Largest Provider of Commercial Smalltalk
Cincom is one of the largest commercial providers of Smalltalk, with twice as many partners and customers than other commercial providers.

Tom Nies

Orient Overseas Container Lines Ltd.

Cincom® VisualWorks® Application

1.5 billion data objects. That’s a lot of information to keep track of in an online system; information that is shared and accessed by more than 5,800 people in 150 offices around the globe. It is information that affects departments as diverse as Financial Accounting, Customer Service, Vendor Management, Legal, and Sales. It is information that changes and requires attention from minute to minute, directly affecting revenue opportunities and profitability of operations. Welcome to the world of Orient Overseas Container Lines Ltd.

Hong Kong-based OOCL is an International Container Transport and Logistics service provider. OOCL provides transportation services to companies throughout Asia, Europe, North America, the Mediterranean, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand, and is also an industry leader in the use of information technology and e-commerce to manage the entire cargo process.

OOCL used GemStone/S to create a unique shipping management application that makes data instantly available to employees anywhere in the world; integrating business functions and providing superior customer service. The Integrated Regional Information System, known as IRIS-2, coordinates all facets of OOCL’s core business from the initial order placement to moving goods and reconciling accounting. OOCL had impressive goals when creating IRIS-2. The software had to be able to coordinate information used by employees and business applications across the entire company. Tracking container movements and costs was necessary in order to make operations more efficient. Enabling rapid customer response was critical in growing revenue opportunities and winning business from competitors.

OOCL’s plans called for moving to a distributed network of computing hardware that could spread the processing load and keep data accessible and coordinated across its worldwide organizational structure. A strategic decision was made to keep as much data as possible in its native object format, rather than mapping requests for information to database storage formats. The company looked at a number of vendors and technology products and chose GemStone/S for its scalability and technical capabilities. As a pure object-oriented database and object server, GemStone/S was able to extend programmer productivity by removing many mapping concerns. Cincom, one of GemStone’s partners, was selected for use in building the front end for the IRIS-2 system.

By combining Cincom® VisualWorks® development environment with the GemStone/S data fabric, all operations could be maintained in a Smalltalk object framework, speeding application development and integration, while providing maximum performance for end users of the system.

With IRIS-2 as the backbone of OOCL’s enterprise-wide information processing architecture, the company was able to add user interface applications such as CargoSmart, OperationSmart, DepotSmart, and SchedulingSmart to facilitate interactions with customers, partners, and vendors. Realtime information is always available to the various interface applications, enabling greater self-service opportunities and automation of operations — which translates directly to cost savings and increased profitability.

Results from a bottom-line revenue standpoint have been dramatic. Fewer employees are needed to handle call-center and customer-inquiry support operations. Demurrage and detention collection (fees for late customer pickups and returns of containers) have increased remarkably, spurred by better, more coordinated tracking and billing. Employee efficiency has risen 20 percent since implementation of IRIS-2, as measured by shipping tonnage per headcount. During the worldwide economic slowdown of the early 2000’s, while many shipping companies were losing vast amounts of money, OOCL was able to maintain and grow profitability.**

(*) Quote taken from

(**) Excerpt taken from GemStone and Orient Overseas Container Lines: A Shipping Industry Case Study