An efficient supply chain relies on optimized relationships, effective technology, excellent information sharing and streamlined infrastructure. Although there’s plenty that organizations can do to reduce delays and ensure accuracy in their own shipping, receiving and transportation infrastructure, there’s a major area that can prove a significant challenge—ports.
Port efficiency impacts organizations throughout the supply chain—suppliers, manufacturers, logistics service providers (LSPs), freight forwarders, cargo shipping lines and others. Everyone can benefit from greater insight into how ports work. We’ll explore some of the problems with the current port system and discuss possible solutions to help streamline port and downstream supply chain operations.
A Lack of Visibility into Container Status Impacts Forward Planning
Traditionally, one of the biggest issues with cargo terminals is visibility—ports take in hundreds of thousands of containers a month—but supply chain organizations may have little awareness of where their containers are in the port pipeline, or when they will be unloaded and released. That can impact lead times and make it difficult to schedule onward manufacturing, transportation and distribution. Unless you can take a proactive approach to boost visibility into port and container operations, you won’t be able to plan effectively.
The answer here is integration and information sharing. Most port terminals will communicate with supply chain platforms through logistics technology. Here’s what to look for:
- A supply chain platform that integrates with port and terminal systems with a minimum of extra configuration
- A centralized view of container status and information, so you can see where all your shipments are at a glance
- Detailed container content information, so you can link specific supplies, parts and finished products back to loading, unloading and transportation schedules
An Increase in Demand on Ports Can Make Carriers Less Efficient
As the demand for goods increases, global supply chains are transporting more and more containers around the world. Ports offer significant incentives to shipping companies to use their facilities over a competitor’s. The major ocean carriers like Maersk, MSC, COSCO and ONE are the main customers of marine ports, and they are all looking for the most efficient port logistics for loading and unloading. For example, the ports of Long Beach, LA and San Diego are all fairly close to each other and together they account for 40 percent of U.S. imports.
Cargo ships can carry upwards of 24,000 containers, which can take up to four or five days to unload, so even efficiency savings of a few percent can make a huge difference to operations. This all results in shifting plans and changing priorities, meaning you have to be agile.
You can mitigate some of these port and carrier efficiency problems through:
- Deep analytics into exactly how ports are processing your shipments
- Predictive forecasting and modeling so you can proactively make changes to your fleet operations
- Communications with LSPs and shipping lines for maximum visibility of possible delays
- Integration with downstream suppliers so you can quickly make them aware of when they can expect to receive goods
- At-a-glance and in-depth reporting on the movement of goods so you can quickly identify and resolve potential issues
Infrastructure and Transportation Within and Around a Port Makes a Big Difference
Of course, it’s not just the port and its speed of loading and unloading containers that matters, it’s also about the transportation and infrastructure supporting the terminals. Any port you use needs to be easy to access so it can tie into your overall logistics and distribution network. Congestion and inefficient fleet operations will have a major downstream impact on your onward shipping needs.
Improve the effectiveness of your onward logistics networks through:
- Optimize routing and fleet transport through artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics
- Accurate tracking of exactly where your containers, trucks, chassis and other assets are through GPS positioning
- Influence port destination decisions through downstream partner requirements in the supply chain, including geographical location
- Take into account specialized handling needs for different types of sensitive goods
Environmental Factors Can Impact on Ports and the Supply Chain
Sharing data is critical to the success of your supply chain, but you also need to understand the operational and environmental factors that will impact logistics. Ideally, you will want to gather, analyze, model, predict and report on data from multiple sources. This might include:
- The latest updates from air, ocean, rail and motor carriers
- Communications from airport, marine and rail terminals
- Data from electronic logging devices, automated information systems and GPS location services
- Air traffic, weather alerts and maritime conditions
Specialized Port Arrangements Can Take Advantage of a Centralized Supply Chain Platform
If you and your carriers are using the same supply chain platform, you can take advantage of data sharing, logistics provision, modeling, algorithms and effective communication to eliminate delays and quality issues.
One example is the supply chain management software provider, Blume Global— they partnered with Fenix Marine Services to provide an expedited VIP platform for FMS terminal customers in the Port of Los Angeles. As the busiest container port in the western hemisphere, it’s expected that the partnership will drive efficiencies throughout port operations and the onward supply chain.
Here’s a quote from the news release:
“Together, Blume Global and FMS will co-innovate a solution designed to increase terminal efficiency, expedite truck turn times and provide next-generation differentiated services for clientele within the Blume Global supply chain ecosystem. The unique expedited terminal service offering will be based on optimized terminal delivery algorithms for participating Beneficial Cargo Owners, Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers and Motor Carriers that are connected to the Blume Global digital supply chain platform.”
Similar cooperation between platform providers, carriers and others will provide other benefits to help optimize supply chain availability and turnaround.
Centralized data sharing, visibility, reporting, communications and analytics will all drive up efficiencies in ports and across supply chains in general. Take advantage of the latest logistics technologies to get deep insight into how terminals are processing your shipments. Identify potential issues and delays early and predict the downstream impact to keep problems to a minimum.
Blume Global uses 25 years of data insights and its global network to help ports and terminals leverage advanced technology. With our open, digital supply chain platform, bringing data from multiple sources, we enable ports and terminals to: expedite cargo movement, increase efficiency and throughput volumes and provide next generation differentiated services for marine terminals.
To learn more about how we provide values for ocean ports and terminals, download our product sheet here.