CN creates API to automate container process for ocean carrier

The Class I offers APIs to help customers improve their supply-chain visibility and automate routine manual tasks. CN

CN has logged a number of successes this year by developing or refining application programming interfaces (APIs) for shippers that improve supply-chain visibility and automate routine manual tasks.  

The idea: Eliminate the need for customers to rely on a web interface — and time spent pulling various data into their spreadsheets — so they can focus more on their own tasks and business objectives. 

In that vein, the Class I offers APIs to monitor shipment movements and retrieve GPS locations; learn a shipment’s status; receive bill of lading information; obtain an estimated time of arrival; and track third-party intermodal cargo. 

One CN customer that recently gained benefits from a new API is MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., which provides ocean shipping and logistics services. The company calls on 500 ports, carries 23 million 20-foot equivalent units annually and uses the railroad to move cargo throughout North America. A high level of physical and digital cargo security is vital to MSC. 

CN and MSC officials recently held a digital engagement session to jointly identify processes that could be digitized through APIs to help drive faster terminal operations. They have held several similar sessions over the past year. 

MSC The ocean carrier — which calls on 500 ports — uses CN to move cargo throughout North America. MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co.

One process discussed was container pickup data. Currently, managing that information is a highly manual, time-consuming process requiring a web interface and data entry.  

The meeting prompted CN to develop an API that enables MSC and others to directly receive container pickup figures in their own computer system. The API eliminates logins, training requirements, spreadsheets and entry errors, CN officials said in an online post. 

“Collaborating with customers enables [us] to prioritize our digital evolution, accelerating our digital solutions that help customers win in their markets,” said CN Vice President of Customer Solutions and Innovation Mohit Bhat. “Working with MSC helped [us] better understand our customer’s business in detail, which led to building the right digital solution.” 

Now, the ocean carrier accesses pickup data directly from CN’s API at the right frequency and time for thousands of containers each week, helping to increase last-mile supply-chain velocity, MSC officials said. That is helping to forge a “superior experience” for the ocean carrier’s own customers, said MSC Assistant VP of Client Operations Keith Courtoreille, who previously served CN for more than 14 years.

“The CN team was highly engaged and attentive to our request to automate [this] process,” he said. “We worked closely together during the development process, and CN’s final product met all our requirements and objectives.”  

A strong customer focus is an important part of CN’s digital transformation and a major step toward “re-defining railroading,” said Bhat.