Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Smalltalk Success Story

Orient Overseas Container Lines

Hong Kong-based OOCL is an international container transport and logistics service provider. It provides transportation services to companies throughout Asia, Europe, North America, the Mediterranean, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand. Its online system has to track some 1.5 billion data objects that are shared and accessed by 5,800 personnel in 150 offices around the world. It is information that affects departments as diverse as Accounting, Customer Service, Vendor Management, Legal, and Sales.

Some twenty years ago, OOCL began to replace their system with a next-generation product. Working with GemStone/S, it built a unique shipping management application called the Integrated Regional Information System, or IRIS-2. It went into production in 1999.

Cincom, one of GemStone’s partners, built the front end for IRIS-2. The ambitious project had to solve thorny problems such as data latency and synchronization between different departments and regional offices, and Y2K testing and certification.

As advanced 64-bit computing platforms became available, OOCL phased in an implementation plan to manage conversion of their operations to 64-bit. Phase One of the upgrade rolled out in May of 2005. The second phase was deployed a year later in May, 2006.

Results from a revenue perspective have been most impressive. Demurrage and detention collection (fees for late customer pickups and returns of containers) have increased substantially, driven by better tracking and billing. Employee efficiency has risen 20 per cent since implementation of IRIS-2, as measured by shipping tonnage per headcount. During the worldwide economic slowdown of the early 2000’s, while many shipping companies were losing vast amounts of money, OOCL was able to maintain and grow profitability.

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