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- Eric Johnson
Real-time cargo visibility is no recent curiosity — companies have been building track-and-trace solutions as long as the internet has existed. What has changed during the pandemic is that predictive visibility and associated analytics have gone from luxury ambition to entry-level expectation. Also new is a more concrete realization that global supply chains are built upon shipments that encompass a number of modal legs, and that visibility of individual legs is far less useful than visibility across those legs. But that doesn’t mean the challenge of stitching together visibility across all modes and geographies has been fully met. Gathering and contextualizing data from every moving vehicle within every origin and destination is no simple task. So, given the demand for true multimodal visibility, it’s time to take stock of where suppliers are in meeting that demand. There is no shortage of capital being funneled into the space, with companies such as project44 and FourKites leading the way, but a host of newer entrants getting funding as well. This session will explore where we are and where the industry will go with an analyst, investor, and leading vendor in the market.
The third-party logistics industry is awash in potential solutions, a confusing landscape for buyers but also a good gauge for an intrinsic aspect of the industry: inherent fragmentation. There are tens of thousands of logistics providers around the world for a reason: The shippers and transportation providers those 3PLs connect appreciate a local touch and regional expertise. It’s why even the world’s biggest 3PLs, publicly traded companies with multibillion-dollar market caps, have anything but dominant market share positions. It’s also why forwarder alliances thrive, and why there’s little barrier to entry for upstarts. This session will explore whether the global logistics industry will continue to be a deeply fragmented industry and whether the role technology plays is prolonging that fragmentation or helping to consolidate it, with perspective from two forwarders hyper-focused on how technology helps their businesses.
The assessment of detention and demurrage has long been a thorn in the side of cargo interests, predating the pandemic but made worse by crippling congestion in key US container gateways. The fees are meant to be sticks, not carrots, to incentivize shippers and their transportation and logistics partners to expedite the pickup of laden containers at terminals and the return of empties to those terminals. But is this process working as it should? Shippers and drayage operators perceive the fees as a revenue stream for shipping lines and terminal operators, while the carriers and terminals see some shippers using terminal space and containers as de facto inventory storage. The fragmented nature of entities and solutions at many US ports doesn’t help, particularly in the vital Los Angeles-Long Beach complex. This session will explore the extent to which technology can resolve these structural problems to make cargo flow more efficient and expedite container returns, especially during critical high-volume periods. Speakers include a drayage transportation management system provider, a visibility provider, and technology vendor that specializes in helping cargo interests find appointments at container terminals.
Three years ago at TPM, Mediterranean Shipping Co.’s Chief Digital & Information Officer Andre Simha laid out a vision for the container shipping industry to adopt common processes and data format standards to clear a path for digital innovation. The thinking was that if shipping lines made those foundational elements of their business common across all competitors, it would make them all easier to work with, and allow the industry to flourish through the development of new solutions, whether built by the lines themselves, 3PLs, or standalone software providers. Where does the industry stand three years later, and two years into a pandemic that has seen an acceleration in the uptake of digital solutions? The results are mixed. The Digital Container Shipping Association, where Simha is chairman, has been steadily releasing a range of standards through an open-source approach, but not all lines, including its own members, have fully embraced those standards. What’s holding the industry back, and in what functional areas will adoption of standards bring the industry closer to the vision that Simha described? In this session, Michele Sancricca, head of worldwide technology for supply chain and logistics at Amazon Web Services, is joined by Bill Dobie, CEO of the communication software provider Sedna Systems, to discuss the constraints and opportunities of driving true standardization in an industry that has long fought such initiatives.
After a tumultuous 2021, there was a rush to suggest that supply chains needed to trade a focus on efficiency for a focus on resiliency. Essentially, supply chains needed to be less “just in time” and more “just in case.” That’s too simplistic a view, and also minimizes the importance of running lean. Three decades of supply chain management have honed the ability to be efficient, and the need of the day is also to be resilient — not in lieu of being efficient but in addition to being efficient. The path to managing that balancing act lies in digitization and the ability to accurately and quickly capture data to make decisions. This fireside chat with Slync CEO Chris Kirchner will discuss this balancing act, and how shippers and forwarders should view technology in a market where they seem to have waning leverage.
For an industry that has struggled to shed the notion that documents are still sent by fax, the long-rumored progression from paper documents to electronic versions has been painfully slow. At a time when multimillion-dollar homes can be bought and sold via DocuSign, it's hard to imagine that basic shipping and customs documents still change hands in paper format. For many, a move to email attachments — digital versions of paper documents — is an aspirational state. The pandemic, and the remote work it forced upon the global logistics industry, has not yet been the catalyst for major change. That’s not to say progress isn’t underway. An array of technology providers, incumbent, and startup alike, is guiding the industry toward digitization. And there is progress in areas such as electronic bills of lading, where Mediterranean Shipping Co., Zim, and ONE have all invested. But what will be the catalyst to push the industry at large toward more adoption of electronic documentation?