OOCL CUSTOMER SERVICE HELPED BY HP
"In the global transportation business, everybody's at par. Everybody is running the same kind of ship with the same sort of capacity. With the help of Hewlett Packard our competitive differentiator is to provide superior customer service." -- Mike Mak, Director of Architecture and Product Delivery, Orient Overseas Container Line
How do you increase your competitive edge when it appears your competition can match you step for step in terms of cargo capacity and destination ports? This was the question faced by Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), a global container transportation company providing customers with end-to-end cargo delivery services utilizing fully integrated, containerized transportation.
OOCL offers complete coverage of east-west shipping corridors linking North America, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Asia, and the most comprehensive coverage of intra-Asia trade and regular loops to Australia and New Zealand.
The company's answer to competitive differentiation: Provide better customer service and use a quality approach with technology from Hewlett-Packard Company to do it. OOCL has subsequently earned a reputation for providing customer-driven solutions across all aspects of its business and has truly embraced the company's motto "take it personally."
Transporting IT Forward
With one of the most modern fleets in the world OOCL has long believed that embracing innovation in information technology (IT) is vital in order for its employees to stay customer-driven and be empowered to swiftly make the right business decisions. In the mid 1990's, after senior management realized that increased global competitiveness was a threat to the company's position as an industry leader, the company reviewed its IT infrastructure and decided to transform the legacy mainframe applications into a comprehensive client/server environment.
The company's goal was to provide premier end-to-end cargo delivery service for its customers. To meet this objective OOCL needed to build a system that would bring greater efficiency to its customer service employees that would help them make decisions more accurately and faster, based on the existing information about the customer's specific needs and the availability of transport to meet those needs.
As pioneers of the transportation coverage of China, the outcome of the IT review recommending the creation of a suite of enterprise wide applications from scratch, did not daunt them. The result of their efforts: Integrated Regional Information Systems or IRIS-2,a customer-driven approach to the business of end-to-end cargo delivery is today, an unparalleled suite of applications in the industry.
Trucking Past Y2K
The rewriting of enterprise applications within OOCL has created an internal operational support system that maximizes efficiency while at the same time assuring year 2000 compliance. It has been accomplished, in part, by selecting and integrating the best cross-functional processes into a cohesive object-orientated application environment capable of supporting 3000 concurrent users across a wide area network.
"Being customer-focused is the main driver behind IRIS-2," explained Mike Mak, OOCL's director of architecture and product delivery. "IRIS-2 is a suite of integrated applications comprising an enterprise-wide information system. When complete, IRIS-2 will consist of approximately eighteen applications, each supporting a coherent set of business processes."
At present, IRIS-2 Phase 1 is complete and consists of twelve integrated applications covering data management for vessel schedules, vendor costs, company assets, route specifications, OOCL customer relationships including customized agreements and shipment and booking systems. Installation of these remaining applications makes up Phase 2, which is in progress, after which the mainframe will be shut down just prior to the year 2000.
Hitching up to HP
Having made the decision to rewrite the enterprise applications, OOCL decided that object-oriented technology would best meet their needs. After considering different vendors and consulting firms OOCL selected HP to partner with them in the development of the IT infrastructure to support IRIS-2. "HP Consulting Services helped us with the enterprise application assessment and began looking at the new technology available, including the Gemstone database," explained Mak.
He continued, "The solutions HP provided enabled our operations and customer service staff to be more responsive to our customers. Once we have all of our foundation applications laid down we will expand our applications to further increase our efficiencies. As it is, IRIS-2 currently has the largest Gemstone (object-oriented) database in the world and we are glad to have HP as a partner, with their outstanding flexibility and scalability, supporting our expansion."
OOCL has three dedicated IT development centers located in California, Manila and Hong Kong developing the IRIS-2 applications. The centers also support the company-wide network, Intranet, customer-accessible Internet and e-mail applications. Today there are many HP 9000 K-Class servers supporting front-end legacy applications, however, once IRIS-2 is complete these will be consolidated and the Hong Kong data center will run the IRIS-2 production environment globally on a V-Class server.
"HP's approach to systems consolidation allows us to maintain our investment protection while having the flexibility to deploy servers now to support the transition from our legacy environment," explained Mak.
"HP has helped with more than just hardware, with guidance from HP Consulting we have selected a number of systems management tools to support our new environment including HP OpenView GlancePlus, PerfView and MeasureWare for performance management, and Network Node Manager (NNM) for systems management. We are very pleased with the centralized management capabilities that these provide."
IRIS-2 is a 32-bit application capable of running on both HP-UX 11.0 and HPUX 10.X. "Our applications require powerful resources to support the number of users over a wide area network, and we find the HP V2500 to be an ideal server. HP 11.0 UX is a prerequisite for that machine and we have found the upgrade from HP-UX 10.2 to be very smooth," said Mak.
At the San Jose development data center, OOCL has 1.6 terabytes and the Hong Kong production environment has 2 to 3 terabytes of data storage, both are provided by EMC Symmetrix and HP Model 30 disk arrays connected via Fiber Channel. OOCL selected this disk environment because, as Allan Wong, Technical Services & Production Support Manager at OOCL noted, "This disk configuration dramatically improved the performance of the I/O."
Recently OOCL has undertaken the development of a data warehouse project to support the provision of decision-making information within IRIS-2. It is hosted on an HP 9000 T-Class server utilizing a Sybase database. The warehouse information will be extracted daily from IRIS-2 operational data files and from the three HP9000 K-Class servers that run SAP accounts payable and general ledger modules, based on an Oracle database, and connected to IRIS-2 via 100Base-T networking. Currently the data warehouse holds 200 gigabytes of data, but the company expects the size to grow to one terabyte over the next 18 months once the data warehouse is in production.
A custom decision support environment also is currently under development in the San Jose data center. OOCL believe that by having the right information available for customer service representatives a great deal of time and effort is saved in the process of presenting cost-efficient transportation options to the customer. In turn, this decision empowerment will free up downstream operations staff to carry out customer order instructions efficiently and effectively.
First into Harbor
OOCL recognizes that in today's competitive environment superior customer service is a critical factor in the customer's choice of carrier. OOCL's "take it personally" attitude is an integral part of their culture driving them forward towards the goal of being known as their customers' transportation solutions provider of choice.
OOCL themselves have been recognized in the business world by being selected as finalists in the 1999 ComputerWorld Smithsonian Award for innovative IT solutions. As a finalist, details of the IRIS-2 project will be permanently displayed in the Smithsonian museum.
"We recognize that we need superior IT solutions to make business decisions immediately for our customers and our Hewlett-Packard solutions help us do just that," commented Wong. "Our investment in technology not only reduced our cost of application development by $3-5 million per year, but it empowers our employees and makes it easier for our customers to do business with OOCL."
"Reliability and performance were the key factors in our decision to choose Hewlett Packard solutions. The V-Class server and HP-UX 11.0 operating system provide a tremendous base for our business critical IRIS-2 applications." -- Mike Mak Director of Architecture and Product Delivery Orient Overseas Container Line
Hong Kong Data Center:
San Jose Development Data Center:
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