Technology

Australian Logistics Council Supply Chain Technology Summit report

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On 10 May 2018 the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) held its inaugural Supply Chain Technology Summit in Melbourne.

ALC’s hope for the summit was to:

“break down some of the ‘myths’ that persist around the application of technology in supply chains, and highlight the practical benefits that greater interface with technology can deliver for freight logistics operators and consumers alike.”

iMOVE attended the day-long event, split up into seven sessions. Here’s our notes.

1. Emerging technology – blockchain

Blockchain… is it hype, or is it a saviour? A lot went on in this session, so much so we’ve written it up in a separate post, Blockchain and the supply chain.

2. Big data and supply chain management

It’s no secret that the opening up and sharing of data is key to all things in the intelligent transport systems space. However, from the results of a survey conducted by his company, session chair Jamie Smith, Development Lead of Telstra’s Smart Transport division, noted that “the most strategically useful data is not shared widely.”

Big data is the new oil… that’s an expression that is bandied about quite a bit these days. But when the data is flawed, big data can be the new big fail. Sameer Babbar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of SVB Group, pointed out that 28% of the cost of freight/logistics in the ‘last mile’, and that in that small distance there is the challenge of delivering to the right place at the right time. This brings the accuracy of destination addresses into clear significance, and that’s no small task, with approximately 36 million addresses in Australia. Sameer noted that Australia Post data tells us that 76% of undelivered mail is due to being incorrectly addressed. Location, location, location indeed!

Next up was Jonathan Marshall, Managing Director of Bondi Labs. His company uses a product it has developed, Kuube, to capture video of staff performing tasks, which is then analysed, and findings are delivered in the form of virtual reality training simulations. In one client example, an airport, in the instance of one specific it was noted that no single employee performed the task the same way. As Jonathan quipped, “the supply chain workforce is the unconnected black box.” After staff training using Kuube, that task was carried out in a uniform way, with all attendant savings in time and money, plus safety, achieved. The next shift in this sort of training will be equipping employees with augmented reality smart glasses, for real-time expert instruction and support, and, taking it to the next logical step of the training and support run by artificial intelligence.

Training was also the subject matter of the CEO of Australian Industry Standards, Paul Walsh’s presentation. Like Jonathan Marshall, for him the missing link is investment and people. He thinks that even with big data and more technology entering the industry, that there will be growth in jobs. Rather than enrolment in long tertiary or TAFE courses, he sees micro-credentialing as the path to optimum outputs. It will overcome the big investments of time and money for companies, along with encouraging lifelong learning for employees.

3. Supply chain data and visibility

This session was chaired by iMOVE’s Managing Director, Ian Christensen. As a primer into supply chain visibility you might like to read his recent article, Where’s my box? The case for improved supply chain visibility. Now!

Increasing supply chain visibility must be in tandem with increased data sharing, as Ian noted in his opening remarks. This is a truism, but Dr Roberto Perez-Franco, Senior Research Fellow – Supply Chain Strategy, Centre for Supply Chain & Logistics, Deakin University made the point that in this industry planning can take decades, and then be implemented for decades – so it has to be right from the get-go! Roberto also mentioned results from a survey that he had run, with supply chain visibility as the most likely driver of change. “You’d better start working on this [data visibility, standards for data collection], before it’s too late,” said one respondent.

Speaking of data standards, this was addressed by GS1 Australia’s Bonnie Ryan. In a question from the floor relating to the need for a single system, she stated that we’ll never achieve that, but rather we should be looking at a single framework where data can be shared. Bonnie also said that the tech is moving quicker than businesses, but what hasn’t changed is the data. We must have a consistent definition/identification of the objects in the chain (pallets, trucks, warehouses, etc). Whatever the tech, it’s the data that’s critical. What data standards are required, and what is their purpose?

4. Connected and automated vehicles: what will it mean for freight?

This session was a one-man show – Paul Retter AM, Chief Executive Officer & Commissioner, National Transport Commission. For one, he show the NTC’s new video, Would you travel in an automated vehicle?

