Due to a particular set of new strategies and platforms, some logistics providers can now leverage supply chain technology to increase their visibility on container availability, creating value for their customers while also addressing current challenges when it comes to achieving sustainability in logistics.
When dealing with cargo, powerful new software programs can now be used to favour complex supply chains' movement and stages, contributing to a more efficient logistic cycle.
Technology as an ally for sustainable supply chain management
The game of logistics is complicated, where problem-solving is continuous, and the puzzle pieces can always vary. If that wasn’t enough, an added complication is that the locations and conditions of these pieces cannot always be assured. This challenge becomes even more obvious when the visibility is necessary to simplify and streamline supply chains and ultimately make them more sustainable.
When a business books a specific container for its cargo, the availability of the specific type of container that suits their needs is to be understood. Suppose a business is shipping cocoa and the only containers available at the location have just been used for shipping car tires. In this case, the container that is assigned needs to be made appropriate for that type of cargo (food), and it needs to arrive at the port empty, cleaned, and disinfected to be ready for the cocoa to be placed in.
Sometimes, these precautions are not seen by all as part of the process, but they are a necessary step to provide high quality for the products’ transportation.
Given all these challenges, using supply chain technology is vital. “Although it’s not a panacea, technology has the power to increase productivity, efficiency and cost savings, reduce product waste, chemicals and resources and measure, analyse and track progress, all of which can help minimise the impact on the environment,” writes Mark Schwartz for Forbes. To help, a machine learning algorithm can be used to predict the operational status of container fleets, identifying the containers as “damaged” or “sound” if they are. When this predictive data is used in combination with container grades and their Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) status, this can improve the efficiency of the container flow process.
What are the benefits of optimised container utilisation for businesses and their logistics?
- Improving the availability of containers can be done by planning the repairs needed even before their supply. By doing this, there is better visibility on the quality of the container allowing for the correct container to be ready when the shipper needs it the most. This kind of optimisation is significant for logistics providers to plan equipment availability, asset allocation, specific inspections, etc. so that these are not surprises.
- Reducing the environmental impact of logistics, allocating correctly, and differentiating according to type of cargo needed in the locations. The type of cargo that can be shipped around the world covers a very large spectrum, that can vary from baby products to scrap metal, and more - very different commodities. This diversity shows the necessity of efficient container management to select the right type of container when shipping these commodities one after the other. For example, this is done by keeping the food-grade containers (meaning those that have met the strict requirements of being able to transport food and plant products intended for human consumption) and the scrap metal ones separate and ready for their specific use. This reduces the need for upgrades and unnecessary repairs in the case of mixing different container grades. It can alsoeduce the amount of paint used in container upgrades or reduce the number of washing (when possible) so that the process can be more sustainable. In the example of food grade, steering also gives the opportunity to maintain those containers in better shape for longer, thereby improving their availability and quality, resulting in less food wastage.
- Making depot operations and governance more efficient. Globally, depots and terminals are impacted by a surplus of containers, slowing down operations and planning. Avoiding unnecessary repairs, and reducing container movements, using predictive analysis, can help ease similar bottlenecks.
Why is this revolutionary for container management and sustainability in logistics?
The efficiency these updates can bring to businesses shipping cargo is not to be undermined or missed. Shippers still have a hard time not getting the containers they need to move their products in time with the market’s demand. If containers are not ready due to traces of previous cargo or because of needed cleaning and upgrading, this becomes a frustrating and costly issue for businesses relying on trade.
Being able to use supply chain technology to optimise container management by differentiating between containers that are operative or damaged is essential. It is the way to improve container availability and allow businesses to get exactly the equipment they pay for.
Moreover, it depends on each provider to decide what is their standard way to identify the containers. Currently, each provider decides what their container’s quality level grade is – which results in confusion and inefficiency. Actively standardising the quality level is a mandatory step the industry needs to agree on. And providers that offer the chance to book truly integrated solutions can be the best way to avoid the chaos while waiting for these standards to be industry-wide, pushing in the right direction for better customer benefits and efficiency.