“How will we track these containers once they leave a port, so that we know where they are?”
This was the question asked in 1973 when the decision was made to containerize Maersk Line’s USA-Asia service – and the challenge was to develop a suitable system before operations began in September 1975…from scratch.
Early Maersk Line containers on their way – but still in sight from the office due to newly developed electronic data processing systems.
Maersk Data (established in 1970 as an in-house IT function) was up to the task and also established Maersk Line’s own proprietary satellite communications network, which would become the central nervous system in the growing organisation and a differentiator in the market.
From the early 1980’s, MCS (Maersk Communications System) made it possible “to communicate globally…it was unheard of in those days” remembers Jørgen Harling.
Information Technology was Electronic Data Processing in those days. Moving data was very difficult and thus the big steps in supply chain management (a term first coined in 1982) were taken only as EDP became IT and later “ITC”, with a C for communication.
A true revolution: unit number, origin, destination, owner, shipper…all kinds of information can be read securely via the barcode.
The barcode became widely used in the 1980’s and it should prove pivotal for the development of efficient systems for moving both data and physical items.
Mercantile (later Maersk Logistics and today DAMCO) landed its first contract in 1990. Data was managed at Stock Keeping Unit level, catering for a true end-to-end overview of the supply chain.
In the effort to digitize manual operations and procedures, the early 1990’s saw the introduction of a number of systems, which would prove to be around perhaps a bit longer than originally anticipated.
RKCS, a customer service system, was to “greatly increase customer satisfaction with Maersk Line’s documentation” (RKDS). Also, RKEM, a new equipment management system, was introduced in 1993.
Customer service with the most modern facilities of the day; head set and all relevant in-formation available on the computer screen.
Amazon was founded in 1995, and shortly after eBay took its first steps in the development of e-commerce solutions. Efforts to utilize the new opportunities in digital and web continued as work to create INTTRA, a neutral transportation portal, was started in 2000. MLIS (Maersk Line’s Invoicing System), the first global invoicing solution, came shortly after.
Coordinating, communicating, controlling with constant care.
With MCS Maersk has had a world class email system for nearly 40 years, today supple-mented with Outlook and similar systems. Communication as such is straight forward and efficient.
We are, and the rest of the shipping world with us, still struggling to create digital systems to replace manual operations. Perhaps the question from 1973 could be rephrased:
“How will we track and access the data once entered?”
The data that is typed into systems reside in fields. Put simply, the challenge is to make the right fields available to the right parties at the right time.
It was the challenge in 1975 and as with containerization itself, the successful utilization of the potential in our EDP, eh IT, systems will create new opportunities in world trade.
Checking the data to do the right thing the first time.