Thursday 20th Sep, 2018

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SPECIAL REPORT: Integrated platforms the path for growth

Port of Hamburg in Germany is just one operation where Containerchain expertise has been deployed. Shutterstock
Port of Hamburg in Germany is just one operation where Containerchain expertise has been deployed. Shutterstock

CONTAINERCHAIN has been around for a decade or so, but the company which rose to prominence in Australia by providing a solution to long truck delays outside Melbourne container parks continues to facilitate change.

Chris Collins is the Singapore-based chief operating officer. He told DCN that during the past two years, substantial growth had occurred in the areas of Containerchain’s integrated platform products.

“Some time ago we started in business focused more on a singular solution around empty containerparks to provide them with a complete operating system and a vehicle booking system to alleviate truck queues,” Mr Collins says.

“We’ve evolved that offering over the last decade to now be an integrated technology platform that uses that core base to provide a suite of additional solutions to other containerised supply chain participants including road transporters whom we provide transport management systems, mobility applications.

“The evolution in our platform has now extended in the last twelve months to provide track and trace capability and proactive planning solutions for cargo owners, importers and exporters, as well as some of the major shipping lines and sea port terminal operators.”

As well as extending into the core mature markets of Australia and Singapore the business has now expanded to Europe where in the last 12 months it has established a presence and customer base in Germany and at the Port of Antwerp in Belgium.

Mr Collins says there is growth in markets such as Europe and North America where there is already highly-advanced technology.

“You would be surprised. We often start looking at a new market like Europe or the US, for example, and think that they must be very sophisticated and already have many of the things that we can offer,” he says. “But, as you dig deeper, particularly in this industry, you find that’s not necessarily the case.

“Issues faced at Melbourne, Sydney or Singapore are still faced at Los Angeles or Hamburg. That is where opportunity lies for us.”

Defining the product
Mr Collins talks a little with DCN about how Containerchain has developed a unique niche in the global logistics market.

“We believe we are quite unique in the context of that integrated platform,” he says.

“We always encounter some competition within singular product verticals, for example there are people out there who sell transport management systems to trucking companies but they don’t really do anything else.

“Similarly, there are competitors out there who sell stand-alone vehicle booking systems to seaport terminals but they don’t really do anything else, so we are quite unique in that integrated platform offering.”

Challenges and opportunities
The pace of technological change combined with soaring freight tasks goes a long way towards means new opportunities abound.

It’s a point made by Mr Collins when asked where the challenges lie for the business.

“There has been so much opportunity for us the question is where to focus,” he says.

“When we started looking at new markets beyond Australia and South East Asia, there was real opportunity in a number of them. The key for us was to decide on which one to invest in order to maximise our return on effort.

“This is a positive challenge, certainly not a negative one and continues to be one of our biggest challenges as we grow internationally.”

Even as new business has developed far away, Mr Collins says there is still significant growth closer home in the Oceania region.

“We’ve got a lot to go in new products which are focused on optimisation and value delivery to beneficiary cargo owners. I think we’ve got a lot of growth in Australia and New Zealand left with those products in the near future” he says.

“In addition, there is the pending roll-out of our newly updated container facility operating systems and vehicle booking system and our new transport management system to our existing customers on top of the other new products within the platform.”

Problem solving
Mr Collins emphasises the business takes a multifaceted approach to business.

“We are not just selling software, we’re solving real problems. We are aware of those problems and we know how to solve them because we’re not just a technology company,” he says.

“We are from the industry and around 50% of our people have run container facilities, run transport companies, have run ports, worked for shipping lines and importers and exporters etc.

“They understand and have worked for the users of our products on the ocean side and the land side, we are solving real problems by the use of technology. I think we’re quite lucky in a way.”

Mr Collins says they’ve worked hard to get to a position of having a niche focused offering.

“But the pace of technology means that is a challenge as there is always someone thinking they can come and replicate what you have done over a decade, overnight,” he says.

“We have to continually keep ourselves ahead of that.”

Automation is playing an increasing role in the Australian (and international) logistics scene and Mr Collins says this is very much in keeping with their own ideas.

“Automation, whether it be in Australia or in any international market in which we’re operating is really what we want to happen,” he says.

“Automation is just one application for solving supply chain inefficiency. The way we view things is that automation, internet of things, integrated technology platform providers such as ourselves, blockchain… all of those things will drive the supply chain of the future.

“Automation specifically only makes our applications more efficient and ultimately the users of them, our customers, or customers of our customers, benefit.

“We wish more automation would be deployed in some cases sooner and more widely to solve some current industry pain points.”

Another term that is currently in widespread use is ‘blockchain’.

“The way we see blockchain is we don’t necessarily advocate the cryptocurrency side of blockchain,” Mr Collins says.

“We see (blockchain) as more useful in terms of an improved and open and secure way of communicating.

“Our view is that the currently-used but very historical and non-standardised EDI format may well be in the future be replaced by blockchain open source communication systems.

“We would like that to happen because our platform is essentially a blockchain enabler. If blockchain is the message platform that we communicate with, then that message of communication enhances the Containerchain applications.”

He notes pilot programs involving blockchain that have been deployed by the likes of IBM, Maersk and CMA CGM.

“We are probably seeing some evolution within smart contract and smart documentation within the next six to nine months,” he says.

“Our platform can then securely share that type of smart contract or documentation for users of the application.”

This article appeared in the August edition of DCN Magazine

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