Information technology (IT) can provide tremendous savings to the transport industry, from airlines and railways to road hauliers and shipping, an Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) executive says. The director of OOCL's information services department, Kenneth Chih, said that by using a forecasting and yield management system, OOCL had made huge savings through being able to reposition empty containers effectively. OOCL spent about US$16 million a year on the system, he said. IT also helped the company with ship routing, capacity planning, stowage planning, electronic commerce, workforce automation and crew and maintenance scheduling. Mr Chih said if the scheduling system was applied to an airline, it could help organise the hotel accommodation of 20,000 flight attendants one month ahead and work out a timetable for replacing engine parts to avoid having to stock them. Speaking at the Freight Industry Symposium '97 organised by the Vocational Training Council, Mr Chih said a company in the United States saved as much as US$500 million annually through using the forecasting and yield management system. 'United Airlines, for example, survives using the yield management system,' he said. Mr Chih said OOCL's sales staff in the US operated only with laptop computers and did not have offices, providing huge savings for the company. 'Sales people should be on the road meeting customers and doing sales,' he said. Laptop computers enabled them to communicate with the company through e-mail and an intranet system. Using its intranet, OOCL staff could share their best practices with others. IT improved customer services and communication, provided a paperless environment, improved the front-line and management process, increased revenue and reduced costs, Mr Chih said. Businesses needed to be customer-driven and business-process-driven. IT provided sharing of information internally and externally. He urged companies to take advantage of changing technology in the market.