Nowadays, timely delivered and error-free data is the key to success for companies operating in the Maritime Logistics industry. Therefore, communication and data exchange between partners should be simple, seamless, and efficient. The best way to achieve this is to make companies speak the same language (exchange data messages in a unified format), or better to say, make them follow the same common for the industry standards.
During the last few years, DCSA has put a lot of effort into simplifying business-to-business communication between companies operating within the Maritime Logistics industry. Specifically, the organization has developed and introduced a set of new standards for the industry.
While such unified standards have many benefits, the development and adoption of them is not easy at all. So, in this article, we will try to understand the importance of DCSA's efforts for the industry as well as look through the challenges companies might encounter while they are trying to adopt the standards.
Lack of common standards
Just imagine an abstract world where people speak the same language and easily understand each other without putting extra effort into translation and interpretation of a message. I bet that in such a world, miscommunication and misunderstanding would not be the case and peoples’ life would be much easier. In reality, we have more than 6,500 languages spoken in the world, so to be understood during your summer trip to a foreign country, you need either to speak a language that local people understand or to use some solution that will help you with the translation; otherwise, your trip might not be smooth and easy.
In the business world, to some extent, companies encounter the same communication challenge. To simplify communications between trading partners and overcome this challenge, at least in certain industries, associations devised explicitly for that purpose take initiatives to standardize B2B communications.
As a rule, widely used data standards are well-documented and have clear elements, definitions, and formatting rules. By using those, businesses can operate efficiently and process data straight away without doing extra work, such as data mapping or translation, which would be the case when working with poorly documented in-house data formats.
Apart from that, using standards for data exchange can improve the data quality and compatibility, as well as the data collection modes and the reusability of the information. Also, standards can reduce redundancy, time and effort spent on reconciliation, the number of iterations, manual interventions, exception flows, corrections, and, last but not least, the cost and complexity of the information exchange.
Looking at Maritime Logistics, we can see that during the last few decades, there have been many attempts to define the data standard for the industry. However, there isn’t still one unified standard in the palace.
Nowadays, the data landscape in the industry is more than complex. Carriers, shippers and third parties use a number of different technologies and data exchange methods in their communications.
The most used one today is Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) technology, with its own underlying standards. Companies mostly rely on it to exchange business documents or data messages with their trading partners or any other stakeholders.
Although the technology has been around for more than five decades, and implies specific formats and standards, the communication between business partners has not become any easier. The reason is that, de facto, EDI standards have many variations, which make it even more challenging to communicate. If we turn back to our analogy with languages, in the world of B2B communications, EDI is like English (an international language that most people use for communications around the Globe), and variations of EDI standards are kind of dialects spoken in particular areas. As a result, there is always some room for misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
The DCSA initiative to define a common standard for the Maritime Logistics Industry
The case of EDI is proof of how difficult it is to develop a standard that would be universally used by anyone operating within the industry.
The most recent attempt to simplify business-to-business communication and develop a single data standard or data format that would be universal for the Maritime Logistics industry has been made by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA).
DCSA is a consortium of the largest carriers, such as MSC, Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Evergreen, Yang Ming, HMM, and ZIM aimed at harmonizing data in the container shipping industry. At the end of 2019, the association has published a new set of common processes, data and interface standards for container Track and Trace (T&T) activities. Apart from that, a bit earlier, they published a supporting Glossary of Industry Terms, to standardize the language used in container shipping, and the first Blueprint for the container shipping industry.
According to Thomas Bagge (CEO, DCSA), the developed standards are technology and vendor-neutral, therefore, any company that provides shipment tracking information to their customers may benefit by adopting them. The developed T&T standards can be implemented by carriers, shippers and third parties to enable cross-carrier shipment tracking. By adopting the standards, companies will be able not only to simplify data integration with carriers but also to improve information quality.
The results that DCSA has achieved in establishing the first common standards for track and trace (T&T) are a huge step forward in the digitalization of the freight industry. Even though the standard currently covers only visibility events, standardization of these events already has great importance to shippers. Once the shippers have a unified view over the movement of their goods across different carriers, terminal operators, ports, and other service providers along the shipment journey, they will be able to optimize their operations in a more efficient manner.
As shippers see the value of common standards, they are likely to start pushing service providers to start providing DCSA-compliant T&T data as soon as possible. These requirements will add to the existing T&T messaging flows already in use and require development effort on the service provider side. However, in the long run, the benefits of the standard on the service provider side are clear as well; with just one common standard, there is no need to adapt to various messaging standards required by different large shippers. By providing a standard DCSA-compliant T&T standard interface, everyone will be happy.
Despite all the benefits for the industry, it will take time for the participants in the logistics workflows to implement the standard. Before that, there is a requirement to support existing proprietary interfaces - and possibly still build new ones. On the other hand, to serve the early adopters on the customer side, the DCSA compatibility should be quickly deployed.
The only question is - How to ensure that all the participants are well served in different phases of the standard adoption?
The best way to do that is to use modern integration solutions that allow you to overcome this challenge with ease.
Youredi is a versatile, cloud-based integration platform that is capable of communicating with any protocol and message format, transforming them on the fly between different participants. As messaging between various partners can be configured independently, connected parties do not need to worry about other parties’ integration details.
Utilizing our solution, you can connect your existing T&T data publication channels to a single interface in Youredi - whether you are already using DCSA standard or your own proprietary messaging protocol. We will take care of relaying the information to your clients - regardless of their messaging requirements.
With Youredi, you can start providing DCSA-compliant messaging immediately. We will take care of transforming your existing T&T messaging to DCSA-compliant standards, providing technical connectivity, data caching when required, and other technical details for your clients. Meanwhile, you can prepare to have your internal systems DCSA compliant with the pace that suits your business best.
Besides, we can serve your large shipper clients who are not yet DCSA compliant and want the T&T messaging to be created using their own proprietary formats. As we are the experts in transforming information from one format to another, you can provide your clients service in the way they want.
How does it work?
The integration process consists of the following three simple steps:
- You, as a service provider, create connectivity to Youredi, utilizing technologies you are already using. Regardless of shipper capabilities, we will transform T&T data to their format - either in DCSA or proprietary formats.
- As you are already providing DCSA-compliant messaging with the help of Youredi, you can do the possible changes in your back-end systems with the schedule that fits you best - or leave them intact.
- As standards evolve, the Youredi integration solution can be expanded to support other new industry standards and provide your clients with standard connectivity in a similar manner - with minimal impact on your internal IT.
As an outcome, you will be able to provide DCSA-compliant messaging to your clients with minimal impact on your internal systems or processes. As you will be one of the early adopters of the new standard, you will be highly valued among shippers, leading to more interest in your services. And as standards evolve, you will still be one of the forerunners as the implementation of new standards will be handled by Youredi’s expert team - again, without any major impact on your internal applications and services.
If you want to learn more about Youredi or how our integration solution supports the DCSA standards, you can download our Factsheet or participate in the upcoming webinar, where Sami Tähtinen (Chief Architect, Youredi), and Jaakko Elovaara (CEO, Youredi) will elaborate on how quickly implement the standards and deploy DCSA compliant data connectivity with any partner, regardless the technology or data formats they are using.
Also, you can always schedule an online meeting with our integration experts. They will gladly walk you through our technology and answer all your questions.