Maersk Line’s Advanced Analytics team
Maersk Line’s Advanced Analytics team has a long list of projects it is working on with different parts of the Maersk Line business and many more lined up.
- Operational optimisation and commercial excellence are the primary focus of the team
- Besides container repairs, the team is involved in a variety of operational efficiency projects. Two of the biggest are bunker optimisation and empty container forecasting. They are multi-billion dollar cost areas with the kind of complexity the team thrives on
- New business models are a third area of endeavour that reflects the likelihood that Maersk Line’s globe-spanning operational and commercial data – combined with the ability to analyse it – will one day be a valuable product itself
One immediate finding was that the importation of certain spare parts into India – a huge repair location – was not necessary. The data proved that locally sourced floorboard materials were not leading to a greater frequency of repeat repairs as suspected, but that the cargo being loaded there – marble and concrete – is a factor. This knowledge alone will save Maersk Line USD 2 million a year.
“This is incredibly exciting, but it’s also new. We cannot say at this point that ‘this visibility will save us this much’, but we’re already sharing the findings with suppliers to help them improve. We know it will have an impact,” says Rysz.
The sexiest job of the century
A visit to the Advanced Analytics team on a Friday afternoon confirms some expectations – complex mathematical equations on one person’s screen and what appears to be programming code on another. Bon Jovi’s “Wanted, Dead or Alive” plays out loud on team leader Jan Voetmann’s phone. “It’s Friday,” he says.
The AA team is comprised of eight people with varied academic backgrounds and experience, along with a lot of skill overlap in mathematics and a statistical computer programming language called ‘R’. All eight of them are data scientists – what the Harvard Business Review has called “the sexiest job of the 21st century.”
At 43-years of age, Voetmann is the Head of Advanced Analytics and the oldest in the department. He has a Masters in Mathematical Economics. He wrote his thesis about one of his heroes, John Nash, the mathematician and professor portrayed in the movie, “A Beautiful Mind.”
Voetmann’s first hire two years ago was Nicki Bolbroe, who at 27 is the youngest member of the team. He has a Masters in Management Science and specialises in econometrics. Klaus Holst is one of the latest additions to the team. He has a PhD in Statistics with particular expertise in two branches, survival analysis and event history analysis.
“More than anything, what data scientists do is make discoveries while swimming in data,” writes the Harvard Business Review in a story titled Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century. “In a competitive landscape where challenges keep changing and data never stops flowing, data scientists help decision makers shift from ad hoc analysis to an ongoing conversation with data.”
“What kind of business is Maersk Line? It’s a shipping business, but it’s also very much a logistics business that depends on optimisation,” says Jakob Stausholm, Maersk Line’s Chief Transformation Officer. “If we want real cost leadership and commercial excellence, applying the technology and the competencies of advanced analysts can take us much further than conventional analysis.”
The analytics community is also excited to see Maersk entering this space. A conference for users of ‘R’ hosted by Voetmann’s team this past summer filled the large auditorium at Maersk HQ in Copenhagen with curious peers eager to hear what Maersk Line was doing with analytics.
“Liner shipping has many interesting problems for people like us; complex problems that need to be solved, mathematically. It’s very challenging and motivating. It’s an exciting time to be in this field,” says Holst.
The future of shipping
The AA team has a long list of projects it is working on with different parts of the Maersk Line business and many more in the queue. Operational optimisation and commercial excellence are the primary focus of the team and these projects dominate the list.
Besides container repairs, they are involved in a variety of operational efficiency projects. Two of the biggest are bunker optimisation and empty container forecasting. They are multi-billion dollar cost areas with the kind of complexity the team thrives on.
Commercially, the ground is just as fertile, from automated and intelligent pricing and quoting systems to determining the most desirable cargo mix for vessel utilisation and customer profitability analysis.
New business models are a third area of the team’s focus, reflecting the likelihood that Maersk Line’s globe-spanning operational and commercial data – combined with the ability to analyse it – will one day be a valuable product itself.
“We don’t know where analytics will take us, but we can see the next few phases where this team will create a lot of value for the business,” says Jakob Stausholm.
“It’s early though, we’re learning to walk right now. We have to keep building our competencies, looking at the kind of tools we need and to define how we want to work. That includes giving the analysts room to play and explore their own ideas. It’s going to be exciting to see how it develops and where it takes us.”