Ten years ago the container shipping process was much like any other — it relied heavily on manual processes with little automation, and what did exist was not standardized across all suppliers.
As cargo needed to be shipped, a container was booked, and documentation was sent to complete the shipping process.
In most cases this was conducted by fax, over the phone and through e-mail which created great inefficiencies.
The wrong information could be easily recorded and hours would be lost in transaction as organizations worked to ensure the shipping documentation was submitted correctly, enabling the cargo to arrive on time at the port of final destination.
Then, in 2001 there was a shockwave sent through the industry — an innovative tool from the new world of online business had arrived: the e-Commerce platform.
But how has the Australian market adopted e-Commerce into the supply chain?
According to regional sales director ANZ, for INTTRA George Pin, e-Commerce growth in the Australian shipping industry has been slow.
He tells Logistics Magazine that one of the reasons for this is the strong loyalty organisations have for personal relationships and the confidence this gives the individual in transacting the shipping process.
“The problem is, however, companies don’t realise how quickly incremental steps in progress actually translate into a more efficient shipping method, or the time and cost that could be saved,” Pin argues.
“Ultimately, what I try to do is help people understand that e-Commerce isn’t about diminishing relationships, but rather managing them and building value in the shipping process to the benefit of the user and the shipper
INTTRA, the world’s largest B2B multi-carrier e-Commerce platform for the shipping industry, currently tracks over 240,000 shipping containers globally each week.
Besides the ability to unite all parties to the supply chain under one technology tent for increased visibility, Pin points to the way e-Commerce platforms can automate and standardise a variety of shipping and collaborative work practices in a secure electronic environment.
“The platforms also spare users the need to invest in costly software and hardware while maximising the value of the systems they already have,” he explains.
Pin says the most commonly adopted e-Commerce products in the Australian supply chain have been, bookings and electronic shipping instructions both of which can be easily and effectively streamlined to provide shippers with considerable savings in time and effort.
“The biggest misconception a shipping organisation has is to think that it doesn’t need help,” he points out.
“The accounting industry used think this way. Accountants had their ledgers and pencils and thought that they didn’t need the help of computers. Today, everything is done by computer.”
“It’s the same in the shipping and logistics industry
However, what should not be lost in the discussion is that e-Commerce is more than just a processing tool, but also a productivity and warehousing tool.
“For management teams, e-Commerce is great because data can be tracked, stored and reported in a timely fashion,” Pin says.
“It can reduce the stress involved in meeting shipping deadlines and being available 24/7 adds flexibility to the overall process.”
“It only takes a few clicks to prepare a document, make a booking or to track your cargo and it can be done in your own time rather than be restricted to only business hours.”
E-Commerce tools can also provide the basic core data for the supply chain, from the time a container is picked up empty to the time it arrives at the port of final destination and is delivered.
The major events in the transport plan are readily visible from one platform for a multitude of carriers.
Ultimately, the future INTTRA sees for e-Commerce is through constant productivity improvements and management of the shipping process, while providing visibility to the total shipping movement to multiple parties in real-time.
“Over the next 2-3 years, I think you will see many more Australian companies looking for visibility into their supply chain data and looking to control cost and trade,” Pin affirms.
“Furthermore this information is no longer relegated to larger volume shippers but it is now available to all shippers regardless of size.”
“Companies will know everything they need to in order to make necessary business changes.”
“In the end, the more efficient they become in the shipping process, the more successful they will be in servicing their overseas customers and increasing their business.”