US first port of call for Jade
In part two of our three part US feature, Unlimited talks to David Lindsay, managing director of Jade Software about the tricks to trading in America.
Think globally, act locally. That's Jade Software's mantra for its latest assault on the US market, supplying giant American port companies with software to assist their marine terminal operations.
Known as 'Master Terminal', the product manages the movement of cargo through a port, then helps to plan ship loading to optimise the use of space. From a standing start, in 18 months Jade has implemented the solution in ten American ports, from Philadelphia to New Orleans, and plans to double its capability in the market during the next year.
Managing director David Lindsay says the company has learned from previous forays into the US, where lack of local knowledge undermined the campaign.
Earlier this year the Christchurch-based firm appointed two US-based sales staff, and it has actively sought in-country expert advice.
In any market there are cultural differences in the way organisations deal with each other, observes Linday.
"We've been in the US before with different products and often we've struggled because we've had Kiwis on the ground," he says.
"This time we've employed US nationals who are also from the industry. That combination of cultural awareness and industry awareness has definitely helped accelerate our growth."
Jade his big ambitions for Master Terminal, which began life as a one-off solution designed for Port Otago and was subsequently rolled out in other New Zealand ports before the first offshore sale in 2010.
While international competitors have concentrated on developing solutions for containerised port operations, the Kiwi firm's product is tailored to handle mixed cargo.
"Our aspiration is to be the number one global supplier of systems to mixed cargo ports," says Lindsay, who adds that Master Terminal has already been implemented in 48 ports.
"The American market is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for mixed cargo ports. So getting some real momentum in the US is very important to us winning that leading position in the world."
He can see plenty of potential in America. "The obvious opportunity is among operators who don't have a system of any kind. But there are others who have developed their own solution and who are now finding that those in-house systems aren't coping with growing volumes of cargo and more complex cargo, along with increasing pressure from shipping companies to deliver faster turn-around times.
"There's also been a lot of recent competitor activity, with some of our key competitors being acquired by bigger players. That can often cause disruption in the market, and we're seeing that play to our advantage."
Why would an American port operator go with a New Zealand software vendor? Diversified Port Holdings, which runs an integrated port logistics business in the American south-east, has replaced in-house developed systems at four of its port operations with the Jade product, with a fifth soon to follow.
CIO Dennis Rhodes says that Jade was chosen from a shortlist of three.
"We were impressed by Jade's knowledge of the business and the package, and by the product and the support offered. We talked to the technical people in Christchurch who were going to be supporting the package and to the programmers and help desk. I wanted to know 'what's their culture?', and I saw they worked very well together, and that they worked very well with our team, too."
David Lindsay reckons Jade's ability to implement quickly gives it an additional edge. A port doesn't stop for anything, "so being able to seamlessly implement your solution with minimal disruption is really important. Some of our competitors have taken up to two years, whereas our fastest implementation time has been six weeks."
With several American ports in the process of implementing Master Terminal, the next step for Jade is to rapidly build its support capability in the US.
Lindsay suggests implementation partners may be brought in to keep up with growth.
"But even if we're working through partners it will be in close collaboration with us to ensure quality. Because that's our competitive advantage."