November 2019 | Commentary | IT Matters: Logistics & Supply Chain Technology

Using Real-Time Tech to Mitigate Risk

Tags: Logistics I.T., Risk Management, Technology , Big Data, Supply Chain

Mitigating risk is one of the most challenging aspects of managing shipping logistics. The good news: Help is available.

Michael Affronti, Senior Vice President of Product, Dataminr, 646-701-7826

Drawing from a rapidly diversifying landscape of publicly available information, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques can detect and monitor breaking events in real time, as they unfold. Real-time technology can help shippers keep abreast of high-impact incidents around the world and provide extra time and context to activate risk mitigation strategies.

A Changing Industry

While managing operations amid volatility in world events or natural phenomena is always a challenge, the growing imperative to deliver goods promptly and seamlessly, supported by 24/7 customer service, compounds the problem. Because supply and production move according to precisely calibrated schedules, even a small disruption can have a disastrous effect on transit times, costing millions and agitating customers.

Companies have been systematically and incrementally chipping away at these risks. Decades ago shippers had to rely on unreliable phone lines and telex machines; the advent of email, however, improved messaging speed and reliability. But even today, there's often a significant lag between the time an event occurs and when news of it reaches shippers.

Technology has also improved the way shippers handle goods so there is less wastage. Internet of Things (IoT)-equipped warehouses can predict spoilage and adjust ambient temperatures accordingly; blockchain technology and smart contracts facilitate transparent sourcing and decrease time to port for materials.

But when it comes to abrupt and severe disruptions, many shipping managers lack real-time data that can help them get ahead of catastrophic events. Access to of-the-moment information about flash points as they are unfolding enables logistics professionals to pull ahead of the pack, redraw shipping plans, and proactively mitigate risk, thereby minimizing lost revenue.

Tools that draw alerts from publicly available data sets—social media, blogs, and information sensors—can enable early detection of disruptive events. Whether a tsunami in Japan or wildfire in California, sudden disasters jolt supply chains. Because of the very nature of its immediacy, publicly available data can be a strong mirror of what's happening in real time.

Given the volume of such available information, however, manually tracking breaking news can be as challenging as drinking water from a fire hose. That's where AI-enabled tools come in, making it possible to distill hundreds of datasets, look for patterns, and quickly deliver relevant information on a high-impact event that is both timely and germane to one's specific business interests.

Mobilizing in a Crisis

While real-time alerts on supply chain disruptions can be powerful, they cannot function in a vacuum: They need the right workflows to facilitate seamless information sharing.

To foster such environments, shippers can eliminate silos by including relevant decision-makers from across the company in collaborative workflows; departments can then easily share information without hitting speed bumps.

Moreover, companies need to institute alternate plans for shipping routes that can kick in when a relevant, real-time alert is received and before disaster strikes. Conducting periodic fire drills, where employees walk through solutions to what-if scenarios, can ensure the viability of such plans.

With an infrastructure in place to effectively receive, relay, and act on real-time information, shipping managers are best equipped to remain agile, mitigate risk, and sail smoothly over choppy waters as well as calm seas.






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