Why Choose Outsourced Over In-House Shipping Software Solution

Over the past two decades, automation of business processes has significantly increased in many industries including aviation, telecommunications, and banking. In shipping, automation has improved business efficiency by simplifying critical operations that require time and expertise. Nowadays, with increasing access to modern technology, it’s not unusual to find a small carrier using cheap off-the-shelf shipping software solutions to streamline and manage its core operations more efficiently. However, there are still quite a number of carriers who prefer bespoke IT systems despite the availability of much cheaper packaged solutions.

There are certain factors that motivate shipping business operators to develop their own IT systems in-house instead of buying cheaper off-the-shelf solutions. One of these is the advantage of having full control of the development processes which allows users to make specific improvements to the original platform as necessary. In addition, In-house platforms have been tailored to exact specifications, which is believed to deliver competitive advantage.

However, while bespoke systems offer full control of operation-specific features, they also require skilled IT staff and programmers to implement necessary upgrades. The fact that technology is rapidly changing means that IT platforms date and become unsupportable after a while. If a shipping business cannot keep up with the pace of change, it will find itself stuck with an obsolete technology which cannot support newer IT platforms. In addition, investing in a customized platform to automate only a single segment of shipping operation (e.g. a single segment of a terminal), is not worth the cost of the investment, which is significantly higher than buying off-the-shelf shipping software which can be customized to carry out various functions.

The following are some of the most prominent benefits of using off-the-shelf or packaged shipping software:

1. Price. Buying packaged software is calculated to be 10 to 50 times cheaper compared to developing an in-house IT system.

2. Flexibility. Modern packaged shipping software incorporate built-in switching options which allows operators to customize application to perform various tasks without doing any expensive reprogramming.

3. Upgrade options – Packaged software provides upgrade solutions to keep pace with fast changes in technology to make sure that users are always working from tried and tested, up-to-date, and well-supported platforms.

4. Guarantee. Customized or in-house systems do not offer test-runs prior to installation, and the end-product is not revealed until it has been delivered. Off-the-shelf solution allows you to use a system for a certain period to see if it delivers what you expect before you actually buy and install it into your existing IT infrastructure.

5. Efficiency. Packaged solutions are more cost-effective, require less resources, and deliver long-term solutions that can be customized to handle specific requirements of a shipping business.

While off-the-shelf shipping software offer a lot more benefits both in cost of investment and scope of features, accessibility to technology has significantly increased the number of software developers in the marketplace, many of which are not reputable. Carriers should be careful in choosing a supplier by checking their capability, reliability, and financial stability. After all, it’s not wise to buy from a company who’s not going to be around after two or three years, leaving you without support in a case of system failure.

Should Liners Invest in Shipping Software Solutions?

Greater efficiency is the top priority of most shipping companies nowadays. With skyrocketing fuel prices and growing market competition, vessel operators are looking for better ways to cut operational expenses while keeping their revenues up. To make this possible, the shipping industry is constantly moving toward greater technological integration to automate various aspects of a shipping process. For this reason, marine software companies have developed various types of shipping software solutions for port and on-ship activities.

Every year, millions of tons of cargoes are being moved by shipping lines on various vessels including RoRo, container, and multipurpose vessels. Moving these goods involves many parties and complex processes. To accommodate the increasing complexities involved in port and vessel operations, hipping software companies have developed maritime software solutions which have greatly increased efficiencies.

For instance, modern merchant vessels use container tracking software to track actual locations of containers and provide their clients real-time view of the actual progress of a container transport process. Automated updates of container and cargo events can be sent to the relevant parties to provide full visibility to them.

Aside from container tracking software, modern shipping lines are also equipped with software applications that help them maximize revenue from each voyage or port call. Voyage calculation software also known as voyage accounting software allows vessel operators to forecast expenses, and revenue they can generate from each shipment and port call. Using this software, operators can make quick calculations of direct cargo related expenses and indirect expenses like fuel expenses, harbor dues, canal fees, and other costs involved in the process. This enables them to manage their cargo mix and simulate the impact contributions of different cargo mixes, port rotations and vessel speeds. Operators can also make simultaneous calculations of costs using different ships and routes and choose transactions they deem to provide the best commercial value.

Cargo safety is always a top priority when transporting containers. To ensure that this is achieved in every trip, operators need to ensure that their container fleet is properly maintained and repaired. With integrated container repair software carriers have full visibility of container damages. Container repair software allows them to quickly authorize and validate repairs, check warranties, identify improper repairs and locations where the equipment is not properly handled. This will ensure that ‘black sheeps’ amongst repair shops.

Integrated shipping software allows shipping companies to increase the efficiency of their operations both on the shore and off. They are available in platforms which can be integrated into a vessel’s existing system without doing any expensive reprogramming. While some marine software solutions can be expensive, operators can easily make back the difference in cost of their investment. However, operators must choose shipping software companies which provide quality shipping software products and after-sales service so that they can benefit most from their investment.

