Long long ago in a time unrecognizable to many of us, before iPhones, Twitter, Wifi, and even the ongoing Kardashian drama, cargo moved, and supply chains existed, but it was very different than today. While dinosaurs did not quite pull containers to and from the port, they may have well have been when compared to today’s world.
In the year 2000, after we all got done partying like it was 1999, we had to go back to work. Part of that work was tracking freight. When a shipper or a consignee had a question about where their cargo was, the following chain of events unfolded. The example I will use is a ground delivery to the port for an export shipment. First, the exporting shipper picked up the phone and called, or sent an e-mail, to their shipping company and asked: “Where is my shipment?” The shipping company, often a freight forwarder or freight broker, then called the last person they knew had their shipment and asked: “Where is my shipment? I need proof of delivery (POD) to show my customer.” Much of the time the location request ended up in the hands of a trucking company.
At the trucking company, the dispatcher either knew the shipment delivered, or they didn’t. If the later, the dispatcher called or messaged the truck driver’s *pager and asked: “Have you delivered? I need a POD.” If delivered, the truck driver would have said: “Yes, I delivered to the port an hour ago, I will send a POD when I can.” From there the news about the ‘delivered’ status of the shipment traveled the same path again except this time in the opposite direction. The truck driver would then eventually stop at the first convenient truck stop and made a purchase to use something called a **fax machine. With the fax machine, the driver transmitted an image showing proof of delivery to the port of exit back to their dispatcher, who in turn faxed the image to the forwarder or broker, who then faxed the image to the shipper who made the original request. It was then, and only then, the shipper could rest assured their shipment had reached the port.
The shipper, knowing their cargo no longer had the benefit of being covered by cargo insurance to protect their interests, then called their cargo insurance vendor. In the year 2000, the vast majority of cargo insurance certificates were hand typed on demand. Brokers, insurers, and insurance vendors had to receive the shipment data and transfer it through typing or writing to a piece of ****paper with delivery often being made by fax or even by the *****US Postal Service.
If you are a 25-year-old reading this with disbelief reserved for fairy tales, I can’t blame you. While the basic premise of moving things from here to there remains the same for the transportation industry, the tools we now use couldn’t be more different than the year 2000.
Today cargo insurance is often obtained by the utilization of an online account with an insurer. If a shipper or forwarder doesn’t have an account, purchasing insurance certificates from a company who does have an account is an easy option. There are also technology forward shippers, 3PL’s, and freight forwarders that have companies like TJO Cargoprovide the service of having cargo insurance integrated right into their Transportation Management System (TMS) software for purchasing cargo insurance with just a few clicks while booking a shipment. The whole thing is a paperless process unless someone decides to hit the print button in the event of a claim.
However, one of the real superstars of change added to our transportation toolbox is advanced cargo tracking abilities. Back in April 2018, I wrote a piece for Linkedin Pulse titled ‘ I may have found the best cargo tracking & analytics tool ever ’https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-may-have-found-best-cargo-tracking-analitics-tool-ever-tom-o-malley/ outlining the cool container tracking service offered by a company called Arviem based in Switzerland http://arviem.com/. Arviem service impressed me because they could track just about everything in real time. Their system could report on things that include location, moving or stopped, temperature, water intrusion, container door opening, cargo exposed to light in the event of a container breach, impact and shocks detection, routing reports, and even humidity fluctuations. As a cargo insurance vendor and cargo risk geek, Arviem’s container tracking capabilities very much got my attention and the data it provided was quite valuable.
It looks like Arviem is on to something and got some other people’s attention. According to an article in the ***JOC MSC plans to equip 50,000 containers with sensor and tracking capabilities in a joint effort with a France based company called Traxens, which MSC happens to be an investor along with CMA CGM. For Maersk Line’s part, they are throwing their money behind an American startup company called SensorTransport who makes inexpensive, disposable tracking devices intended to attach to the cargo, not the container. It appears the big guns are beginning to ‘get it’ when it comes to the benefit of comprehensive container tracking. There was no mention in the JOC article of the cost if any, of the trackable containers over a container no outfitted with tracking devices.
The true message in these advances it is time to embrace advances in technology if you have not taken the plunge yet. The actions of transportation leaders make it clear what the playing field of transportation is going to look like today and in the not so far off future. Carriers, 3PL’s, large shippers, and freight forwarders who don’t keep up with technology will go the way of the dinosaur pulled container and chassis.
*Historical Citation Wikipedia: A pager (also known as a beeper) was a wireless telecommunications device that received and displayed alphanumeric or voice messages. One-way pagers can only receive messages, while response pagers and two-way pagers also acknowledged, replied to, and originated messages using an internal transmitter.
**Historical Citation Wikipedia: Fax (short for facsimile), sometimes called telecopying or telefax (the latter short for telefacsimile), was the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material (both text and images), normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device. The original document was scanned with a fax machine (or a telecopier), which processed the contents (text or images) as a single fixed graphic image, converting it into a bitmap, and then transmitting it through the telephone system in the form of audio-frequency tones. The receiving fax machine then interpreted the tones and reconstructed the image, and printed a paper copy.
*** JOC Article Cited https://www.joc.com/maritime-news/container-lines/msc-pact-traxens-boost-%E2%80%98smart%E2%80%99-container-fleet_20181015.html?utm_campaign=CL_JOC%20Technology%20Supplement%2010%2F17%2F18%20TF_PC9156_e-production_E-18650_JL_1017_1555&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua
**** Historical Citation Wikipedia: Paper was a thin material produced by pressing together moist fibres of cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets. It was a versatile material with many uses, including writing, printing, packaging, cleaning, decorating, and a number of industrial and construction processes. Papers are essential in legal or non-legal documentation.
***** Historical Citation Wikipedia: The United States Postal Service (USPS; also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service) is an independent agency of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.