Is this the death of EDI?
Fresh from industry-leading conference, the TOC, held in Peru last month, our Digital Portfolio Owner Data Products has been convincing attendees that it’s only a matter of time before Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) will be relegated to the past.
Laura Bercan, one of a panel of five industry experts leading the technology focus at TOC, presented on how API is set to revolutionise the maritime sector. APM Terminals is fully committed to the digital solution, and customers are already benefiting from API in over twenty locations, with more planned next year.
“By using API, we are able to provide customers with direct access to data so that they can track their goods, much as anyone with ‘track and trace’ does for a courier package, or as a passenger would when ordering an Uber,” says Ms Bercan.
APM Terminals currently offers API data feeds for Container Tracking, Truck Appointments, and Vessel Schedules, among other tools. This API offer is continuing to evolve, with ‘Push’ capabilities next on the list.
The push function will proactively notify customers of journey milestones. “That’s how proactive we want to be. We don’t want our customers to guess, or need to check the status or location of their containers. With push APIs they’ll ‘just know’,” she says. A proof of concept for push notifications is being developed by the end of this year with release planned early 2023 for APM Terminals’ API-enabled locations globally.
Questionable future for EDI
Convinced of the speed, transparency and operational cost effectiveness of APIs, TOC conference delegates asked Ms Bercan: “Will APIs be the death of Electronic Data Interchange?” Though clearly an API advocate, Ms Bercan does not believe the transition will be immediately fatal for EDI.
“EDI and APIs will have to work in tandem, in a transitional phase. That’s because many operators are not yet fully ready or willing to make the change,” she says. “However, I’d predict that within ten years, EDI will only be used as an emergency solution for those who have not fully adopted the new technology.”
Not yet top of mind
Blame the ‘uncatchy’ acronym, the pervasive legacy of EDI, or misplaced priorities, but APIs still struggle to grab the imagination or commitment of all players in the sector. “API as a concept is not always top of mind within the industry,” says Ms Bercan, but she adds that this is changing. “Every operator wants greater transparency, improved efficiency, customer centricity and cheaper solutions,” she says.
Which begs the question as to why APIs are still not fully adopted across the board. “There are no industry standards as yet,” offers Ms Bercan. “The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) is trying to set those standards and connect the parties. API makes all the sense in the world, but until we all agree on what format and how or what to share, EDIs will continue to be used.
“When we discuss the benefits and ease of adoption, there is an almost universal desire for APIs. A stumbling block seems to be that technological change can be a scary topic.”
The good news, particularly as we enter economically uncertain times globally, is that APIs are cost effective and easy to implement. Technological know-how is not required for either the user or the terminal.
The next digital ‘Push’
According to Ms Bercan, the TOC made it clear that two priorities are on everyone’s agenda for the year ahead: decarbonisation and digitalization. With Push notifications enhancing the already attractive charms of APIs, Ms Bercan predicts that 2023 will take the sector a step closer to fully integrated digital supply chains.