Two years ago, Henning Goldmann joined Damco, a global logistics services provider, to optimize its processes and embrace new tech as its CIO.
“We were using a 20-year-old mainframe that was running out of support.”
“It would generate supply chain insights derived from our order history, for instance, Goldmann continued, “and we would sometimes manually recommend ways to combine actions, and achieve cost optimization for customers, depending on their needs. He added that the system it ran a computer language that could have been a contemporary to COBOL.
Shippers, expediters, and other players in the freight-forwarding industry have been slower to adopt digital tools beyond the occasional symbolic showpiece, mostly because its people have grown expert (and accustomed) to making it work with bespoke workarounds. While online scheduling has been a reality for years, a hefty portion of the ocean’s freight capacity is still booked via telephone, and even fax.
“We kicked off our Supply Chain 3.0 project in early 2015, and went out of bounds to look not only at how to improve our processes, but to question nearly everything about them,” Goldmann said.
The project had different parts, but one strategy that emerged was to build solutions that allowed customers to track and trace their goods in real time, get rate quotes and receive shipment notifications, and to allow Damco to proactively intervene if a disruption occurred in the supply chain, thereby reducing costly delays. Digital tools would be required to not only streamline these activities, but differentiate the company’s offering, and make it difficult to copy.
Although the project involved customers from the beginning, and “we had great buy in,” according to Goldmann, it became apparent that Damco needed to innovate how its customers experienced the benefits that its project promised.
So it built what can be best described as a taster app.
“The digital app is intended to show different levels of the market what we could do,” said Goldmann. “It lets decision-makers see purchase order data correlated with potential supply chain disruptions, like weather, and empowers them to adjust their order timing, etc. We can also automate aspects of that decision-making, and apply user ratings to iterate the tool’s intelligence.”
“The app doesn’t rely on structured data or ERP databases. We can download and process data in a few hours that traditionally can take months, so it takes the pain out of data integration.”
Customer feedback has been positive, and Damco is already looking for ways to use this door opener to develop additional digitally-enabled process improvements. Goldmann sees a combination of market reach, people, and such tech as enablers of what he calls “provocations” that can keep Damco a step ahead of its competitors.
“We will continue with our co-creation approach with customers and partners,” Goldmann said.
“To do this, we need to bring knowledgeable and empowered people to the table, which means staying sensitive to their expectations, and giving them tools that they can use.”