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OPINION: Red Sea Crisis underlines the need for greater data transparency

The speed with which shipping companies have responded to the crisis in the Red Sea underlines the growth of digitisation and utilisation of diverse data resources to support complex decision making. But data issues, from ownership to a lack of open integration, remain a challenge explains Captain Steve Bomgardner, Vice President – Shipping & Offshore, Pole Star Global…

Rerouting Confirmed

It is fast becoming clear that shipping companies have evolved beyond their immediate, journey specific response to the escalation of hostilities in the Red Sea to a strategic approach that has been embedded in 2024 plans. Data from Pole Star confirms a significant reduction in the number of vessels using the Red Sea. Despite the additional cost and delay associated with rerouting via the Cape of Good Hope, the number of cargo ships and tankers traveling through the Red Sea dropped almost a quarter in the last few months, from 830 in October 2023 to 626 in February 2024.

Rerouting decisions are, of course, influenced by a number of factors, including cargo, cost and risk perception; but with the cost of war insurance rising, especially for US, UK and Israeli shipping firms, the shift towards the Cape of Good Hope is increasing. For many firms, the experience in March 2021 when the Ever Given container ship blocked the Suez Canal, causing an unprecedented shipping backlog, has provided vital insight to support these rerouting decisions. The additional time required for the Cape of Good Hope route, as well as issues of fuel consumption and emissions, were already understood. Firms have been able to quickly calculate the implications for crew, including the potential need to extend contracts by several weeks and delay the onboarding of new crew members.

This information is now firmly embedded in shipping companies’ emergency response plans, enabling rapid, vessel-by-vessel decision making based on crew costs, fuel and state of repair, balanced against the potential time sensitive nature of the cargo commodity and possible penalties for missed delivery deadlines. What is different this time around is the risk assessment and insurance premium. To the existing baseline calculations, companies are quickly adding the cost of war insurance as well as a vessel-by-vessel perception of risk associated with the targeted nature of attacks.

Data Transparency

This current disruption to global shipping is just one more example of a global supplychain facing constant and ever evolving challenges. The maritime industry increasingly recognises the vital importance of fast access to an array of data sources to support complex risk assessment and rerouting decisions. The rapid digitisation occurring throughout the industry is supporting fast decision making, however emergency response, as well as day to day activity, remains challenged by the lack of open data.

Shipping companies need instant visibility of an array of data from multiple sources, and without open Application Programming Interfaces (API), integrating these diverse data resources is incredibly challenging. The slow, painstaking integration process is adding significant time and cost to digitisation projects, and delaying access to the consolidated information resources and analytics that have the power to transform the speed and power of decision making.

Furthermore, as companies increasingly look to add sensors across their vessels to provide vital information to improve efficiency and safety and support preventative maintenance, uncertainties over data ownership are arising. The shipping company may own the sensor – but the ownership of the valuable data recorded by that sensor, the temperature, fuel consumption or engine emission reading – often turns out to have been retained by the OEM.

Conclusion

Fast access to high quality data is transforming the maritime industry both day to day activity and emergency response. Solutions such as hardware free voyage optimisation systems that deliver fleet monitoring, regulatory compliance, performance analytics and voyage optimisation in a single view are providing a seamless access to vital information both onboard and on shore.

However, these data issues clearly need to be urgently addressed if the maritime industry’s adoption of digitisation is to continue at pace to provide shipping owners with the trusted, real-time insight required to respond to the next emerging crisis.

How to unlock the value of data-driven logistics

The ability to tap into data is critical to business success – from predicting sales trends to improving operations and customer service. This gives companies the insights they need to outperform the competition, and today’s business leaders clearly recognise the value of data.

However, these game-changing insights are elusive for many companies, with 58% of organisations basing at least half of their regular business decisions on gut feel rather than on data and information. ‘Laggard’ companies base 70% of their decisions on gut feel, while ‘best-in-class’ companies base 60% of their decisions on relevant information.

