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Maersk: Adaptation and evolution 

A.P. Møller – Mærsk (Maersk) is one of the largest transport and logistics companies in the world, and its vast operations are getting more digitalised by the day. We took a closer look at the Danish conglomerate to see what its latest steps were in embracing the future and keeping its extensive operations ahead of the curve.

Founded in 1904, a remarkable 115 years ago, Maersk has learnt how to stay current. In 1996, it claimed the title of the world’s largest container shipping and supply vessel operation: today, it has served 343 ports in 121 countries, with over 76,000 employees to its name. It has two main branches – logistics, which we looked at this month, and also energy. Both entities are so large that we focused in on logistics and transportation, but remember that even these huge undertakings are only half of the story for Maersk. 

Primarily a shipping company, Maersk ships over 12 million containers a year, and that’s by ocean transport alone – it also transports inland by barge, road or rail, as well as sending cargo by air. It deals in goods from all industries, from fresh food to chemicals and pharmaceuticals, all of which need precise and specific care taken to preserve and safely move them. As the company claims, “Regardless of your industry, your commodity, or your key markets, Maersk has solutions that offer both small and large businesses the opportunity to grow. We serve our customers with frequent departures on all major trade lanes and inland services for a true end-to-end experience.”

As well as being able to handle this cargo, the company also offers cargo and finance services to its clients: “As experts in global integrated logistics, we can bundle Trade Finance, Customs House Brokerage and Value Protect with our transportation solutions to meet your end to end supply chain needs.” Add in freight forwarding by ocean, air or rail, and supply chain services such as management, development and warehousing, Maersk has a great number of plates to keep spinning, and they need to be spun with accuracy. With such a staggeringly large global operation to run, how does the Copenhagen-based company keep track of so much information? It makes sure to embrace the best of modern technology to keep its network smooth and in check.

Working digitally goes two ways: it allows Maersk to offer clients a digital platform through which to communicate with them, track their cargo etc, and it also allows Maersk to monitor and organise itself in-house. The latter is essential for any logistics company who wants to compete in the modern world and to save itself from needless stress and error, so it’s of no surprise that it is implemented by the world’s largest container shipper. However, the digital customer service it offers is less compulsory; Maersk had the foresight to provide this for its clients, and therefore, the benefits it adds shine all the brighter. “We all buy goods, track deliveries and pay online – shipping with Maersk is no different. Our tailored online services take the complexity out of shipping by letting you instantly book, manage and track shipments, submit Verified Gross Mass information and much more.” This includes an online finance service, and a website and app that allow you to track and manage your shipments, as well as to live chat to Maersk with any issues. It also includes areas of specific support, enabling the smooth execution of every part of the shipping and logistics process and any needs a client could have within this sector. The company describes its ongoing game as to “simplify its customers’ increasingly complex supply chains”, and the latest development on this front has been the introduction of a new piece of warehousing software by JDA Software Inc.

The use of JDA’s cloud-based Warehouse Management System will add to Maersk’s end-to-end logistics services by allowing its clients detailed and flexible input into its warehousing processes when it comes to their cargo.

Maersk has a network of well-positioned warehouses that allow their customers to experience efficient shipping at a low cost, but the use of this new software should improve their experience even further, as well as further lowering inventory cost. “‘Digital’ is no longer just a buzzword, today it is unlocking tremendous value for our logistics and warehouse customers in terms of simplification and better performance,” Henning Goldman, Global Head of Maersk’s Warehousing and Distribution, said in a press release. “JDA’s deep expertise and leading innovation are already creating competitive advantages for its customers. The addition of these exciting solutions to our portfolio is going to help Maersk continue offering our customers truly unique, end-to-end solutions.”

JDA itself expands on this in its own statement about the software: “With innovation shifts, such as robotics, driverless forklifts, wearable technology and other artificial intelligence (AI), the warehouse you see today will change drastically in the near future to a more digital environment. JDA Warehouse Management is positioned to facilitate that transition through current functionality, empowering automation, leveraging an extensibility framework focused on configurability and encouraging experimentation and innovation.

“Through real-time transaction processing, optimised storage and selection strategies, directed task management and integrated labour standards, JDA provides a bestinclass platform to maximise your labour utilisation, reduce obsolescence and leverage available capacities while driving best in class customer service levels.” 

Maersk will initially deploy JDA Warehouse Management in Europe (Gothenburg) and the U.S. (Newark and Santa Fe) in Q4 2019, and will use these sites to build a template for a global rollout across all other Maersk warehouse facilities.

This piece of software is just the latest in a long line of digital innovations, which in turn come at the end of a 115-year history of striving to not only grow to the impressive size Maersk now is, but to never grow complacent with the old way of doing things. Maersk has achieved its long-lived success by paying attention to the market and the direction it’s moving in, and making sure that it is always ready to embrace the new stage of its own evolution. Adaptation is the key to survival, and Maersk is a lesson to all of us who ever longed to stay stuck in our ways; 1904’s world of logistics is unrecognisable from the one of today, proving through Maersk that strength is not in rigidity, but the ability to be as flexible as the services it now offers its customers.