Digital Promise for Supply Chains

Digital Promise for Supply Chains

By Lori Muller

Safety and efficiency are key challenges facing technological advancement for breakbulk and project cargo supply chains, according to panelists at Breakbulk Americas in Houston.

Supply chains are increasing efficiency through digitization, said Jack Zhang is assistant professor at the College of Technology, University of Houston. Transportation technologies, large and small, can be improved through visual analytics, he added.

Incorporating volumes of data received from strategically placed sensors, and then analyzing the data for trends, the University of Houston has developed visual data analysis related to traffic simulation and flood modeling. While useful for disaster management purposes, the same analytical framework can serve supply chains.

In one example, roadway accidents on a grid of Houston streets were recorded by volume over time, to provide a visual of where the accidents really occur, eliminating human recall error. With objective density data and historical analysis, preventative measures can be designed for the future. In the meantime, motor carriers and others might use blockchain-derived and verified information to route around the hot spots, to ensure greater reliability of cargo delivery.

Zhang said cargo mobility can benefit from a great variety of similar analytics, such as when intelligent monitoring detects abandoned, displaced or missing pieces, or when water-level sensors alarm as water rises above a certain point.

The key takeaway, according to Zhang, is that visualization allows analysis and simulation, helping supply chains to identify problems and feeding into solutions.

Detection Algorithm for Safety at Sea

Ugo Vollmer is co-founder and CEO of Shone, a technology company uses autonomous technologies to improve the safety, security and quality of life at sea.

The company’s proprietary detection algorithm uses data gathered from ship sensors, AIS, radar, differential GPS and cameras to analyze a ship’s surroundings and predict the behavior of nearby vessels in any weather situation.

Vollmer said the main challenges to vessel autonomy, along with the current state of technology, include regulations, infrastructure, differences between areas of operation and maintenance.

Some of the challenges of autonomy are path-planning, working with COLREGs (international rules for preventing collisions between vessels at sea), and maximizing fuel efficiency.

Autonomy is coming incrementally. It will happen progressively on existing ships, with perhaps reduced manning at first. There will be unmanned ships, although the scenario is likely to include optimum condition such as good weather and deep water in the early days, according to Vollmer.

Already in the works, Vollmer mentioned project with three CMA-CGM 14,000-TEU vessels, integrating sensors, working on perception, and improving information and understanding. While there is a great deal of data available, the task of converting that data to useful information for the bridge is of paramount importance, he said.

Photo: Jack Zhang, assistant professor at the College of Technology, University of Houston, speaks at Breakbulk Americas.