Faced with mounting competition from neighbouring countries such as mainland China and Singapore, Hong Kong's trading and logistics industry must operate in a more cost-efficient environment if it is to get ahead.
In view of this, an open electronic platform has been developed by Digital Trade and Transportation Network Limited (DTTNCo) to facilitate speedy data-transfer mechanisms for the trading, logistics and finance industries.
"We have created an electronic document exchange platform and vast data storage infrastructure. These have been strategically built to meet the needs of the logistics and trading industries," says Bernard Fung, chief operations officer of DTTNCo. Given buy-and-sell transactions can involve as many as nine parties, including a buyer, a seller, freight forwarders, carriers, terminals, banks, insurance institutions, inspection bodies and governments, the documentation processes and systems can consume substantial resources. "DTTN's biggest value lies in its coversion mechanism, via which document formats are made compatible so that all registered users can retrieve documents wherever there is an Internet access," Mr Fung says. In terms of cost-effectiveness, monthly net saving can reach HK$300,000, according to a cost benefit analysis conducted by a major global forwarder who has been utilising DTTN services.
Coming on strong
According to Mr Fung, turning the traditional mostly paper-intensive operation model into a paperless one is relatively easy in terms of technology. The ultimate challenge, however, is to change the mindset of the other parties involved, particularly SMEs. "They may feel reluctant to invest resources in upgrading or altering their existing systems," he says. "To the more established companies, on the other hand, it would just be a matter of integrating our services into their existing systems."
In light of this, DTTNCo has designed its marketing strategies to include incentive schemes including special offers and volume discount plans; and peripheral IT support. "Some companies may not consider IT development a top priority, so we must adopt a proactive approach and help them see the full picture and the benefits of our endeavour," Mr Fung says.
DTTN is a contemporary international concept and has attracted the attention of many developed countries. "Document exchange is possible between two regional DTTN systems," he says. "In November this year, Singapore will launch its own DTTN, and discussions with France, Spain and Mexico have been initiated. It's only a matter of time until the whole world is virtually connected up."
DTTNCo's portfolio currently comprises around 1,000 client companies and that number is growing rapidly. Mr Fung believes the key to success is to create a critical mass, which in turn generates a cohesive force. "When more clients sign on, others will follow," he says. "We are very optimistic about DTTN's further growth."
In the fast-paced global business environment, competition is only going to get keener. Companies refusing to change will lag behind and lose out on business deals and growth opportunities while progressive companies will surge ahead. "Leaders in the industry are constantly looking for more efficient ways of doing business," Mr Fung says. "They will help lead the way and those who want to do business with them will have to upgrade their systems. This will subsequently create an 'everyone wins' situation for parties involved."
Currently, two expert teams are working side-by-side to further the DTTN concept and its functionality. "We have one IT team responsible for developing and maintaining the DTTN platform and the client portal," Mr Fung explains. "They deal with the technical aspects such as service, resilience and security." The other team is responsible for business implementation, with major tasks including onsite systems setup and client education.
The company's growing client portfolio calls for an increasing number of staff, particularly for the business implementation team. "System integration with multinationals requires substantial time and human resources, from the initial negotiation to implementation," Mr Fung says. "We must thoroughly understand our clients' business processes and try to meet their needs. Our staff must be equipped with all-round knowledge because we're dealing with a wide spectrum of clients and no two clients operate the same system."
Using DTTN has many benefits. "First and foremost, it improves operational efficiency and saves a company's IT integration and maintenance costs," Mr Fung says. Other benefits include more accurate documentation, enhanced productivity and more efficient staff deployment. "The end result is obvious," Mr Fung concludes.