audit. Informational flow covers data exchanges accompanying cargo shipments—from trade compliance to customer services.
Q: What technology trends will facilitate those breakthroughs?
A: Immutable, transparent smart contracts built with technologies like Blockchain and RESTful will enable integration across systems, applications, and partners. Traceable identity of shipments paired with tracking devices connected to the "Internet of Things" will provide real-time status of containers and cargo, and increase the amount and quality of data for more efficient shipment planning. Companies will move beyond "big data" to business analytics that is more accessible (e.g., through PaaS and SaaS models), predictive, accurate and rapid through artificial intelligence and machine learning.