The PARCEL Forum in Dallas was excellent, and it is impossible to exaggerate the impact of meeting old and new contacts.

I have been thinking about the “origins” of parcels and packages before they arrive in warehouses. If they originate outside of the USA, there is a strong possibility that they travel in a container first on the ocean, then by rail and finally by truck. They are then broken into separate pieces and placed on warehouse shelves.

I was particularly impressed by Dr. John MacDonald, Professor at Michigan State University in the department of Supply Chain Management and his presentation at the PARCEL Forum. He spoke at length on warehousing and global practices and touched on the newest ships that Maersk has built and has in operation.
Maersk Triple E class ships are 1,312 feet long and 194 feet wide and Maersk has placed a $3.8 billion dollar order with Daewoo Shipbuilding for twenty vessels. 
She travels at 22 mph, consumes 37% less fuel and conserves 50% of carbon dioxide. This was good enough to win the Sustainable Ship of the Year award.
The ship is so large that it can only dock in Long Beach in the USA and cannot fit through the Panama Canal. The Triple E carries 18,000 TEU (twenty foot equivalent units-containers). The pure steel weight of the Triple E is 55,000 tons and is operated with twenty-two crew members. The Panama Canal currently can take 3,000 TEU and is aggressively expanding to hit 4,000 - a long way from handling a Triple E. 

Containers were invented in 1956 by Malcolm McLean and totally revolutionized transport and international trade. They have a very long life span, but at the end of their usefulness as shipping containers, the rebirth that happens next is really fascinating. 

Stephen Shang is CEO of Falcon Containers here in Austin. He originally started renting containers to customers and found more customers interested in owning them as assets.

His first mega customer was the Department of Defense who commissioned Falcon to build cities for soldiers to live in. This project lasted for four or five years until Stephen ascertained that having only one huge client is often times not optimum for building a business.

Falcon now manufactures containers that are fully depreciated as shipping containers. The twenty foot containers weigh 5000 pounds with walls and ceilings of sixteen gauge steel and floors of 1 1/8” plywood. These are custom modified into offices, housing and other buildings for multiple industries.

For instance, his own office has five containers on the first floor and three on the second floor, makes up 2,400 square feet and has doors, windows, bathrooms, stair cases and showers. To say these units are hurricane proof is putting it mildly.

Stephen says, “We create safe places.” Falcon has re-manufactured twenty thousand of these so far and he says laughingly, “we are on are way to the first million”. 

Falcon Containers ranks eighth in the fastest growing large companies in Central Texas with 275% growth from 2011-2013.

Cost of a unit ranges from $10,000 to $150,000 depending on the value additions.

Stephen is a serial entrepreneur, having done software and a myriad of other technical programs. I love his slogan: “Think Inside the Box.”

If the supply chain industry could figure out how to repurpose everything this efficiently, the benefits would be enormous.

Rob Shirley is CEO of ExpresShip, a strategic consultancy in the global supply chain, to contact him: or visit