In the logistics industry specifically, the ripple effects of the last few years – and the ongoing recovery – across supply chain processes have clearly revealed the urgent need for organisations to embrace a data-driven culture. It’s not enough to just have access to data. Data must become a central component of logistics operations, built into the fabric of the business.

Stephan Sieber (pictured, above) , CEO at Transporeon explores this further…

The journey to being data driven

Aside from the cultural shift required, one of the biggest industry challenges associated with data-based decision making has been aggregating data from many disparate systems. Logistics practitioners highlight this as the biggest factor inhibiting their ability to convert data into actionable insights, followed by a lack of trained analysts and poor data quality .

The good news is that supply chain businesses recognise the need to leverage real-time data across their operations. And as a result, having accurate ETAs on transports is essential to managing supply chains and operations more efficiently. However, there’s a significant difference between just seeing what’s happening and being able to instantaneously use that information in an impactful way.

This is where  a modern transportation management platform comes into play. Integrating different elements of the supply chain into an intelligent platform will serve as the backbone for data-driven decision making in large transportation networks. This approach can also connect shippers, carriers, logistics service providers and other stakeholders, enabling them to communicate, share data, and make smarter decisions based on a larger pool of data.

The more stakeholders that participate in the network, the more data that can be generated and analysed to deliver business value – from optimising loading and unloading through smart slot management, to scaling operations and cutting emissions. So, in 2023 and beyond, how do businesses get the most out of their transportation management data and transform their operations like never before?

Unlocking data value

The power of bringing key services and tools together in one comprehensive platform is that it delivers insights along the 360-degree lifecycle of a freight transaction. Having access to this data can provide several benefits, such as the ability to analyse market performance. With multiple stakeholders connected to a single platform, processing millions of real-time transactions annually, a network-based transportation management platform can help businesses benchmark their performance against the market.

Businesses must contextualise the data being collected by aligning it with clearly defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) linked to desired outcomes and business objectives. In the transportation realm, common KPIs include on-time delivery, on-time arrival, transportation spend by mode, lead times, and tender acceptance rate. These KPIs can then be compared to external network-wide benchmarks to help organisations see how they are performing relative to the market.

But the true value of being data-driven comes when businesses layer artificial intelligence, machine learning and visualisation tools on top of the data. This unlocks new insights about the businesses’ operations and generates recommendations on how to strive forward smarter. This could include: monitoring industry-wide freight spend and tender rates to optimise their freight procurement process; using AI-powered smart tendering to enable autonomous tendering; or analysing network-wide capacity information to reduce empty miles.

By choosing a modern, intelligent transportation management platform as the foundation of a connected network that prioritises real-time data, companies can unlock the insights that help them reduce costs and carbon emissions while improving service, mitigating risks, and much more. They can finally make smarter decisions based on actual data, not gut feeling.

Securing data Value

Perimeter security is flawed on many levels. Not only are businesses in every industry routinely breached but this model provides the same level of security for all data, irrespective of its value. As a result, when hackers are able to access a network, identifying and extracting valuable data can take less than half a day.

Data is a business’ most valuable asset, so why are security posture treating all data the same by continuing to focus security on the perimeter?

Simon Pamplin, CTO, Certes Networks, explains why crypto-segmentation is fast becoming a vital tool in creating a security model that truly supports the need to safeguard valuable data assets…

Risk is Everywhere

No business is immune from the risk of security breach. From power station shut-downs, couriers unable to make deliveries and car retailers having their entire network locked while customers’ personal data, including bank details, is targeted, every business is vulnerable to cyber disruption and ransomware attack. The implications are becoming ever more severe. In addition to the loss of reputation and customer trust, the fines imposed by regulators are becoming ever more punitive.

The reality for all businesses is that no system is safe when cyber criminals have so much time on their hands – and so many tools at their disposal. Plus, of course, businesses are making it easy, with traditional perimeter-based security models failing to provide adequate protection.  In a recent Ethical Hacking survey, the most common reason for breach of the perimeter security was ‘vulnerable configurations’; or, to put it another way, human error. And the opportunities for breach become ever greater given the scale of global communications. From IoT to the cloud and highly complex global supply chains, companies have no control over the networks that have become core to every business operation.

