I've been thinking about Terminal Operating Systems lately, how to improve them, simplify them, and create a more robust system. While thinking about it all, I found myself asking, what is the core function of a TOS? What is the job it is hired to do? When a TOS is chosen, what pain points are you trying to solve? I kept coming back to the same question "why?".
The core of the TOS
There are multiple perspectives of what the core of the TOS is depending on what your function is. Billing and finance might say the core function is to provide visibility into billable events. Business admins might say that the core function is to provide information to build insights and analytics tools. The IT side might say the core function is to provide updates via (EDI - Why I hate EDI) to steamship lines. From an operations perspective though, I believe the core function of a Terminal Operating System is to support the operation - the rest are just features.
Prior to computer systems being set up, cargo and containers were managed via a very cumbersome stack of paperwork. Finding the location of a container was a slow and manual process. Keeping track of what was where and who wanted what meant a lot of tedious work and left a lot of room for error. The TOS was born out of the desire to operate smoother, faster, and more efficiently.
Looking at the TOS from an operations perspective, I believe that the fundamental function of the TOS is to keep inventory (and location) of all containers and control when the cargo can be released and to who. Anything above this core function, is a feature. Granted, most of those features and damn near required for a TOS to be successful in a marketplace.
I would love options for a TOS free of complexity, favoring simplicity and elegance over a litany of "features".