Millions of potential new customers

The ships may get all the attention but port terminals are hives of commercial activity on the landside also. With a new global Commercial Dialogue Platform, APM Terminals plans to turn all that buzz into new business.

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APM Terminal’s new Maasvlakte II terminal is the world’s most innovative and technologically advanced container terminal. Photo: Thorbjørn Hansen

In order to increase the value of the business circulating in its terminal facilities, APM Terminals is building the industry’s first global social business platform.

“Most of our current commercial relationships are with the shipping lines. But there are trucking and rail companies, customs brokers and freight forwarders that we believe make up some of the millions of users of our facilities,” says John Trenchard, Head of Commercial Planning and Value Based Selling at APM Terminals.

“We know we have a big impact on their supply chains, we just don’t know the details. If we understand who they are, what they need and what our impact is in their supply chain we can use that information to create tremendous value for them and us.”

According to APM Terminals, when the system is up and running, its new platform will do just that.

Designed for the end users

To build a user-centric platform, the first step is acquiring information about these end users – a lot of it.

Nothing quite like this has been tried before in our industry. We’re building something that will connect all these different actors in our terminals, making their jobs easier and better.

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BRIAN HIBBERT, HEAD OF OPERATIONS TECHNOLOGY AT APM TERMINALS.

Through interviews and collaboration with dozens of future users from different parts of the world, members of APM Terminal’s Global Operations, IT and Commercial departments are building a platform that reflects the diverse needs of its end users, from customs brokers to booking clerks for shipping lines to truck dispatchers.

“We need to understand their daily work down to the details of the daily tasks. Who is Rick the truck dispatcher? What does he require to do a good job, who does he contact the most during the day and how, does he use a smartphone? What makes Rick happy and what frustrates him about his interaction with the terminal?” says Brian Hibbert, Head of Operations Technology at APM Terminals.

Once they understand the people and the requirements and challenges of their jobs, APM Terminals can tailor the services and information available on the new platform to each type of user group. Truck dispatchers, for example, want to know about container availability, gate access, traffic and if any cargo is going the same direction, among many other things depending on whether the terminal is in Onne, Nigeria or New York or Itajai, Brazil.

Wendy Robertson, GM Operations in APM Terminals in Mobile, Alabama is convinced this is the way to go: “Our Commercial Dialogue Platform will differentiate APM Terminals and give it an edge to better serve the customers – more quickly, accurately and with greater visibility.”

An evolving platform

“The platform will be very flexible and intuitive. We want people to enjoy using it, to do business and also interact with each other and us in a social business kind of way,” says Nicholas O’Neill, Head of APM Terminal’s Digital Operations.

Most of our current commercial relationships are with the shipping lines.

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JOHN TRENCHARD, HEAD OF COMMERCIAL PLANNING AND VALUE BASED SELLING AT APM TERMINALS.

To ensure the design and functionality of the platform gives users an optimum experience, the platform will be tested every two weeks with the help of our end users, taking into account the evaluation and feedback received from end users in prior to each new iteration.

“The problem with a lot of e-commerce platforms in the ‘business-to-business’ segment is they are built by ‘us’ and end up making it easier for ‘us’ to do business, but not the customer. This platform is being built by our target customers because we want a user experience that is second to none,” says O’Neill.

The first commercial pilots of the platform will be launched for small groups of customers in October and December 2015 in three locations: Onne, Nigeria; Aqaba, Jordan and Mobile, Alabama in the United States.