My name is Trent Perkins, and I'm a college sophomore studying industrial engineering at Sinclair Community College. An industrial engineer's job is to evaluate current manufacturing practices and identify areas in need of improvement. This idea is called Lean Manufacturing. A process can be improved in a number of different ways, such as reducing motion wastage, reducing downtime, and transportation improvements. I wanted to talk about the transportation side of lean manufacturing.
One of the most popular devices used for shipping is the intermodal container or more commonly called a shipping container. Before the existence of standard shipping containers, ideas for using some type of standard system was something that had been brought up before. The U.S. government had used small-sized containers during the Second World War, which greatly improved the speed at which goods were distributed. It was not until 1955 when a man by the name of Malcolm P. McLean purchased a a steamship company with the idea of transporting entire truck trailers with cargo still inside.
This would eliminate the need to unload goods from the container and then place them on the vehicle. McLean's thought process was based on "Intermodalism." The idea of Intermodalism is based on the theory that shipping efficiency can be vastly improved when the same container, with the same contents, can be transported long distances with little interruption from an initial place of receiving to a final destination. This would potentially mean that the containers would move almost seamlessly between ships, trucks, and trains. There are many different types of intermodal containers, but around ninety percent of the global containers used are called "dry freight" or "general purpose" containers.
Containers are most often transferred between rail, truck, and ship by a method of container cranes at container terminals. These cranes may load and unload trains or trucks outside of container terminals. The reason that the intermodal shipping container is one of the most widely used containers for shipping, is it's standardized fittings that allow for rapid loading and unloading anywhere in the world. Before the standardization of the shipping container, cargo loads required much effort to be packed and unpacked into different container sizes depending on what it was and where it was going. As you could imagine, this was a big-time waster and became a bottleneck in the shipping process. This simple application of lean thinking saves much time and makes investors wealthy.
Although large-scale shipping practices were not utilized until the late sixties, the birth of the intermodal container was revolutionary. On April 23, 1966, Sea Land's Fairland set sail from Port Elizabeth in the U.S. to Rotterdam in the Netherlands with around 236 containers. This was the first-ever international voyage of a container ship. Container shipping started to gain traction at an international level. From this point on, the industry grew to a point where it had become the backbone of global trade. The history of shipping and containerization is very interesting, It is a part of my studies at Sinclair, and I've learned quite a lot. I hope to become familiar with the industry's shipping and manufacturing processes to help improve it in the future. Thank you for taking the time to read my essay.