Businesses do, however, have control over their data. And with a duty to both the company and  customer base to protect that data, it is time to adopt a data first approach to security.

Data First Security

By wrapping security around the data, a business can safeguard this vital asset irrespective of infrastructure. Whether the data is generated within the business or by a third party, whether it is crossing an internal network, travelling via SD-WAN or across a supplier’s infrastructure, by adopting Layer 4, policy-based encryption a business can ensure the data payload is protected for its entire journey.

Encrypting the data means that the company’s most valuable asset has nothing to offer a hacker: all a bad actor can see is crypto-segmented flows of data. They have no idea if the data is payroll, command and control, customer information – or just a social media update. And this is key because bad actors really don’t need much time to identify and extract valuable data. The Ethical Hacking survey revealed it typically takes less than one hour in 16% of cases and one to two hours for 24% of cases to see what data’s in motion and decide what’s most valuable to steal for a ransomware attack. With crypto-segmentation, bad actors can spend as long as they like within a business and still be unable to identify any valuable information.

Policy Based Approach 

The policy-based encryption model allows companies to adopt an approach founded on data value, encrypting personally identifying information (PII) such as HR, healthcare or financial data, for example.  With this orchestrated, policy-based solution, a business can define a business policy around a specific data set and allow the orchestration to deliver that to the various data protection enforcement points on the network. Furthermore, as the business’ perception of data value and risk evolves, in response to operational or regulatory change, orchestration can deliver consistent change automatically across the business.

Additionally, this encryption model allows businesses within highly regulated industries, such as utilities, to meet growing expectations that all data must be encrypted irrespective of value. This reflects the new risks created by today’s complex, multi-directional networks and the use of IoT devices such as smart meters, which create a huge attack surface.

And, because only the payload data is encrypted, while header data remains in the clear, there is minimal disruption to network services or applications. It means the business still has full visibility of all core metrics, including analytics, and it makes troubleshooting an encrypted network easier.

Conclusion

Global regulation is accelerating the need to focus on data, not infrastructure. Not only are growing numbers of vertical markets now affected by new regulatory demands but countries around the world have built on and extended the regulations introduced in the US and EU. With interconnected global data flows, every business and its directors are far more vulnerable, not only to fines, but also prison terms. It is, therefore, vital to stop relying on perimeter security and look closely at protecting valuable data.

OPINION: ‘Data-fication’ set to drive transformation in Transport and logistics

By Kirstie van Oerle, Partner, Netcompany

As we look ahead to this year, it is from the position of continuous volatility that the past twelve months have brought. Transport and logistics companies, still in COVID recovery mode, face a raft of challenges as external factors combine to ensure that the road before us is anything but smooth. Both industries are experiencing a heady combination of disruption and transformation, with exciting innovations starting to deliver on their potential.

We are already seeing the incredible potential of data-focused digital transformation to revolutionise how transport and logistics companies operate. Successful ‘data-fication’ will enable companies to absorb some of the shockwaves of ongoing disruption set to trouble the sector in the coming year and enable them to start to achieve the potential that digital transformation can bring.

With all this in mind, what are the main trends that will shape the movement of people and things in the coming year?

Here are five areas we expect to see advanced data use influencing transport and logistics companies in 2023:

  1. Macroeconomic factors will accelerate the need for digital transformation in the logistics sector. Sustained high fuel costs will have the biggest impact on the logistics sector in 2023, exacerbating already difficult operating conditions. This will drive a need for greater efficiency across the board and means businesses must seek productivity gains in an attempt to offset high fuel prices and to remain operating. Investment in digital transformation, in particular solutions that capture and manage real-time, high-quality data from multiple sources, can help businesses unlock efficiencies and adapt operations rapidly to prevailing conditions.
  2. Data dexterity will power innovation as electrification and automation rollout continues.  As a general trend, the effective collection, analysis, management, and application of data will drive diverse use cases, covering everything from route planning and demand analysis to companies’ ability to integrate with the wider transport and logistics ecosystem. The sheer amount of data being generated is daunting for most organisations and making this into actionable data is critical.

