The IMPA Marine Stores Guide is undergoing a transformational process that is as significant as the launch of the standard itself
For over 40 years, the Marine Stores Guide has served as the world’s leading referencing tool for marine purchasing and supply. A six-digit code was introduced to simplify processes, enable people of different cultures and languages to easily specify marine stores and promote business between ship owners/shipboard personnel and ship suppliers. Today, the codes are being used on 12000+ vessels by 300+ shipping companies and by 20,000+ ship-supplying companies worldwide.
First published in 1978 in its well-known book format, the Marine Stores Guide and its unique six-digit code quickly became a universal standard. After many successful years and growth in popularity, in 2005, the MSG became available as a data licence, offering all the codes and categories in a handy CSV format great for importing into bespoke systems and being easily searchable on computers. Late in 2018, to further improve the MSG’s offering, a publisher licence was introduced, enabling manufacturers, wholesalers and ship suppliers to enhance their sales worldwide. Now, we are pleased to announce that the next phase is upon us, that is the digitisation of the MSG.
A NEW SYSTEM
IMPA and Fuji have been working together over the last four years to create a future-proof solution for the MSG, starting with the development of an API. An API (Application Programming Interface) serves as the building block foundation for many digital services and products. In the MSG’s case, it allows it to offer a constant base source for the data. You can build products, links to services and communicate with it constantly, without the need to re-upload the MSG’s data each time something new is created.
An API will allow the MSG data to become fully ‘live’, replacing the way we work with the data altogether. Upon launch, all data exports will be able to be taken from the current live set of data on the API at the time, replacing the current six-month period updates to the data offering. On top of that, updating codes, fixing errors and introducing new products and categories will be a much more streamlined process. Most important of all is what services and products are able to be developed with the MSG data being stored in the API. In time, the API will be able to grow and improve by connecting with others, growing the MSG dataset and much more.
“Most importantly of all, an API will improve the MSG’s data moving forward; that’s why we’re doing this.” (Dominic Scott, Head of Digital at AX Digital)
MSG ONLINE WEB APP
The first example of what the new API allows the MSG to do comes in the form of a brand new web app.
Set to enhance the way the MSG data is offered, a new product is being developed to enable data customers to login, browse, save and export products from either their computer or mobile devices. You will be able to see images, descriptions, specifications and more on each item within the MSG, as well as search by codes, keywords and categories. This web app will give the average user a much better experience when browsing MSG data and an overall easier process when looking to purchase new products.
A simple and secure login system will ensure that only paying customers can access the now cloud-based data, which vastly helps in combating unfair use of the data due to copyright infringements and plagiarism. We understand that users may still want the MSG data supplied in its current format and you will still be able to receive it in a CSV format; this will be exported from the latest current API data set at the time of purchase.
As we continue to develop the future of the MSG, we are always looking at making the product more accessible, usable and secure. The developments we have discussed today are just the start of the next phase for the MSG.
“There are more than six digital products in development around the Marine Stores Guide at the moment; there’s more development in the product than ever before. We have an opportunity with a more digitised approach to provide a more extensive range of codes for the stakeholders that want to see that, whilst we also look at providing reduced numbers for owners that want a specific catalogue. Our partners on this are key and we have several stakeholder groups helping us here. There are several project working groups being established right now looking at data-quality and looking at systems to enhance and update the data on a more systematic basis." (Stephen Alexander, IMPA Secretary General & COO
Stay tuned for our next article, where we will explain further how the MSG web app will improve data-licence holders’ daily usage and take a look into the possibilities for the future of the digitisation of the Marine Stores Guide.