Paul said that the Australian Government is very keen to be ready for when the tech comes to market. “We don’t know yet what the changes are, but we do know that they are coming.” On the regulation of these new technologies, it’s necessary not only for safety and sustainability, but also to encourage Australian innovators.

He also says that emerging propulsion technology, namely electric vehicle, is being hamstrung in this country by the paucity of its charging infrastructure, and the high cost of electric vehicles in comparison to internal combustion engine vehicles. He thinks that a take-up incentive will probably have to come into play to propel the sector forward.

In response to a question from the floor, Mr Retter wondered why Australia is going down the road of truck platooning, rather than purely driverless trucks.

5. Telemetry and the heavy vehicle industry

Chair for this session was Chris Koniditsiotis, Chief Executive Officer of Transport Certification Australia (TCA). As somewhat opposed to the issues discussed above in regard to data sharing, in the telemetry sector he is seeing cooperation between entities that don’t normally engage with each other.

A question from the floor about who would bear the cost of a shift to mandatory telematics prompted some lively debate. MTData’s Ben Ditfort thought that any such costs should be determined by a regulator. The discussion then shifted to what revenue from the Intelligent Access Program (IAP) was used for. Chris Koniditsiotis said that it wasn’t a fee charged to heavy vehicles for access to a port, rather it was used for road management. Chris also stated that half the fleet already a Government-certified box now, and that TCA is already working on streamlining the cost of the in-truck IAP technology.

Also in relation to telematics and cost, Mirza Kozarcanin of Seeing Machines commented that even with telematics standards in place, with most implementations there is a need for customisation. So the notion of off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all implementation is a “mirage”.

In regards to telematics and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, Mirza said it will happen “sooner than you think”, and “the regulatory component will take longer than the technical implementation.”

6. Technology in rail

Paul Reichl, Team Lead – Imaging, Visualisation & Passenger Systems, Institute of Railway Technology (IRT), Monash University, opened with mention of the current SBAS test bed, which IRT is using to run a project to collect track health information across the TasRail network, and will enable predictive track maintenance in the future.

Matthew Nicholas, of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), spoke of his company’s Advanced Train Management System (ATMS). This system is ATMS is designed to “improve rail network capacity, operational flexibility, train service availability, transit times, rail safety, and system reliability.” ATRC partnered with Lockheed Martin to build the system, and future enhancements include:

  • semi-automated or automated operational
  • fuel / energy management
  • integration with ANCO system
  • real-time data exchange with infrastructure, other trains
  • track monitoring

In the Q&A section, it was asked why ATRC went with spending money on ATMS, rather than adopting an overseas system. Mathew from ATRC answered that wan’t cost-effective to apply an off-the-shelf system to the Australian rail environment, nor would it be easy to implement across the various state and territory rail networks. A questioner from the floor also asked if this was ATRC’s play to ‘take over Australian train’, to which session convenor Simon Ormsby of ARTC replied, “… the ACCC would put a stop to that!”

7. Technology driving efficiency in Australian ports

Last but not least, ports. Speaker Michael Bouari, CEO of 1-Stop Connections, noted that there are instances where ports are still in some cases interacting with 1970s technology.

His point about this industry sector needing to catch up was echoed by Luke Duffy, CEO of Containerchain. ““Technology comes to ports late.” He saw the following two things with the biggest potential to disrupt ports:

  1. Automation and autonomous vehicles – these will change ports much more quickly than people believe. They will reduce labour costs by 70%.
  2. Blockchain – Maersk and IBM want 10 million shipping containers on the global supply chain by end of 2018. UPS is making a big investment in blockchain technology.

In regards to the appetite for change, speakers noted that Qube, a big player in logistics in Australia, now acknowledges that data must be shared. Historically this has not been Qube’s position.

Conclusion

Ideas and feedback from the summit will be incorporated into the Australian Logistics Council’s continuing advocacy and engagement with industry and governments, and also therefore into the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, due for release in November 2018. For ALC’s thoughts on the summit, see its media release.

It’s also expected that the ALC will make the Supply Chain Technology Summit an annual event.

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