Seaports, Backlogged Supply Chain Seek a Digital Response
7 min read
Can data and software platforms help ease the burden on the logistics supply chain as cargo ships sit waiting at ports?
Cargo gateways such as the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles continue to face congestion that raises questions of what software and data can do to help manage the situation. The issue has experts in the logistics sector, such as the Association for Supply Chain Management, XPO Logistics, and academicians at Florida International University thinking about ways to unknot the problem that binds the supply chain.

It is a conundrum that escalates as time passes -- the longer ships must wait to be unloaded, the backlog builds up in the supply chain. Scarcity of staff to get cargo moving has meant some warehouses remain packed rather than passing from container ships to road or rail transports. Labor shortages are only part of the issue as changes necessary in response to the pandemic brought their own restrictions. Furthermore, consumer buying patterns shifted with the onset of the pandemic, increasing demand for goods shipped directly to home.

The digitalization of supply chains was already underway, says Craig Austin, assistant teaching professor in the department of marketing and logistics at Florida International University. Much of that has been directed at trying to better understand and anticipate the wants of the customer to better draw them in through marketing. Companies needed to apply that knowledge more deeply, he says, using analytics to share information.

However, the systems of different stakeholders, including suppliers of commodities and packaged goods down to the end consumer, were not integrated and did not communicate with each other. "There was only so much information you could share," Austin says. "What the pandemic did -- and it did it cruelly -- it brought everything into clear focus."

The pandemic led to surges in demand while capacity remains limited, says Yoav Amiel, senior vice president of technology, XPO Logistics, a truck brokerage and transportation solutions provider. That increases the need for scalability and…
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth
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