Maersk Line: Using the Internet of Things, Data, and Analytics to Change Their Culture and Strengthen the Global Supply Chain

By | November 6, 2016

Digitizing a century old shipping company that carries 15% of the world’s GDP isn’t easy but Maersk Line knows data and analytics are already changing their culture, benefiting customers and strengthening the global supply chain. Maersk Line, with over 600 vessels, has used data and analytics to optimize how ships approach the harbor, consume fuel, and now predicting failures in refrigerated containers (or reefers) using the Internet of Things (IoT). But that that just low hanging fruit – the future is bright.

Jan Voetmann Head of Analytics Engagement

Jan Voetmann
Head of Analytics Engagement

“We have some single items on the cost list that are fairly significant. If you take, as an example, our investment in fuel  (we call it bunker) or if you take something like moving around our containers,  there is an asymmetric relationship between where you need containers empty and where they arrive full. They need to be relocated all the time back to where we can fill them. We spend over a $1B dollars doing that each year, just moving the empty containers. To do that in an efficient manner, that is as automated and as intelligent as possible is a great win.”  – Jan Voetmann, Head of Analytics Engagement, Maersk Line

And those refrigerated containers? The reefer technology dates back to the 1930s but in this century, those reefers are outfitted with sensors that give Maersk Line visibility into exactly what’s happening during the journey.  What are the C0₂ or 0₂ levels in the containers? What is the temperature? These sensors also give Maersk Line the opportunity to fix the containers before they fall under service level agreements, potentially perishing its contents.

“It makes the process far more efficient.  If you didn’t know the state of the container, you would expect to have to go through the entire checklist. We can reduce that checklist significantly by checking out in real-time before it arrives what is actually the state of that container and we can get it through much faster and make it available to customers instead.” – Jan Voetmann, Head of Analytics Engagement, Maersk Line

Location. Location. Location.

That term is not only important in real estate, it’s important in Maersk Line’s daily operations.  Maersk Line vessels can carry up to 18000 containers. How would you find them without sensors, data and analytics?  Being data-driven gives Maersk the ability to know critical information, for example:

  • Where do we have empty containers? How can we reposition them?
  • Can they be rerouted and how quickly can they be filled?
  • Can these containers be made full at the same port with our customer’s products?

“When we have to relocate all our empty containers, the historic model has been that you have depots around the world and in each of those depots they individually assess, ‘what’s my need for empties right now to then make available to customers?’ That model can be made more efficient. What we’re building from the analytic side is actually a whole automated process for them that does that job. It assesses how much they need and it also automatically makes sure that those containers are routed to them so that they have the stock that is required without going too far.” – Jan Voetmann, Head of Analytics Engagement, Maersk Line

Maersk Line spends $1B every year moving empty containers so even a 10% improvement is significant. And that’s low hanging fruit.

Maersk Line knows they are at the very beginning of this digitization journey and that there are exciting changes ahead for them and their customers.

“Analytics is a relatively new capability within Maersk and my role is really from the inside to help accelerate the digital transformation and see from the outside, from the customer’s point of view, to try and create a more efficient machine and thereby passing on some better costs or lower costs to them.

From the customer’s point of view, it’s also about making sure that they actually have access to the products they need at the right time, of course at the right price. For us the next stage is to then commercialize it, to actually take all that sensor data and make it available both from a transparency point of view to customers. Also, for actions because you can probably imagine that if a customer had the ability to change the air pressure or the humidity or the temperature or the C0₂ or 0₂ distribution within the container, they can actually engage with our goods while they’re in transit and then completely change the value proposition to them.” – Jan Voetmann, Head of Analytics Engagement, Maersk Line

Customer access and transparency to their own goods? A possible new service and revenue stream for Maersk Line?  The future is bright.  All thanks to managing and harnessing the power of IoT, data, and analytics.   Congratulations to Maersk Line for all of your success!

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