    With electrification continuing to roll out across road, rail, air and maritime transport, vast amounts of data will be generated. This must be managed, analysed, and shared to optimise performance and customer service. It must also be seamlessly incorporated into existing systems.

    Organisations using legacy technology will struggle to extract data from siloes, or in some cases will not have it available at all. This will highlight the need for solutions that work with legacy tech but also unlock the power of the data within the business, making it more accessible and agile to power modern use cases and inform decision-making.

  3. Adoption of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) will continue. MaaS offers new solutions for personal mobility using a mix of public and third-party transport options unified into a single user interface that simplifies end-to-end journey planning and payment. The ideal of being able to plan and manage a seamless multimodal journey is much more complex in reality.

    MaaS will be more in demand as disruptions across public transport networks cause frustration and people seek alternative options.

    Additionally, growing public awareness of sustainability, coupled with rising costs of running private vehicles, will also see travellers looking for greener and cheaper transport solutions. Transport providers must ensure they can provide the right level and sophistication of data to MaaS applications or risk being left out of the personal mobility loop.

  4. Last mile competition escalates. Logistics companies have been trying to solve the costly last-mile conundrum for decades, but the rise of omnichannel customer choices and greater competition means they must become increasingly flexible. Retailers that are facing recessionary pressures will be seeking last mile innovations that serve customer preferences while keeping costs under control as fuel and personnel costs grow increasingly unpredictable.

    Whilst there will be a focus on moving to electric vehicles or even drone deliveries, solutions such as crowdsourcing private couriers through Uber-style apps and setting up neighbourhood collection points are just two options, and we will see more ideas forming. Advanced data availability and real-time analysis will be critical for logistics providers to ensure they know where goods are, what delivery options are available to them, and what costs these might incur.

  5. Supply chain disruption will drive innovation in the logistics sector. Freight disruption is set to continue well into 2023 due to the war in Ukraine and the continuing Covid situation in China, impacting supply chains and continuing to create bottlenecks. These problems – which could become endemic – need solutions such as agile alternative routing and advanced warehousing strategies to minimise the amount of disruption experienced by customers.

    Companies need greater visibility and control over logistics flows and the ability to share this information with stakeholders in the product journey. Consequently, data availability and analysis capabilities are critical to enabling logistics companies to adjust processes in real-time to minimise costs and speed deliveries.

    Unlocking data to release its full potential will be central to the transport and logistics sector evolution in the coming year, but it won’t be without its challenges. Legacy technology, siloes, and the inability to open proprietary data to third parties may all act as blockers. By building data platforms that work collaboratively with legacy systems, companies can remove the risks associated with rip-and-replace projects, while still evolving into more adaptive, responsive businesses that today’s volatile environment demands.

Getting more from supply chain data

In the last several years, businesses have faced an increasing number of challenges when it comes to operating their supply chains. From recession and rising customer expectations to the likes of Amazon making their logistics into a competitive advantage. And now digitalisation has created disruption in the way businesses manage their supply chain.

All of these challenges are underpinned by one big, singular issue that makes meeting business goals difficult: Data.How to manage it, how to respond to it, and how to wield it to your advantage.

Why supply chains need better data

Supply chain operations are complex data-manufacturing and -consuming machines, but they don’t always have the visibility and flexibility needed to make that data work for them.

Overcoming the challenge of data is necessary to address a range of problems:

  • Compatibility issues across different providers
  • Lack of actionable internal data
  • Over-reliance on outdated systems
  • Lack of insight into wider industry trends
  • Fragility and reactiveness built into the organisation
  • Meeting customer expectations is difficult if not impossible

The usual approach supply chains take to solve these issues has been implementing large change management programmes. Designed to overhaul the entire logistics operation, these are disruptive, costly and extremely time intensive. Instead, working with data specialists and bringing AI on board can make the job much more manageable.

