ciffa grace liang
Grace Liang of OOCL sees 'tremendous value' in blockchain PHOTO: CIFFA

Companies can find “tremendous value” in new technologies, but it’s crucial to think carefully about the driver behind any change and how it is implemented.

But change is essential, warned Grace Liang, president, OOCL Canada, at the recent CIFFA conference in Toronto.

“In the next couple of years, technological innovation will shape the ocean carrier industry,” she said.

“Everyone is adopting the latest technology, can you afford to fall behind? That has been one reason for the consolidation in the shipping industry – we got left behind. There is no choice but to catch up.”

OOCL, which owns an IT company, uses AI to give it predictive analytics for the ETA of vessels. Its software takes 30m pieces of data in a month and provides visualisation of real-time events, and can optimise the best routes and lowest costs.

The line is also building a blockchain platform.

“There is tremendous value in blockchain once you get the trust,” said Ms Liang. “You save financial cost, reduce labour, time and communications. There is enhanced security, safety and quality.

“People think it will take off in three to five years – but I think it’ll be sooner. I have confidence that blockchain technology is going to work.

“There are so many multiple layers in our industry. The world is changing and that ecosystem will help us collaborate and come up with more innovative solutions. And you have to communicate, otherwise you don’t get the full effect.”

She added that new technologies would also help get better, younger talent into the industry.

“Our industry doesn’t pay top dollar, but if we continue to invest and provide opportunities to the younger generation they’ll be excited. That’s how you get younger talent. They want something new and exciting.”

Many companies, however, are unsure of how to start implementing new technologies.

At TIACA’s Air Cargo Forum, Nicole Verkindt, CEO of Canadian technology company OMX and a ‘TV Dragon’ on a Next Gen Dragon’s Den in Canada, explained what steps companies should take.

“Look at the competitive advantages your company has, ask where the value is that you can add to your customers and then look at how technology can help. Leverage what exists, and then see if you can improve it.

But, she warned: “It’s not just about adopting the technology because it’s there.” And she offered a basic rule of thumb: “Anything you need maths for can be digitised, AI is for anything you need to predict.”

She added: “With successful companies, you find that digitisation is embedded in the organisation, and it’s about taking small tasks and steps. One team will use them, then another. It shouldn’t be one big project worked on in the basement by one team in isolation.”

Yuree Hong, founder of S/HE Blockchainers Asia, advised that innovations should be “a collaborative effort between tech providers and business”. But she added blockchain was in its infancy and needed “a bit more room to test”.

And she advised learning as much as possible.

“I learned by reading blogs, and going to seminars. The information is constantly changing and there is lots of debate. Peer networking and knowledge sharing is very important.”

Education, sharing knowledge and acting in time are all critical, agreed panelists.

“Adoption and education is key,” said Ms Verkindt. “If not everyone adopts it, it won’t work. And if you are going to build for the future, you have to act today.”

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