The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) has made some strides in becoming the main source of digital standards for shipping. Digital standards are very important for supply chain management because they guarantee that information is interchangeable between partners in any chain. I think the DCSA has gotten furthest in acceptance of everyone trying to do this.
One view has it that for the maritime industry, ports are the natural players to insure that there is an information hub with standard data for its stakeholders. This data would include not only maritime-related data such as arrival times, departure times, unloading times, locations of containers in the yard, but data relating to transport out of the yard, as well as data related to customs and clearing and safety. In cases where the port has inland depots, the information set should include what’s relevant for customers, and the partners who use those depots to move their cargo, whether it is transload or pickup and delivery.
But what standard data should be captured? Allowing ports themselves to design the data structures themselves is going to open the door to myriad incompatible sets of data. The DCSA has the right idea in trying for a standard that everyone can use.
The European Shippers Council is on board with the DCSA standards, which can be found on the dcsa website. Also, DCSA and the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) have been cooperating on the Maritime Data Initiative (MTDI) project.
It’s an important and interesting project for anyone interested in digitizing supply chains. If it works, major advantages will come about for writing software to make supply chains work better.
The baby formula shortage is deplorable. And it’s nice that the government is trying to figure out how to help get more product into the supply chain. And it’s good to rethink restrictions on imports and get them moving.
But let’s not forget the real cause of the problem. It’s the fact that Abbott Labs would not agree to implement process changes required to reopen the plant that was shut down by the FDA for failing to meet standards for production.
So this is a case when industry and business failed to look out for the welfare of babies.
They failed to monitor the production properly to prevent contamination. And then they argued about how to fix it rather than jumping in to do the job fast. Was he cost the reason?
There are some times when firms just have to step up, admit a problem, and fix it fast. That did not happen here.
We should be glaring at Abbott for failing to prevent this mess we have to fix for them.
And I’m sure there are many other cases in other fields, most not so inconvenient and harmful as a shortage of baby formula.
This article quotes Carl Bentzel, an FMC commissioner, who says that there is increased concentration of the ocean shipping business, from no carrier having more than 4%, to around 10 carriers, half of whom have 12-20% each.
Many supply chain participants have been calling for standardization of basic data surrounding a shipment, especially concerning its timing and needs as it moves through the system. There are no standards for this kind of data, and any attempt to compile it meets the challenge of disparate and constantly changing independent systems. And often, data for particular shipments is exchanged by emails.
It would be nice if the FMC would step in and develop a standard for data interchange. But different players have different concepts of what data is essential, according to the article. For instance, some partners want to know how long they have storage rights for a particular container, free of detention and demurrage charges. Others want to know whether a chassis is available, and where. Chassis shortages have hampered container moves in the LA/Long Beach area, despite a chassis pool; other ports have pools as well, but containers often ride out delays on a chassis if it’s believed the wait won’t be too long.
A standard would be nice, but often takes years to negotiate. The startup Dray Alliance, mentioned in the article, is trying to set a standard for some of this information with an online and app-based system. But not all the necessary data will be there, not for all the participants in the container-move supply chain. And it’s not clear truckers need one more app.