With your re-structured data and the right AI platform, you can use that data to make more informed decisions, explore new opportunities and make your supply chain more resilient.

How to tackle data problems

Everyone comes across data quality issues. It comes from there being so much of it available nowadays. Most conversations about data with supply chain leaders start with that feeling. And AI platforms like 7bridges do, naturally, have preferred formats to receive data in. It makes it a smoother process on the technical end. But that’s not always an option.

One area where 7bridges differs is that we can be hands-on in those cases. We’re here to steward the right data onto the platform. We don’t want to import bad data just as much as you don’t want to use it.

It’s important to not let this be the point at which you hit data overwhelm though. Instead, work with data specialists and bring it into an environment where you can look at it, interrogate it and figure out the best path forward for it.

Where AI makes a difference

AI isn’t just a technological fad, it doesn’t take a tonne of manpower to manage and it isn’t going anywhere. What is, on the hand, is useful.

AI platforms use machines to perform functions typically reserved for humans. Like checking every invoice that comes in with 7bridges rather than a team of humans. Humans who could, instead, be doing work that machines still aren’t any good at like thinking strategically.

7bridges is an AI platform that helps businesses innovate toward smarter supply chains. What our customers do with that is:

  • Combine their existing data with our real-time data network and resources and then
  • Use the AI that their skilful team of engineers created to test out theories, explore new options, catch mistakes early and make the best decisions possible.

You can think of the AI as a sidekick or an assistant almost. Let humans think big picture and AI can figure out the details of making it work.

Invoices: The key to faster supply chain transformation?

Smarter, data-driven supply chains benefit everyone. But how do you get there?

Although it may seem like a hefty task, getting started doesn’t have to be complicated. It can even start with just one step.

Your invoices.

Invoices, which are a big effort to manage at the best of times, are a source of both significant resource usage and significant amounts of data. To really manage your invoices and service levels and disputes at the level of detail required to get everything out of them, you’d need a whole team. Who have nothing else to do but check line items and delivery details and service level agreements. Which sounds really dull and really expensive.

On the other hand, you could automate it. You could bring all of that rich-but-tedious invoice data into an AI platformthat manages it all for you and helps you see actual savings from the process. You could have your supply chain team working on tasks that are meaningful to both them and the business. All while your invoices are being explored, disputes are being actioned and that data is turning into a detailed map of your supply chain. One that gives you more visibility than you’ve had before.

What can looking into my invoices really tell me?

Your invoices contain a lot of data about the actual running of your supply chain. Especially if you can look at all of the data together. When you upload your data to an AI-driven logistics platform, like 7bridges, it pulls that data together and establishes your baseline.

This can help you identify excess charges, inaccurate invoices, refutable invoices and information gaps that previously hid behind the walls of your providers. Once this function has been onboarded you can realise savings almost immediately, even without relying in IT resource for the implementation.

On top of all that, this can act as a starting point to integrate AI and automation into your supply chain for long-term success. Getting control of your invoice data increases the overall visibility of your logistics performance. It offers a holistic view of supplier performance and costs and creates a baseline layer of data which can be used for better-informed decision making.

Investing in a quick and resource-light win that focuses on invoices gives you the power to take the first step towards transforming your supply chain. You’ll have better data visibility, better data structure, data-based savings, and the beginnings of automation. Starting with your invoices means supply chain transformation in weeks, not months.

Data-driven supply chains are for everyone

We believe data-driven supply chains benefit everyone.

Supply chains have a crucial role to play in building the future. From addressing business and customer needs to their impact on the planet. And, at 7bridges, we know that data is pivotal to that. Logistics and supply chains need to become sustainable, resilient and autonomous by optimising their use of data.

