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  December 7th, 2016 | Written by

FMC: Information Infrastructure Key to U.S. Competitiveness

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  • FMC supply chain teams concluded that specific information will help U.S. companies gain a competitive advantage.
  • Information that would benefit supply chain actors include container, chassis, and dray truck availability.
  • Warehousing will be included in next phase of FMC supply chain initiative.

Critical information delivered to supply chain actors via a national portal will improve port performance and increase American economic competitiveness, according to a report from the Federal Maritime Commission’s Supply Chain Innovation Teams.

FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye has led the teams since last May.

Dye told a conference audience yesterday that team members were encouraged to “step out of their silos” and look at the U.S. supply chain from a “systemic” perspective. They quickly arrived at a consensus that meaningful, specific information, as opposed to vast volumes of unfiltered data, will help U.S. companies engaged in international trade gain a competitive advantage. Examples of high priority information that would benefit supply chain actors are container, chassis, and dray truck availability.

In February, the commission directed Dye to engage leaders from commercial sectors of the U.S. international supply chain in discussions to identify commercial solutions to U.S. supply chain operational challenges. The Supply Chain Innovation Teams initiative initially focused on the import leg of international trade, through the largest U.S. ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York/New Jersey.

Dye convened three teams of industry leaders to develop process innovations that would enhance supply chain reliability and resilience. Each of the three teams was composed of roughly 12 members and included representative supply chain actors, including public port authorities, marine terminal operators, cargo owners, ocean transportation intermediaries, liner shipping companies, drayage trucking companies, longshore labor representatives, rail officials and chassis providers.

At a meeting in May, the Supply Chain Teams were directed to identify one innovative supply chain process improvement and develop a plan to implement that improvement. In response, all three teams determined that improved supply chain visibility would be their central focus. Each team also determined that timely access by all supply chain actors to relevant critical information via a national portal would be their overall goal. The teams deliberated on how to provide the right information, to the right person, at the right time, in order to more fully integrate and harmonize the supply chain system.

Based upon those discussions and negotiations, by mid-October, the teams had developed lists of the critical information/data needs of the various actors; likely sources of that information; timing requirements; and the expected operational improvements that likely would result from access to that critical information.

The teams’ consensus tentatively concluded Phase One of the Supply Chain Initiative. To date, Supply Chain Team members have produced detailed lists of the high-priority information needs of key supply chain actors – mainly dealing with port/marine terminal operations, such as container availability, chassis availability, and more efficient drayage trucking operations.

“The proposal for a national portal that provides a set of useful, actionable information has tremendous potential,” said Dye, “and it can serve as the foundation of a supply chain infrastructure system capable of serving the requirements of international commerce.” Dye added that she is “optimistic” the FMC “can find a way to build a pilot.”

Dye also announced that a second phase of the Supply Chain Innovation Initiative will be launched next year. This effort will focus on exports, and part of the undertaking of the three new teams will be to pursue options for building a robust conceptual model of a national portal for key supply chain information. Dye will organize three export teams, to begin meeting in early 2017. Warehousing executives will be integrated into the initiative.