Advantages of Shipping Software Solutions

Over the past few years, automation of business processes has been accepted by almost every industry, be it, telecommunication, aviation, banking and many more. Shipping industry also accepted it as automation simplifies many crucial shipping operations that requires expertise and is consumes a lot of time. Choosing shipping software that integrates with your work flow and for a long-term business growth and sustainability is a crucial task.

Below I have listed out few points to elaborate the advantages of shipping software.

1. Comprehensive

Shipping software is more comprehensive as removes the change of human error and is an innovative approach to shipping process.

2. Affordable

Traditionally most of the large-scale shipping companies still rely on 3rd party logistics or hiring a logistics expert to manage their logistics operation. Hiring a logistics expert or a 3rd party logistics requires huge and recurring investment. But shipping software can be implemented by any small or big business owners as it is cost effective, simple to use and gives appropriate results.

3. Full control of shipping arrangements

Most of the shipping companies face the problem of lack of communication when their logistics operation is handled by 3rd party logistics company. A logistics or shipping software effectively place the power of logistics function in the hands of shipping companies by providing an easy user-customer interface, making it an ideal transportation management program.

4. Excellent delivery time

Logistics software benefits the companies by improving their shipping time and reducing the cost of shipping process including warehouse management. It examines the optimal integrated transportation solution that suits the transportation of goods.

5. Record Maintenance

A logistics or shipping software maintains a database to store the records required for keeping a track of the various processes associated with the supply chain. The software can manage, distribute, keep a check on warehousing, maintain inventory, transportation details and expenses and also presents a customer-friendly service option.

6. Easy to Operate

Shipping software comes with an easy to understand user interface that reduces learning curve, so even if you don’t have a logistics background you can easily operate it. The software easily gets integrated with a company’s already existing transportation procedure which is another advantage of it.

Now that I have listed out all the advantages of shipping software, you can easily make out the effectiveness and usage of it over hiring a 3rd party logistics company. Business needs to be handled smartly to reach on the top. Today technology is ruling every industry and the one who stays updated with the latest technology is the master in his area of business.

Benefits of Using Packaged Shipping Software

It’s hard to imagine a shipping business without an IT department nowadays. As technology becomes more and more advanced, carriers keep up by taking advantage of the latest innovations and best practices in the industry in order to remain competitive. Forward thinking operators have taken advantage of the rapidly changing technology by using advanced shipping software solutions to enhance their competitive advantage. However, when it comes to choosing the right software solution, the shipping industry is divided between in-house and packaged solutions. Shipping companies need to analyze their unique requirements to determine the type of business solution that will bring more advantage to their daily operations.

Global operators seem to have conflicting views with regard to the cost-effectiveness of building in-house IT systems compared with buying ready-made, customizable platforms. Both have their own advantage when it comes to streamlining operations that have direct effect on the cost-efficiency of a shipping business. Understanding the specific differences between these two systems can help operators make more informed decisions in using their resources.

Bespoke System

Many operators prefer hiring programmers and software developers, and build customized software to fit their specific business requirements. Doing this gives them full control of software development. However, bespoke or in-house systems will require time until they are working live, which will delay the positive impact of automation sometimes up to 3-4 years as seen for bigger implementations. It will also consume resources on the carrier side not only from the IT but also from the involved departments.

In addition, the fact that technology evolves rapidly, software solutions that have been custom-tailored to support a specific function may date quickly and not work on newer platforms, necessitating a painful upgrade that may include an expensive migration process. For the same reason, in-house systems require skilled IT staff which results in increased operational expenses – something that does not sound interesting in a slumping economy.

Packaged System

Generally, ready-made shipping software are a lot cheaper and easier to implement when compared with in-house systems. In fact, buying off-the-shelf solution can be 10 to 50 times cheaper than developing a bespoke system. In addition, modern packaged software incorporates a switching capability, which allows the user to customize each application to handle specific requirements without any expensive re-programming. Once customized, packaged software have the capability to automate time-consuming and resource-intrusive business processes.

Modern packages solutions are flexible enough to work for almost any carrier, regardless of size, specialization, or local requirements. This capability makes it even more appealing for vessel operators to buy off-the-shelf instead of commissioning expensive in-house solutions.

Packaged software solutions are widely available in the software market and can be purchased at very reasonable prices. In addition, many software companies offer excellent guarantee periods for their products during which any software issues are fixed without extra cost.

Change can be Painful

Despite the impressive features of packaged shipping software solutions, many carriers are still stuck with bespoke systems because of perceived difficulties that accompany a change in IT infrastructure. In most cases, these difficulties have something to do with legacy systems which often control key areas of a shipping business. Change in this case must be managed properly using correct methodologies avoid common problems that usually come with the process of implementing a new business system.

Shipping goods involves too many complicated processes that require focus and expertise in all aspects. To be more productive, operators must focus on their core business which is operating ships. They should not divert large amounts of resources to other activities outside their expertise to avoid uncontrolled expenses that can hurt their business in the long run.