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Container Shipping & Trade

Container Shipping & Trade

Hapag-Lloyd: deploying data to boost customer and terminal relationships

Tue 19 Feb 2019 by Rebecca Moore

Hapag-Lloyd: deploying data to boost customer and terminal relationships
Pyers Tucker (Hapag-Lloyd): The carrier's customer web channel is "truly like Amazon"

Digitalisation is key to Hapag-Lloyd’s aims to build closer relationships with its terminals and customers. Hapag-Lloyd senior director of corporate development Pyers Tucker explains

Hapag-Lloyd is deploying data to build a more productive relationship with terminals, improve its customer service offerings and measure and improve on-time delivery of shipments.

To help achieve the latter, the carrier is establishing a central control tower to manage the schedules of its fleet of ships. Previously, instructions came from the nearest area to the individual ship.

Hapag-Lloyd senior director of corporate development Pyers Tucker said “Local decision makers do not have access to all of the downstream consequences on a roundtrip. Therefore, we are putting in place a control tower where people can access all the relevant information quickly and make the right decisions for the whole organisation, rather than just locally optimised ones.”

He emphasised that “digitalisation is absolutely key” to establishing the control tower. “The way forward is to connect lots of different data streams in different formats from different sources, combine them in an automated way and present the information to the control tower team so that they can quickly make good decisions.”

Hapag-Lloyd has piloted how to achieve this for nine months and is building the software and user interfaces. It estimated it will take two to three years to roll out completely. 

Highlighting the benefits Hapag-Lloyd and its customers will reap, Mr Tucker said “It will help significantly with on-time shipments, as it means that if things go wrong, we can identify this earlier and make better decisions much more quickly about what to do about it and keep customers informed appropriately.”

Another focus for Hapag-Lloyd is working more closely at an operational level with its terminal partners. Mr Tucker said “In the past, there has generally been little co-ordination.” He said rather than focus purely on price, Hapag-Lloyd wants to work actively with its terminal partners, so that both parties can find win-wins and improve efficiencies.

An important part of this is deciding what data would be helpful to receive by each party earlier, and whether this should be provided in a different format so the two can work together more efficiently.

A pilot scheme was carried out at Jebel Ali and is being rolled out to other terminals. It included improving communications around arrival times, crane/tandem cranes, gangway and labour gang allocations, intermodal terminal planning, as well as around bunkering, tugs, stowage and loading requirements. Mr Tucker warned “This is not simple and is really detailed. You need to sit down and work things through with teams from both sides meeting daily, weekly and monthly.”

Web channel business boost

Elsewhere, the company has boosted its customer service offering through its web channel – Quick Quotes – which it launched last January, before going public with it in August. Mr Tucker says “Most other carriers have websites where the shipper’s request for a quotation is sent to a service centre, where a member of staff will respond later by email.

“Our system is fully automated. The analogy is that it is truly like Amazon. The customer can get an immediate quotation and book a shipment there and then.”

The web channel has grown in 12 months to over 6% of Hapag-Lloyd’s global business. The website is producing 120,000 quotations automatically a week.

Hapag-Lloyd has introduced the channel to individual customers, inviting them to briefings to teach them how to use it and to gain feedback as to how they want to use the tool, so that this could be incorporated as the tool is refined.

Mr Tucker was keen to emphasise that container shipping lines have always used digital solutions. “We have to manage 1.6M containers and 220 ships all over the world. This would be impossible without sophisticated IT solutions. Digitalisation has always underpinned everything that we do in this industry. We are just getting smarter about how to do things, such as putting data together more quickly and reliably and in innovative ways.”

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