In the second instalment of a two-part blog for Port Technology, CEO and Managing Director of DP World Europe and Russia, Rashid Abdulla, looks at the impact of new technologies on global trade.
Read the first part of the blog, which focuses on how the logistics sector is adjusting to the increasing complexity of the world.
A World in Motion
The arrival and adoption of voice-activated speakers in our homes is the stuff of science-fiction. And while customers can order a diverse array of products, to a location and at a time that suits them best, without lifting a finger, the added layer of complexity this adds to the supply chain has the potential to cause logistics providers a major headache.
At the moment, voice-enable commerce is still in its nascent stages, but as consumers become more comfortable with the technology it will inevitably become a game changer.
Voice-commerce is automating the purchasing process, with Alexa and Google Home suggesting recommended goods, on repeat orders to wherever and whenever the customer desires.
In turn, this is causing supply chains to adjust their offering, providing faster delivery times near key markets, ensuring specific goods are in stock, rotated and delivered in perfect condition.
In addition, it is repeat orders made on smart-speakers that experts believe are going to gain momentum in the near future, with supply chain operators needing to build the operational infrastructure required now before they are having to play catch up.
For all of this to work in practice, it requires big data analysis on a grand scale. In order to optimise port operations, warehouse storage and delivery, and intertwine each process with one another, businesses need complete data oversight, as well as real-time analytics.
At DP World, we have been expanding our big data capabilities for some time now, and with the arrival of smart speakers into nearly a quarter of American homes, we are preparing our supply chain partners for this shift in shopping habits.
DP World is currently developing a data lake platform to aggregate massive amounts of internal and external data sources – across multiple locations – to enhance its big data capability and enable the provision of new solutions and services.
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Every status change or interaction, which amounts to tens of thousands per hour and per location on a connected system or device that is recorded across multiple locations, is stored and can be retrieved for analysis.
The result is a wealth of actionable business intelligence that we can pass on to firms to help them thrive in the complex and fluctuating world of trade.
What’s important when it comes to all the mods and cons is the immediate value-add. Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, which we are rolling out across our operations, help measure and assist the operational efficiency of our terminals.
The main function is to analyse the operations, identify inefficiencies, forecast the future state for the next 1 hour to 30 days, and suggest Artificial Intelligence (AI) based recommendations to mitigate any inefficiencies that may be identified.
Read a technical paper by Rashid Abdulla, who explores how port-centric logistics is enabling smarter global trade
This improvement in the operations ultimately benefits the end-customer, providing them with an integrated and frictionless user experience in their acquisition of product and services.
Be it AI, machine learning, human interfaces, digital twin technology, autonomous systems, blockchain or the Internet of Things (IoT), it all comes down to the data and, more specifically, the quality and depth of the data.
Quality data means that the information gathered is reliable enough to inform businesses decisions and base forecasting on.
While everyone in logistics is climbing over one another to adopt big-data capabilities, too few are talking about the importance of quality data and the inherent risks of basing logistics decisions on poor quality that doesn’t provide a clear, marco-level view of your operations.
The Full Package
As global trade continues to expand and grow across every corner of the world, and consumers continue to push for more customisable products delivered at an ever-speedier rate, the logistics sector is having to offer the full package.
Although trade is inherently tied to the port and ship, inland logistics are becoming critical to the modern commerce we are seeing emerge alongside the likes of Alexa.
No longer is it about getting a product from A to B – it’s about getting a product from A to B to C and D in any combination the consumer wants, and with minimum touch points in between.
This requires a seamless transition from port to inland markets, usually facilitated through inland terminals that interlink with rail and road capabilities.
At DP World’s inland terminals, imports can be automatically brought to the terminal by key markets or near additional consolidation points.
Ulf Siwe discusses how the supply chain will develop in the digital age in a recent Port Technology technical paper
We have the capacity to store and rotate these products for our customers, and the proximity of the terminal to key markets means that smaller trucks of customised goods can be distributed.
A genuinely end-to-end solution is primed to become a necessity for 21st century logistics. The demands of consumers and e-commerce outlets mean that firms need to have integrated and dynamic supply chains that can bend – and not break – to the whims of both the consumer and the global economy.
To enable trade in such a complex, voice-activated world means investing heavily in the supply chain to bring together a network of deep sea ports and inland terminals, all served by major barge, rail and road networks.
This is what DP World is doing, creating feeder and short-sea connections that complement its global network of terminals, as well as intermodal solutions through P&O Ferries and Ferrymasters, all of which make supply-chains perform better.
The adoption rates of smart speakers in domestic households globally provides a looking glass for the future – a future that is seamless, interconnected and fast.
It’s the responsibility of supply chain operators and logistics providers to deliver this future for both consumers and commerce firm. At DP World, that’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly.
Rashid Abdulla is a business leader with a wealth of experience spanning over 20 years in the maritime industry and is the CEO of DP World Europe and Russia.
Mr Abdulla was most recently chief executive and managing director for DP World’s Asia Pacific region and chairman of Asian Terminals Inc, its operation in Manila, managing business units in China, Korea, and south-east Asia for four years.
His previous roles include senior vice president for global operations at DP World Head Office in Dubai, and COO for DP World’s flagship Jebel Ali Port.