Thinking inside the BOX

What do you all think was one of the most influential and important innovation of 20th century?
The Shipping Containers….
Are you surprised?? How container is an important innovation for a common man & masses?
Just imagine your day without your cell phone, television, wifi routers or your pc – most of them are manufactured in China, Taiwan, Korea or Japan and imported into our country.
Just imagine your plate of rice without dal – most of the pulses we eat today are imported from Africa, Myanmar and other countries.
More than 30% of the products we consume are either not produced in our own country or it is manufactured in our own country but some of its raw materials are imported to make it as a finished product.
World has become a global market place and shipping containers have fuelled this globalisation process.
From time unknown till mid 1960’s all goods were shipped around the world – loose that is crammed into hold of old fashioned ships, it was then loaded & offloaded by manual labour and stored at the chaotic warehouses along the port side.
Imagine a shipment of iPhones being handled by labourers for offloading from the ship….
Every labourer would have got a latest iPhone even before Apple would have officially announced it.
In 1956, an American trucking businessman Malcom Maclean invented standardised metal box containers which revolutionised the way cargo could be stored, handled and transported, this revolution was called containerisation
These standard containers have many benefits like goods can be stored inside it safely and it could be easily transferred from one mode of transport to another and transported by ship, lorry or rail to the desired location elsewhere.
Prior to containerisation, all cargoes were moved package-by-package, piece-by-piece with multiple handling. This often resulted in damage, pilferage and time loss. By using these shipping containers, the goods are far more protected from both damage and theft.
Containerisation has also greatly reduced the expense of transporting goods and increased the speed and efficiency thus there is overall growth in international trade.
For example, in mid 1960’s the cost of loading was about USD 6 per tonne for loose cargo by manual labour compared to 16 Cents per tonne in containers.
Labour productivity increased from 1.7 tonnes per hour to 30 tonnes per hour.
Currently cost per tonne is much cheaper and labour productivity is few thousands of tonnes per hour due to mechanised handling & automation.
There are different types of containers available right now, 20ft & 40ft dry containers to carry dry cargoes, refrigerated containers to carry perishable cargoes, Open top & flat rack containers to carry over dimensional cargoes, tank containers to carry liquid cargoes.
The container may appear very ‘low tech’ innovation but it shows that how such a simple innovation can also have a larger impact when implemented internationally with a common purpose.
The real strength of the container is to help reduce costs, increase the efficiency of international trade. Of course, there have been many other factors which have helped in boosting international trade, such as lower custom tariffs, rapid growth of emerging economies, bilateral trade agreements, but the container has played most important role in growth of international trade. So now whenever you see a shipping container think what’s inside the BOX.