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TPM 2019 Recap–Is It Finally Time to Embrace Technology to Address Capacity, Transparency and Risk in Ocean Shipping?

Last week, the Savi Team once again attended the 2019 Trans-Pacific Maritime (TPM) conference in Long Beach, California. This year, the team detected a noticeable shift in the conversation. TPM 2018 sessions discussed similar topics regarding ocean shipments, but now, there was an overarching, persistent dialogue about the influence of technology in global transportation.

Supply chain technology, instead of being a separate track on the agenda, wove itself into most sessions at the conference, suggesting its emergence in the day-to-day world of shipment patterns. In particular, three key categories—capacity, trade with China and risk—intersected with technology to explore new paths toward problem-solving in today’s complex supply chain.

TPM 2019: Supply Chain Technology’s Role for Capacity, Transparency & Risk

Anticipate Capacity Needs with Better ETAs

Available storage and shipping capacities have decreased, making ocean shipping’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness more important than ever. Beneficial Cargo Owners, or BCOs, openly said shipping price increases are necessary for carriers to stay profitable.

When BCOs discussed the impact real-time visibility implementation would have on ocean shipments, some TPM 2019 attendees expressed surprise that there were not yet GPS sensors on all shipped containers. If this were the case, real-time visibility could immediately help shippers react to all missed transshipments.

At its core, real-time visibility provides more precise and reliable ETAs, which make it easier to anticipate capacity needs. Knowing when shipments will arrive lets shippers determine, for example, when to use ocean versus air transportation, two shipping methods with an enormous cost differential.

The more precise the ETAs, the more accurate the product forecasts, which protects companies from over- or under-planning inventory, missed sales, and late shipments and deliveries.

Combat Tariffs by Relocating Supply Points

With new tariffs on goods shipped between China and the U.S., there is a need to optimize supply chains while remaining cost-efficient. Supply chain technology allows easy, accurate predictions for which routes balance performance and cost. When BCOs shift supplies to manufacturers outside of China, technology can run simulations of new lanes for better orchestration of supply and distribution routes. Technology can strengthen transformations as companies navigate changing tariff schedules.

In response to tariffs, shippers rushed ocean shipments to try to get ahead of the busy 2018 holiday season, which resulted in bottlenecked ocean ports. This attempt to be proactive had some unintended negative consequences. The good news is that technology can help shippers and port operators navigate shifting global patterns and identify how to efficiently ship containers.

To better orchestrate supply chains, technology providers show BCOs the most efficient route at any moment. At a time when thinning cost margins are top of mind, it’s essential to embrace technology solutions to achieve supply chain optimization and risk management.

Manage Risks in Supply Chain with Transparency

Supply shortages and overages, likely a result of mismatched demand or unexpectedly long transit times, create high-risk scenarios for BCOs. Technology providers can give the supply chain ecosystem a clear view of changes in supply. This information allows suppliers, manufacturers and customers to respond to risks quickly, anticipate low stocks and avoid overordering, which saves money and time.

With a higher level of transparency to pinpoint which supplies are running low for different customer systems, companies see improved supply chain orchestration. With the aid of technology, companies can easily manage shipping risks.

For example, one technology provider at TPM 2019 spoke of helping a customer by providing an alert when a shipment entered a known theft zone, which lowered both risk and insurance claims. When companies and manufacturers share more information, it can lead to an efficient global supply chain.

Data Quality and Standardization Shape the Future of Transportation

In addition to these three overarching categories, the TPM 2019 conference gave the Savi team context for other significant problems in today’s global supply chain.

No matter what, companies receive data about the shipments they send out. What matters more than simply having data, though, is the data’s quality.

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) data, which supply chains have used for years to track shipment movements, is error-prone. For example, drivers might send an “unloaded” EDI message to avoid late penalties, when the shipment is still hours from its destination.

Technology provides timelier, more accurate data, which drives better supply chain decisions. Technology providers use machine intelligence to clean data, making it easier to process and use.

Standardization also plays an important role in the intersection between supply chain and technology. Without manufacturers and shippers using the same formats and information, supply chains lose efficiency through poor communication. Especially with the arrival of blockchain in the world of transportation, standardization is necessary to improve the efficacy of shipping around the world.

The Influence of Supply Chain Technology Shows at TPM 2019

During the conference, attendees addressed problems across multiple sessions that had the common thread of technology as a promising solution. Technology is a toolkit that helps BCOs, 3PLs and carriers improve ocean shipping, while cost-effectively addressing and enhancing the performance of businesses and the end-to-end supply chain ecosystem. These discussions led to the realization that technology is an important and necessary component of all areas of supply chain logistics.

By incorporating technology throughout TPM 2019 instead of giving it a separate track, this year’s event opened doors for discussions that were previously inaccessible. This was a smart decision that echoes the importance of collaborative, holistic dialogues to speed optimization across the supply chain ecosystem.