Future supply chains will become a strategic strength through technology like AI, machine learning and automation. Autonomous, data-led supply chains will learn by themselves and adapt. This creates unique opportunities to address consumer and business needs, such as:

Empowering consumers to choose greener logistics

Our research has shown that high-spending consumers are excited by and interested in green supply chains and transport. Over half of respondents said they look for green delivery as a key differentiator. As climate events increasingly reach the news, it’s reasonable to expect that trend to continue.

Businesses that want to act on this trend need to start by creating a baseline for their current carbon output to make greener decisions. Most companies can make significant headway toward decarbonising their supply chain with immediate actions and data-driven optimisation.

Enhancing customer experience

More than ever, consumers expect high levels of customer service every time they order. However, the ongoing disruptions from the pandemic, climate, conflict and more have made achieving those levels difficult. By using data and AI to make decisions about your logistics, you can identify opportunities for improvement.

For instance, areas that 7bridges can help with and which impact customer experience include:

  • Streamlining shipments for cost saving
  • Improving delivery routes
  • Managing multiple providers
  • Improving supply and demand planning
  • Scenario planning for disruption with digital twins
  • Offering affordable and timely delivery

Optimising invoice management

Managing invoices is one of the more complicated and less engaging parts of managing a supply chain. The sheer volume of invoices often becomes so overwhelming that your existing processes and tools can’t keep up. This means important things like possible savings (or problems) end up getting missed.

Using invoice auditing from 7bridges, however, you can take one of the most frustrating parts of managing your supply chain and turn it into a streamlined asset. With this AI-based capability, we help supply chains:

  • Implement in weeks, not months
  • Easily dispute incorrect or excess fees
  • Avoid overloading their own IT resources
  • See rapid return on investment
  • Prepare their supply chain data for future transformation

For example, Philipp Plein, one of Europe’s most cutting-edge luxury fashion brands, uses 7bridges to save 3-5% through improved invoice auditing, increasing the volume of customers serviced by the brand and implementing automated export declarations functionality for high-value goods.

Successful supply chains focus on more than just getting things from A to B; they strive to be agile, smart and responsive.

Organisations need to integrate sustainable, scalable supply chain management seamlessly. And through that, deliver a powerful competitive edge. Businesses that can provide smooth and capable transport are already seeing great success.

The world relies on supply chains that can adapt quickly. And that’s where data-driven solutions like 7bridges come in. We don’t just offer visibility over supply chains, but the ability to understand the impact of every decision made. Bringing clarity to supply chains and their impact on the world.

Big changes ahead as supermarkets embrace smart tech

A study has found that nine in ten Brits now believe the average supermarket will be significantly different in just nine years’ time, with many of the changes that people predict being once the stuff of sci-fi films. 

The ThoughtWorks research showed that just over a quarter of adults (26%) believed the supermarket checkout will have disappeared by 2030, while around a fifth of respondents (18%) believed shelves would be stacked by robots. A further 13% of people believed there would be no human staff in stores at all by 2030, rising to 21% of students about to enter the world of work. 

The research was conducted by MaruBlue among a nationally representative sample of 2,007 adults. The research was conducted online.

Many also saw a big future for AI – with a fifth (19%) of people believing their food and drink for the home would be automatically re-ordered by our fridges, cookers and cupboards by 2030. 

These findings are from a new ‘2030 Britain’ study commissioned by ThoughtWorks. Following a home isolation era that has largely re-defined the consumer’s relationship with food, retail, work and home-life – the new study on food retail suggests the evolving use of technology in powering people’s lives has resulted in many seeing it as having a far more widespread role in shaping people’s everyday routines in tomorrow’s Britain. 

In terms of physical presence, while a quarter of those surveyed (25%) believed that the size of the average supermarket would likely grow – selling a range of additional items beyond just food – one in five (19%) believed the opposite: that supermarkets would only exist online, or that food would come direct from the food producer and, in doing so, would bypass the retailer.  

