Baby Steps with Digital Innovation

Tools Available to 'Add Value and Make Our Life Easier'

By Carly Fields
Forget the big-ticket items, digitalization can bring benefits to the project cargo market at a very basic level, according to Patric Drewes, managing owner of LP Belgium & LP Projects Germany.
Criticizing the mass of Excel spreadsheets that are still being used every day by companies in the sector, Drewes told a Breakbulk Europe Tech and Innovation Hub audience that there are many tools already out there that can be used to “add value and make our life easier.”
He pointed up the inability for many operators to get even the basics right and an ever-shortening timespan to respond to tenders. This latter point, he said, was making effective risk assessing almost impossible.
“There must be a rethink in the industry,” he said. “We all need to speak with customers about it if we want to do something right.”
Drewes added that the way some players quote on projects has to change: “It’s a charterers’ market at the moment, but the market will recover and I’m sure some forwarders will suffer then.”
He explained that freight rates have become unsustainable and that only when margins become fair again on all sides will the industry recover properly.
“It is not comfortable to work in an industry where so many companies are near bankrupt. Do you want to work with carriers in this situation?” he asked.
Fellow panelists Christoph Homeier, manager innovation and digital transformation at BLG Logistics Group, and Sven Hermann, managing director of ProLog Innovation, said it was important to find the right partners for innovation and that larger companies with a bigger data set to call on have an advantage over smaller companies when introducing modern data analysis techniques.
However, Encoway Data Scientist Alexey Fofonov added that the potential for technological development can only be ascertained on a case-by-case basis.
“Artificial Intelligence today is still a data-driven decision-making process,” he said. “In order to make data useful it has to contain useful information. First, you have to have a strategy and an idea of what you want to do with data. Most companies have a lot of opportunities to collect, store, and maintain data properly, but they don’t.
“Where solutions are known, we can introduce modern data analysis and AI, but first we have to have the data. We have to ask people if they are ready for this,” Fofonov said.