Sam Whelan, Asia correspondent of the Loadstar has a short article about a vision DPWorld has for integrating data and logistics. He describes some innovative activities. In Yiwu, China DPWorld has an agreement for a project that allows customers to clear cargo through customs before it leaves for Jebel Ali. The DP World representative also pointed out that in the future, each item in a box may carry a sensor. Box handling equipment could make use of the sensor data (eg, promised delivery dates) to route boxes by a faster or slower route.
It isn’t clear to me how the second method will work out– I’m reminded of the old Fedex cartoon where the delivery man is swimming ashore to a client on a desert island with a wrapped package, but the stranded client says “But my birthday is tomorrow!”. Rerouting a collection of cargo on the basis of, say, average due date, is fraught with problems. Are the partners in each supply chain ready for early delivery, or do they want it, or will they actually pay to have it delayed? I used to have a copy of this cartoon which I showed to my logistics and operations classes, but it’s gotten lost over the years.
There’s no question that improving customs clearance and in fact throughput at any stage will benefit from accurate and easy data interchange. But for that, you need some standardization, and for it to transform the industry the standards need to be common for the whole industry. I’m reminded of the effort it took to translate US freight codes to the Harmonized codes used in international traffic.
Standards need to be set, and where they deal with complementary processes they need to be set broadly so that everyone can participate. That requires some joint standard setting. It happened for INCOterms, it happened for disk drive interface standards, it happened (more or less) for EDI; but it takes a village. One or two firms can’t do it.