Asking about what supermarkets would sell, a third (32%) of people believed local food producers would take up more shelf space than they currently do, reflecting the current trend to support local suppliers and farmers. One in six people (17%) went further, suggesting that supermarkets would become centres for local artisan food producers and farmers to sell their produce, while one in seven (15%) believed the supermarkets would start to operate new local farms. 

As a result of almost 12 months of lockdown restricitons, the ThoughtWorks study saw a rise in expectations prompted by a year of acclerated digital skills. Technology has become the enabler for many many challenges presented, with earlier research from ThoughtWorks finding that over a third of people in the UK (24%) believed local producers will deliver straight to their door by 2030. 

Kevin Flynn, director of retail strategy at ThoughtWorks, said: “Crystal ball gazing tends to say more about our current times than it does about the future. Supermarkets have enjoyed a boom in activity during the lockdown, and consequently many can see them continuing to grow and expand over the next decade. However, as many people have been forced to look further afield for different products, they have new and better ways to meet their demands, and support causes that matter to them. This is a watershed moment for the retail industry which will have long lasting effects.” 

The value of global trade insights in navigating COVID-19 supply chain disruptions

By Mark Segner, VP Global Sales, Descartes

The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of the modern supply chain, as companies struggle to acquire the products and raw materials needed to keep revenue flowing. With many businesses relying heavily on a limited number of trading partners, many located in hard-hit areas like China, the scale of the supply chain disruption has been a wake-up call. 

Pummeling the Bottom Line

COVID-19 shockwaves are being felt around the globe, with one in six companies adjusting revenue targets downward. Figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that 72% of businesses in the UK reported that they are exporting less than normal, and 59% of reported that they are importing less than normal due to the impact of Coronavirus. 

According to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), nearly 75% of companies reported supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with lead times doubling and delays compounded by a shortage of air and ocean freight options. A recent survey of Descartes customers also found that 31% are looking for alternative suppliers, and their usage of tools to find alternative supply sources has increased by 21%. Given the sheer scale of the disruption, many different types of businesses are unlikely to have a plan in place to address supply disruption from China and other countries.

Re-thinking Sourcing

With the global supply chain often more complex than many comprehend, very few organisations can trace their supply chain beyond their Tier 1 suppliers, and many are uncertain of the location of their second and third-tier suppliers. To fully understand supply-side risk, Deloitte notes that advanced digital solutions are “generally required to trace supply networks reliably across the multiple tiers of suppliers.” Indeed, manufacturers, retailers, and distributors are in uncharted waters as they race to identify new supply sources.

Global Trade Insights Guide the Way

With the daunting task of navigating the rapidly changing global trade landscape, where should your organisation begin? Actionable global trade data is your lifeline for supply chain resilience. In the face of COVID-19 disruptions, global trade intelligence solutions can help businesses swiftly find alternative suppliers in a concise three-step process:

  1. Identify potential sources; Know the market to make better sourcing decisions

A sophisticated global trade intelligence solution can assess market dynamics, revealing the impact of both the Coronavirus and recent tariff changes on specific commodity imports and exports by mapping the global flow of shipments and identifying recent volume shifts. Previous shipment volumes reveal which suppliers have capacity for your sourcing demands, while bill of lading (BOL) data helps you easily identify names, addresses, and contact details for each supplier.

2. Analyse costs; How much will it cost to do business?

Given the slowdown many companies are facing during the pandemic, curtailing costs is top of mind. Global trade data technology can analyse potential suppliers to calculate the total landed cost of doing business with them, including duty spend, variable and fixed taxes, shipping costs, and insurance costs. With international trade insight, businesses can also identify favourable Free Trade Agreements (FTA) or other preferential mechanisms to help maximise margins.

3. Vet potential trading partners; Limit liability and brand damage

The vetting process is vital for avoiding exposure to sanctioned parties but, given the fluidity and sheer size of restricted party lists and the rabbit hole of shell companies, obtaining an accurate view can be extremely challenging.

