Disrupting the Shipping Industry: From Containers to Rail Cars, A Modern Way to Move

May 5, 2020

By: Eric Simone

At ClearBlade we are very active in the asset tracking, monitoring and transportation management industry, working for years with some of the largest shipping companies in the world to help them improve the efficiency and profitability of their companies, while also contributing to the modernization of the supply chains they participate in.

Shipping is a massive industry with more than $4 trillion USD worth of goods shipped via ocean liners annually and those ocean liners often hand off containers that move to rail cars at large ports around the U.S.

While there are other options for transoceanic movement of goods (air, for example) the ocean shipping industry transports over 80% of consumer goods.

International shipping industry carries 90% of global trade by tonnage according to the International Chamber of Shipping.

The main building block of the shipping industry is the shipping container itself. First invented in 1955 by Malcom McLean, a US trucker, the modern inter-modal container is an effective and efficient cargo system for loading and securing cargo onto ships for long sea voyages.  They revolutionized the modern shipping and port industry. Since their inception, massive businesses have been built, capitalized by many of the world’s largest banks, and many new business models have surfaced supporting getting goods from Point A to Point B in a low cost and safe manner.

It may surprise you to learn, as I was surprised to learn, that most containers and cargo are still tracked the old-fashioned way, by hand and visual confirmation by someone with a clipboard or hand scanner.   Maritime logistics are often a very manual which greatly and unnecessarily inflates supply chain expenses for exporters and importers and is passed along to consumers. According to the World Economic Forum, 20% of the cost of shipping goods is administrative paperwork expenses – imagine if companies could reduce that cost by half or more dramatically improving their bottom lines.

New sensors, firmware, network protocols, longer-life batteries are becoming more mass produced and less expensive; at the same time, Industrial IoT platforms, like the enterprise platform and related cloud ClearBlade has been developing and operating for many years, is greatly simplifying and securing the supply chain, on land and sea.

We are reducing expensive and inaccurate paperwork and enhancing enterprise systems with real-time, data-analytic rich asset tracking and monitoring, improving shipping industry supply chains.

Here’s how we’re doing it, working closely with our customers and partners:

  • IoT solutions like mobility, asset tracking, ship capacity automation, berthing + loading analytics, environmental monitoring, smart metering and ecosystem predictive insights greatly reduce (or eliminate) manual tracking and human error while increasing productivity and efficiency, saving time and money.
  • IoT enables real-time tracking and monitoring of cargo at all levels (ship, truck, train, container, pallet, etc.) to determine location, settlements, and when and where cargo was delivered or compromised (temperature, humidity, velocity, altitude, light). This is enabling our clients and their insurers to accurately monitor assets in motion.
  • IoT enables event triggered alerts and tracking of numerous metrics to ensure cargo is transported and delivered as agreed. IoT will, for example, alert supply chain personell when a shipment of electronics gets wet after it was delivered to the client (as opposed to during shipping), if frozen food thawed during shipping, if expensive medicines in glass vials were compromised due to excessive vibration and the like.

With the increasing use of IoT the shipping industry faces higher security risks. For example, in 2017, Maersk suffered a computer virus attack that froze its port operations in multiple countries, resulting in $250 million in losses. This attack did not involve any IoT technology, but drove awareness around the risks involved when using technology over manual processes. Technology, including IoT devices, can be the entry point to launch cyber-attacks, which is why security through encryption and other methods is a huge part of the ClearBlade platform.

Security is only one of the challenges of a successful IoT deployment.  Privacy and compliance must also be ensured, as well as how the data is collected, curated, enhanced (with third party data, pumped into a range of enterprise systems, or even shared with regulators).

IoT technologies are being developed and deployed throughout the shipping vertical.  These new solutions will dramatically change the industry for the better, but only when these solutions are “enterprise ready”. They must be open, eliminate expensive vendor lock in, play well with other enterprise systems, and must be able to immediately drive a solid ROI, while being designed to scale tomorrow. The opportunities to improve the way we move massive amounts of commodities are limited only by our ability to imagine how much better supply chains can operate, and our willingness to partner to develop physical to digital solutions that benefit all, including the customers of shipping companies, and the end consumers.

Originally posted by Eric Simone on LinkedIn Pulse

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