This Editor and supply chain industry analyst recently had the opportunity to attend the 33rd Annual Global Trade Day conference presented by The John H. Chaffee Center for International Business at Bryant University in Smithfield Rhode Island.
Overall, this was a great conference that featured upwards of 35 speakers very knowledgeable in addressing today’s timely topics related to global trade. The theme for this year’s 2018 session, Technology in Global Trade, resonated well.
In our prior Part One commentary, we highlighted observations and insights garnered from the opening keynote: U.S. Protectionism, and the Future of Global Trade, as well as a profound session: Cyber Security: Creating Operational Resilience.
In this Part Two commentary, we highlight a rather timely session: Technological Advances Impacting Global Supply Chains.
Angela Czajkowski, Director, Supply Chain, SHAPIRO, an over 100-year-old freight forwarding consulting and third-party services provider located in Baltimore.
Chuck Forsaith, Senior Director, Healthcare Distribution Alliance’s Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition, and a former officer for the New Hampshire State Police.
Captain Alexander Soukhanov, Director, Moran Cyber, Moran Shipping Agencies.
Bruce Welty, Founder and Chairman of Locus Robotics, as well as former founder of Kiva Robotics which was subsequently acquired by Amazon, and now incorporated in that online retailer’s customer fulfillment and logistics centers.
The panel was moderated by Eric Johnson, Senior Editor, Technology, The Journal of Commerce.
The overall theme was that the real-time tracking of shipments, enhanced maritime security, support of e-commerce requirements and warehouse bots are all technologies that are changing the way global supply chain are operating.
Angela Czajkowski commented that today’s holy grail revolves on information availability, either making rate information more quickly available, needs for more accurate and timely shipment tracking information as well as automating the dispatch of last-mile delivery notifications, which have often had a high dependence on individual FAX and email messaging. Significant demands come from importers selling to B2C companies, that demand lots of meaningful information including requests for instantaneous rate information, the analogy described as the “Expedia model.”
Chuck Forsaith cited an incident that occurring one-week prior, where an estimated $1 million tractor-trailer shipment of a high-value cancer drug was hijacked at a rural rest area truck stop. He shared with the audience that the tractor, the trailer, and the driver’s smartphone were each equipped with GPS technology, but neither was leveraged to provide the carrier or law enforcement needed information. End-to-end visibility remains an industry challenge.
Captain Alexander Soukhanov, whose primary background is in cybersecurity observed that: “Maritime industry is undergoing the most significant changes since the invention of shipping containers.” New ships being built are on the threshold of autonomy, navigation of ships is now all computer-controlled, and yet, the industry as a whole has tended to reflect a slow-adoption pace related to advanced technology. As an example, cold-chain sensitive goods are transported in refrigerated containers with temperature monitoring, but that data is limited to internal vessel crew monitoring. The industry is just moving into data transmission via the Internet, but a stumbling block inhibiter is the relative high-cost of satellite data bandwidth, and who pays for the data services. Language barriers and network bandwidths also manifest themselves.
Bruce Welty observed that industry supply chain is now at the intersection of Ecommerce and robotics., which are now coalescing inside the warehouse or online channel customer fulfillment center. He noted that built-in exception handling is now being designed into everything we do while machines are being directed to eliminate errors caused by human errors. Welty reminded the audience that technology is whizz-bang stuff but has to be modified for people and organizations to grasp and understand. He cited the example that widespread RFID technology adoption did not occur for several years.
This session provided this author with a grounding and sensitivity to the many change management aspects that accelerate across multi-industry settings as advanced technology makes its awareness and appearance. Customers are indeed more demanding, and such real-time information needs translate across multiple tiers of supply and product demand networks. The need for greater levels of more detailed information flow are accelerating, and multi-tier global supply chain participants are trying to adapt as quickly as feasible, to the new information-centric needs.
This is an environment where industry disruptors, who embrace both the compelling business cases for advanced technology adoption, and understand and embrace overcoming change management barriers, are the most likely to succeed.
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