Posted on 14 December 2020

Digital advances support better customer relationships and specialist expertise 

Technical Services Manager, John Barbier, recalls the impact of game-changing digital milestones and looks forward to the future.  

As Stolt Tank Containers introduces a range of new digital tools for improving supply chain management, it’s interesting to reflect on how technological advances over the last few decades have revolutionised our industry. 

John Barbier, Technical Services Manager at Stolt Tank Containers, has witnessed many breakthroughs since joining the company in 1990. Highlights include being introduced to the concept of email in the 1990s which, of course, totally changed the game in terms of employee and customer communications. John recalls: “This all felt very new and exciting, but also futuristic, as there were almost no PCs used in the office where I worked at that time.”

 The greatest innovation of them all

Another major late 20th century advance, considered by John to be “the greatest innovation of them all”, was the introduction of the IBM AS/400 IT system. Together with the advent of email and digital photography, this also accelerated the process for repairing tank containers. 

John explains: “Back in 1991, the depot that Stolt Tank Containers originally worked from in Rotterdam relied upon analogue communications. The process for assessing repair needs and instructing us what to do was extremely lengthy. First, the damage to the tank containers had to be photographed, using film. The film would only be sent for developing once the roll had been filled. The pictures were then sent by post to the UK, where the central repairs team would decide what was feasible and give us the instructions to proceed. This whole process would take up to a month.” 

John continues: “At the start, the information stored in the AS/400 system was very basic. You could see whether a tank container had been repaired, on which date and if the repairs had been approved. These days, of course, it’s way more detailed. But the fact we could do this at all changed everything. Switching to the PC environment made everything so much faster.” 

A more customer-centric future

IT-systems have enormously improved information processing. John explains: In the last couple of decades we have already realised a large increase of efficiency.”, before adding: “But as I say this, the next phase of this digital revolution is coming our way, because very soon we’ll be able to use robots and AI to make the analyses for repairs, submit the requests and carry out the administrative work. This will increase efficiency even further.”

He predicts: “In the future, overseeing repair processing across multiple depots, maybe even worldwide, will be done far more efficiently. This will allow greater focus on craftmanship, expertise and closer collaboration with customers. The innovation which eases the administrative workload for humans will make more room for closer customer relationships.”

Today’s digital tools for efficient supply chain management

A current milestone in this digital journey is the introduction of digital tools that reduce administrative workload and enable supply chain optimisation. Tools which enable customers and transport partners to connect directly with Stolt Tank Containers’ IT systems, so that booking, monitoring, serving and administrating shipments can all be done more efficiently and accurately than ever. This, in turn, frees our customers and partners to focus more on their own areas of expertise and on customer service. 

Everyone’s a winner. At Stolt Tank Containers, we offer a digital solution to help every kind of customer and partner do business better. 

Instant shipment visibility
with Track&Trace

Enhanced shipment tracking
via Supply chain visibility platforms

Efficient administration 
via supply chain management platforms

Fully customised connectivity
via EDI Digital Integration  


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