Shipco and ICT Warehouse have an innovative app-titude
Shipco Transport, founded in 1988 as a subsidiary of Denmark based Scan-Group, not only has organically grown into one of the world’s leading neutral NVOCCs, this Catham, NJ-headquartered company operates with leading edge technology that is spring boarding it into a model for efficient customer service, and tracking and tracing. As background, Shipco operates more than 70 offices in over 30 countries across five continents and employs over 1,900 people. The company offers air freight, less than container load (LCL) and full container load (FCL) ocean freight services, which positions Shipco as a ‘one stop’ provider of worldwide transportation solutions. Furthering its global presence, Shipco Transport is a founding member of the Worldwide Alliance, an association of the world’s leading neutral NVOCCs, and the AirCargoGroup, a global organization of neutral Air Freight wholesalers. These strategic alliances bring together exclusive networks of like-minded companies ensuring a synergy of service at both ends of the shipping process. Separating the company from its competition is smart phone technology utilized by International Cargo Terminals, Inc. (ICT), Shipco’s sister company. Last year ICT developed an IT Warehouse Receiving App to be used with smart phones that allows for the tracking and tracing of shipments. ICT ICT, which operates fully bonded container freight stations (CFS) in strategic locations in the United States, established its first CFS in Miami, FL in 2008. It has since opened facilities in Elizabeth, NJ and Long Beach, CA. Its operations at the Port of New York/New Jersey’s Port Elizabeth are a stone’s throw for the port’s major terminals: APM, Maher, and MPT. Thorkild Hove, senior vice president, ICT, explained to this AJOT reporter in an exclusive telephone interview, that smart phones were the easiest technology to utilize since nearly everyone is familiar with their use and has one. Plus, the company chose iPad technology because it wants to roll out its app worldwide. “It’s easier to get protective cases and brackets for iPads,” he says. “For one, there’s unified sizing, whereas Android can run on many different phones and tablets meaning that accessories must be customized.” “ICT was very much involved in the design phase of the use of this technology, particularly since everyone has a smart phone,” emphasizes Michael Tiernan, vice president, ICT. “Shipco wanted to be at the forefront and developed the app with us to enhance the customer service experience.” According to Tiernan, the company made the right decision going with iPad technology. “We can give our customers the exact specs rather than having to shop around for their preferences,” he says. App Advantages, Uses Important components of the app fall into five different categories or modules: cargo receiving, cargo location, cargo images, cargo loading, and warehouse inventory. Essentially, when receiving cargo the new app allows a dock worker to update a single lot directly with shipping marks, dimensions and cargo images. The office worker, in turn, can double check the information, then send cargo receipt notification and cargo images to the customer immediately. “We receive the cargo as we always do, but in addition we use an iPad and scanner to take photos and scan freight in,” explains Tiernan. “This way everyone involved can see a photo of the freight. This is automatically emailed to the customer.” This benefit not only has improved communication with customers, but customer service. “It’s something UPS and Fedex does not offer,” Tiernan adds. The cargo location module of the app shows the dock worker where in the warehouse cargo is supposed to be stored. The dock worker updates the single lot directly with correct information. The cargo images module allows the previously taken images and the cargo receipt notification to be easily accessed, which helps dock workers quickly identify cargo for which they are looking. The container-loading module offers a full overview display of the load plan including piece count. As the container is loaded, each individual piece is scanned to make sure it belongs in the container. If it does not, warnings are immediately shown. This new process is one of the major enhancements in preventing mistakes by potentially loading a piece that should not have been loaded. “If there are any issues, we have a picture showing how the freight looked when we shipped it out,” says Hove. “And sometimes there can be claims disputes as to how the cargo was stowed particularly in situations where there was a rough sea voyage or rough handling at destination.” The warehouse inventory module helps identify what lots/pieces are physically stored in the warehouse. The data can then be analyzed via a report in a local ERP system. Tiernan explains that unlike using digital cameras whereby pictures need to be uploaded, attached to files and labeled, the app allows photos to be attached automatically to a booking. “Picture management has been a god send,” he says. “Plus there are checks and balances built into the app to prevent cross shipments and freight left off the container. Its ability to prevent human errors has been an incredible enhancement.” The obvious benefits of the app are many. It saves times, prevents duplicate work, eliminates risks for crossed shipments, increases ease of communication between the warehouse and customer, makes it easy to locate cargo and access cargo images, and it ensures that all cargo is properly loaded. Future Directions The app, which is used primarily for export operations, currently is live in Shipco’s own ICT Warehouses (Elizabeth/New York, Long Beach/Los Angeles and Medley/Miami) as well as Shipco’s 3rd party CFS (Container Freight Station) in Houston, Atlanta and Chicago. “Shipco’s goal is to have all US third party CFS live by the end of the year,” reports Tiernan. He reveals that improvements to the app are coming this summer. “It will be a bit of an achievement if we can get all providers up and running by fall of this year,” he remarks. To date, the company has not had one single negative response from shippers regarding the app. “It’s a win-win for Shipco and our shipper providers,” he says. The ultimate goal is to use the app globally in all container freight stations. Other Innovations Shipco is no newcomer to innovative technology. The company is also involved in the use of solar panels at its New Jersey facility as well as compact fluorescent lights, occupancy sensor controlled lights, and electric powered forklifts. “About half of the forklifts are electric,” comments Hove. “We can use the solar energy to recharge our fork lifts.” The energy from the solar panels goes into the grid from which the company can pull it back out. “This gives us a cost advantage,” he says. That facility encompasses approximately 240,000 square feet – about the same size of its Long Beach facility.