TPM Tech: A look-back

February 28, 2022

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It is the time of year for the Journal of Commerce's annual TPM Conference and last Thursday and Friday a smaller precursor event focused on technology and products and services that are meant to bring about digital advancement in logistics and supply chain.

Because STG Logistics is heavily invested in technology for our clients and ourselves, it was an opportunity to take a holistic view and hear from a variety of industry experts on a number of topics related to visibility, information sharing, problem identification and predictions for the biggest changes in supply chain technology and advancement. 

Here are three major categories that attracted attendee attention and will be on our radar to monitor and determine if they warrant integration into our platforms.

 

Visibility is more than just carrier container statuses

As anyone who is in the industry knows, the nascent work being done by the Digital Container Shipping Association, or DCSA, is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to trying to standardize information and share across platforms.

 

There are multiple entities who own data related to a typical ocean shipment including the ocean carrier, telematics or location/condition sensor companies, terminal operators, drayage companies, and finally the shipper themselves. The greatest advancements in this area are likely going to come not just from data aggregation but data predictability. We saw one company that is connected to every terminal in North America - a handy feature when you consider how many ports STG operates in - that is not only providing visibility but is taking carrier sailing data and time to available data to develop predictive tools in the future because as the past year has shown us all - sailing schedules and dates on bills of lading and arrival notices bear little resemblance to the reality of today.

 

Visibility through the supply chain will win the day

Keynote speaker Michael Farlekas, CEO of technology provider e2open, raised the interesting point that "expedites are a tax on the global system we produce." Companies working through the supply chain work better and are better connected when there is visibility up and down the supply chain - and more importantly, when demand sensing is involved. 

 

The currently oversubscribed supply chain means that nearly everything is late and is being expedited - but that won't be the case forever. The ability for entities like STG to work with cargo owners to aid in prioritizing container recoveries, devanning and shipping will mean that less money is spent on expediting and can be channeled into savings on overtime, priority shipping and exclusive-use vehicles or teams to make up for lost time elsewhere.

 

Environmental measuring and benchmarking is coming 

The planet - you may have noticed - is doing some really weird climatological things. The logistics sector is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and major shippers and carriers alike are looking for ways to measure and reduce those emissions over time - all while globalization and trade continue to grow. 

 

One speaker from the Environmental Defense Fund reported that the transportation sector is responsible for 8.5 gigatons of carbon annually. To meet what nations agreed to in the Paris Accords to limit warming to 1.5 - 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, that number needs to go down to 5.5 gigatons per year by 2030. But how? The panel offered a number of ways including slow steaming, creative port pair selections and data from visibility platforms. Data provided by ELD's installed in trucks in 2019 provide valuable insights on land. 

 

It won't all come down to biofuels or sustainable aviation fuel - though those will help. It will be the introduction of battery technology, behavior of a transport conveyance's operator that rewards the maximum emissions efficiency, and ultimately being able to accurately calculate data using a spread to best estimate the TEU kilometers to make improvements. 

 

There is a certain amount of technology that is always notional and given the amount of interest in supply chains today, there are billions of dollars in private equity and investment pouring in. The question for all of these companies and the industry writ large is what problem will their solution solve and how can it be integrated into today's supply chains to make a difference to save time, money, pollution or result in the betterment of people's lives.

Time, as they say, will tell.

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