Ocean Network Express collaborates with Google Cloud to transform container shipping operations
As supply chain problems continue to affect organizations around the world, logistic and shipping companies, especially container shipping are looking to leverage emerging technologies to avoid disruption. In the past two years alone, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as geopolitical tensions, have led to disruptions in global trade routes, costing billions in losses for industries.
For the container shipping industry, some 11 billion tons of goods are transported each year, with the figures increasing yearly as well. In the European Union, shipping accounts for 80% of total exports and imports by volume, and some by 50% of value.
The Suez Canal blockage in 2021 cost about US$ 400 million per hour and caused a ripple effect in the supply chain. Also, high shipping container demand that often outpaces availability, rising costs that erode margins, manual and time-consuming processes, and keeping up with continuously evolving trade regulations have been challenging.
As such, Singapore-based leading global shipping company, Ocean Network Express (ONE) has collaborated with Google Cloud to embed artificial intelligence (AI) across ONE’s business and advance its vision of delivering intelligent shipping innovations that support countries’ economic development and long-term growth.
As the owner of the world’s sixth-largest container shipping fleet, ONE offers more than 130 weekly services to 120 countries. To stay at the forefront of addressing industry-wide challenges, the company is establishing an AI Center of Excellence (CoE) that will imbue an agile culture across every aspect of its business, pilot and scale AI initiatives that boost competitive differentiation, and become a destination for top technology talent.
By leveraging Google Cloud’s leading data analytics, machine learning (ML), and AI technologies, alongside advisory expertise from Deloitte Consulting Southeast Asia (Deloitte) to support its journey, the AI CoE will help transform ONE’s core operations, strengthen customer engagement, and improve its employee experience.
For Kosuke Wada, Executive Vice President, Ocean Network Express, the company’s shipping services underpin smooth economic activity, and he believes that ONE must constantly raise industry standards.
“ONE has therefore decided to deepen our collaboration with Google Cloud and continue working with Deloitte after their stellar support during our initial phase of digital transformation. By tapping both companies’ core competencies around AI, we can drive transformative change across our entire business, become an innovative leader in the sector, and facilitate economic benefit for people and countries worldwide,” commented Wada.
Innovating container shipping through a cloud-first foundation
ONE’s robust digital foundation has already led to several successful AI pilot projects. After migrating its mission-critical SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) and finance systems onto Google Cloud’s secure, scalable, and enterprise-grade infrastructure, ONE has now layered on ML models that intelligently organize the company’s engagement history with its customers. This further streamlines back-office processes and enables ONE staff to respond more quickly to customers.
“By automating manual tasks to increase workforce productivity and employee satisfaction, while reducing IT and data management complexity so software engineers and data scientists can focus on innovation, ONE can now intensify the development of next-generation, world-class shipping services that bring lasting value to its business,” explained Chris Lewin, Executive Director, Deloitte Consulting Southeast Asia. “
Another successful AI pilot project is ONE’s internal virtual assistant chatbot. Integrated with Google Workspace and accessible via Google Chat, the chatbot automates employees’ queries regarding policies and processes to ease the workload of various internal business functions, all while Google Cloud’s secure-by-design infrastructure and end-to-end encryption maintain data governance and security controls.
By using Google Cloud’s advanced natural language understanding technology and pre-built virtual agents, ONE brought this chatbot to life within weeks and avoided having to dedicate significantly more time and resources to build underlying ML frameworks from scratch.
To deal with the unprecedented spikes in demand for container shipping, logistical efficiencies have become table stakes. ONE has successfully infused predictive capabilities by combining Google Cloud’s serverless computing, intelligent data lake, and Vertex AI technologies, as well as deploying AI platform pipelines based on MLOps best practices.
“ONE’s AI transformation not only future-proofs its operations and positions the company as an employer of choice, but also sets the benchmark for the creation of even more smart, efficient, and scalable digital solutions that are needed to meet the ever-growing demands of businesses and economies around the world,” said Ruma Balasubramanian, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Google Cloud.