With a global trade intelligence solution, businesses can quickly screen potential suppliers to determine if the country or vendor are subject to any restrictions or sanctions from the government. Compliance vetting is crucial for avoiding fines and penalties but also ensures your company brand remains untarnished. 

Beyond COVID-19

Access to actionable trade insight is critical to developing a proactive supply chain response to the coronavirus and emerging from this pandemic as intact and profitable as possible. Sophisticated global trade intelligence solutions use shipment data from across the world to model trade flows globally, helping companies rapidly identify, analyse, and vet new sourcing locations. With the right approach, businesses can mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on supply chains and also strengthen and add resiliency to their logistics operations going forward.

How real-time information supports resilient supply chains

By Gill Devine, Vice President EMEA at Dataminr

In the first quarter of 2020, a spate of global and regional events have starkly exposed the fragility of the practices and processes that underpin supply chains. From the rapid, global spread of the COVID-19 disease to the resulting events and precautions taken since, today’s global organisations are facing an increasingly volatile world. This public health crisis has suddenly changed their operating landscape and materially affected their people, customers and bottom lines.

“When companies have advance knowledge of where the disruption will come from and which products will be impacted, they have lead time to execute avoidance and mitigation strategies immediately–like shaping demand by offering discounts on substitutes, buying up inventory, booking capacity at alternate sites, controlling inventory allocations, and so on,” supply chain experts Tom Linton and Bindiya Vakil wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how events can escalate quickly across any geography, at any time, requiring businesses to improve their level of global awareness. Supply chain practitioners at every level—from the boardroom to the warehouse floor—need reliable and comprehensive real-time information that is most relevant to their business needs, so they may assess a situation and mobilise effectively. Much of that information is now available in the public domain, and can provide precious additional time required to make sound decisions.

In fact, early signals in public information detected by artificial intelligence (AI) provided a critical early warning to a current crisis. In late December 2019, rumors of a new respiratory illness began quietly circulating in central China. Dataminr’s real-time risk and event detection platform automatically surfaced such early online chatter, delivering its first alert about the virus on December 30. The alert served as a warning to clients that people appeared to be sick with SARS-like symptoms in Wuhan.

Government authorities were eventually prompted to issue a statement confirming that 27 people were suffering from viral pneumonia. Seven days after the first Dataminr alert was issued, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified the public. Three days later, on January 9, the World Health Organization issued a statement. The disease would become known as COVID-19, caused by a highly contagious new coronavirus. 

As we now realise, the virus would quickly spread beyond the borders of Hubei province, a major manufacturing and transportation hub,  and beyond the borders of China, wreaking havoc on regional and global supply chains. 

Early indicators of this burgeoning global health crisis enabled companies to put their business continuity plans in motion with precious days and even weeks of lead time. They could look for alternative providers of raw materials or parts, establish work-from-home or other workplace arrangements for employees wherever possible, and advise customers in advance about expected shortages. 

Since the first days of the outbreak, highly valuable real-time information has surfaced across thousands of data sources, in multiple languages and formats, from more than 100 countries. But it is impossible for one person or team, on their own, to process such disparate information sources and extract what is most relevant for their supply chain operations. 

In a global market, where operations and customers are everywhere, businesses need to use a variety of approaches, mechanisms and tools to build a comprehensive, real-time view of events across the globe as they unfold. The current pandemic has roiled supply chains in a matter of weeks. One strategy to help enterprises mitigate risk effectively is making use of real-time alerts. Staying abreast of global and local events and their potential implications as they occur is the key to a more resilient supply chain. 

Using AI to understand data at scale and speed, coupled with more traditional supply chain management approaches, can help organisations establish wider and deeper awareness of emerging markets and specific sectors that affect their supply chains. This can lead to more proactive and effective decision making to keep goods and services moving in the face of disruptions.

Specifically, real-time alerting allows a business to function at the highest level of efficiency and deliver on its commitments to customers, all whilst remaining ever-vigilant to supply chain threats. 

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