Fieldwork_23, April 2010, Shipping company

Posted: April 26th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: logistics, maritime industries | No Comments »

On 23 April, Ned, Yulin and I visited one of the world leading shipping companies* in Ningbo. The aim of the visit covers research on the routine operation of a logistics company, the software/IT devices that track employees’ KPIs/ business operation, and working conditions of local staff in local market.

Comparing with a small domestic shipping company visited by other members in our team at the same time, we observed some interesting differences. The international company has a big and nice office in a 5-star hotel and with a well organized chart on human resources. About 100 people working here in different departments with clear job descriptions while the small company with 10-20 employees that staffs always wear several hats at the same time (our team member there found a girl kept data inputting while calling a customer).

Software used in KPI tracing in the big company differs from the small one. As mentioned by our interviewee that a powerful *EDI system is extensively applied within international companies that it can automatically generate update information from different database instantly to ensure the operation go efficiently and properly. By contrast, the system was not mentioned by the small company. Instead, my colleagues there observed the individual used personal MSN as a communicator for customer service and maintaining.

Another issue we want to explore is the working conditions.  People working in the international giant seem to work in a less stressful environment for most of they show confidence in achieving targets for their performance and can finish work on time without OT. Interviewees in the small company expressed that sometimes they need to work after office hour for customer- relationship building. Other findings are the role and influence Worker’s Union in the big company. Although most people apply for Union membership as joining the company, they don’t treat union as a powerful place for right protection. Even most of they don’t know how the Union usually work. The way workers claim their rights not through any organization as Worker’s Union or Foreign Enterprises Service Company but through the communication with the immediate boss which are regarded as the direct and efficient way. The reason for this, according to the interviewee, that there is no a culture here to seek help from Worker’s Union. No feedback from the small company on this question. 

In short, although located in a local market- Ningbo, we can see the culture in the big company is oriented by host country- more European and more international in terms of management style and daily operation practice.

western/international company culture with Chinese elements in the office

 Further research

Another finding included foreign company in China is forbidden in dealing with domestic services (voyages). This will lead to a further investigation on the updated stage of Chinese commitments to WTO on controlling domestic logistics. And the logistic chain is closely linked with the value chain of international trade. Thus, further investigation should be conducted the points along the chain as from factories to logistics agencies for booking space from shipping companies, to preparing the goods , to local containers management, to deliver to the port, to container loading into the port and finally to the destination.



*As required by the interviewee, any attempt to public the details of the interview in name of the company needs to be approved by the company management. Therefore the name of the company is not specified in this post.

*EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). More details about EDI system at

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