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Streamlining Global Trade: How AI-Enabled Business Networks Can Make Your Business Smarter

Streamlining Global Trade: How AI-Enabled Business Networks Can Make Your Business Smarter

We hardly need reminding of the global challenges facing companies today, from increased competition from low cost foreign competitors, to tariffs and changing regulations. As if that weren’t challenging enough, there is the need to keep abreast of technology innovations such as digital business networks, artificial intelligence and blockchain, that are giving startups the opportunity to leapfrog more traditional and mature companies. Within this landscape, companies need to transact with more and more companies, using different systems and often in different time and regulatory zones, which increases the complexity of doing business exponentially.
So, how do you address these issues while modernizing and continuing your business?

Digital Transformation or Consumer-Driven Transformation?

Fundamentally, conducting business is about supplying to the demand of the end consumer. Businesses that win are the ones that create demand with innovative products; or, better serve existing demand. Regardless of the approach, successful companies also understand that they need to be sensitive and responsive to customers’ needs and the market.

Technology serves a vital role as the means by which businesses register demand, plan, forecast, make, move and sell products and services. Technology can make or break a company’s ability to react to changing consumer demand, market shifts, and supply constraints. It can also limit a company’s ability to fully exploit the innovative technologies that are constantly emerging.

For example, most companies are split into functional silos. This is partly corporate culture and partly technological, thanks to the typically inward-focused nature of enterprise systems. Whatever the causes, silos inhibit visibility, speed and agility. Steven Bowen, in his book Total Value Optimization, calls silos “one of the most pervasive and profound barriers to real competitive advantage in every company.” This problem is multiplied across the global business footprint and across the worldwide supply chain, with regions, countries and trading partners having their own systems and silos.

For optimal functioning, all departments need to align around the corporate strategy, and all trading partners around the same objectives, with the primary concern of serving the end customer as effectively as possible. After-all, it takes just one weak link to drag down the performance of the whole supply chain.

Networks Break Out of the Box

We can learn a lot from disruptive leaders in today’s world, as companies like Uber and AirBnB have each disrupted their respective industries because of their ability to sense and respond to consumer demand and match it to supply in real time.

For instance, Uber leverages a multiparty network where all drivers and riders connect to a single platform and drivers are routed to riders, automatically. What’s more, you use the same platform to summon your ride (or your stay in the case of AirBnB), make the contract and transact payment, and rate the other party. Both are “end-to-end” platforms that handle all aspects of the search, booking, payment and review processes. They make the whole process seamless and provide value for both buyer and seller.

The multiparty networks at the heart of these types of businesses, are creating huge efficiencies by eliminating delays and costs and connecting all parties in real-time with a single, authoritative version of the truth. No silos, no delays, no confusion; just a frictionless network for transacting with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Intelligent Business Networks

The opportunities for business-to-business companies are even greater, because the buyer-seller-mover relationships are complex and multi-layered. There are many more silos, blindspots and delays in a global supply chain compared to a simple one-to-one relationship of rider to driver as in Uber, or guest to homeowner as in AirBnB.Thus, a multiparty network that connects all seamlessly in real-time, has a much bigger impact. Instead of a business partner waiting days or weeks for information to flow upstream, they get it instantly and can react immediately. If a customer’s promotion is selling more than expected, a supplier with visibility to sales can proactively plan for increased orders and ramp up its own supplies and production.

And it gets better. Advanced multiparty networks not only share data, provide real-time visibility, and enable business partners to collaborate as events happen, they also leverage technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize and automate processes. “Intelligent agents” monitor conditions across the supply chain, things like sales data, inventory levels, orders, shipments and how they relate to critical milestones. They can predict sales and identify trends and anomalies.

Because all business partners are on the same network, intelligent agents are able to not only flag potential issues, but actually intervene to solve them. They are able to continuously reconcile sales data with projected inventory levels, shipments from ocean and domestic carriers, along with actual lead times, to predict supply and demand issues in advance and then execute proactive solutions to avoid them.

With the vast amounts of data flowing across the network, these systems are ideally suited to machine and deep learning, enabling them to identify patterns and correlations. This data can then be used to predict sales and cascade the order forecast back through the supply chain through distribution centers, manufacturers and suppliers. They continuously monitor the sales and inventory in near real time, and can foresee issues like pending stock out swell in advance. Intelligent agents can then resolve them by autonomously reallocating supply from DCs to stores, adjusting forecasts, creating new orders and helping manage logistics processes.

Better yet, the system monitors the outcomes of these autonomous actions and recommendations, and continuously “learns” and adapts to recommend and execute the most effective resolutions to similar problems in the future.

Data-Driven Agile Ecosystems

This is merely a glimpse into the nature of these emerging intelligent business networks, as they are evolving rapidly. Unlike traditional systems, they are able to harvest new and unstructured types of data, such as weather, traffic, social media chatter and more.
The volume of data in today’s supply chains is set to explode with the increasing use of sensors and live streaming data from containers, vehicles, handheld devices and industrial machinery.

While the sheer volume of data is overwhelming for human managers and for traditional systems, it is ideal for multiparty networks with machine learning algorithms and intelligent agents. They can learn from it and extract new insights that can drive better operations, higher service levels to customers and lower costs for all automatically, and often without the need for human intervention.
Multiparty networks are smarter, enable easy onboarding of trading partners (with a single connection) and provide pre-built solutions with PaaS tools that enable rapid tailoring and extension of functionality to suit changing business needs. Further, the multiparty network model makes it easy to consume both legacy data and leading-edge data from technologies like IoT, product authentication, 3D printing, and blockchain.

It is often said that intelligence is really the ability to adapt to change. Multiparty networks are built to be adaptable through and through. For instance, connections between trading partners are virtual and thus easily reconfigured should trading relationships change. The permissions controlling each trading partner’s rights over visibility and execution on each specific data object is configurable and can easily be turned on and off through a simple user interface. Old and new technologies can co-exist, with multiparty workflows coordinated across different systems and parties. Software developer kits make it easy to adapt existing network solutions or build entirely new ones on the platform.
The result is an extremely adaptable network platform, supporting an agile ecosystem of all trading partners centered on serving the customer at the highest service level at the lowest cost.

About the Author
Nigel Duckworth is a marketing strategist at One Network Enterprises, provider of a blockchain and AI-enabled network platform that enables all trading partners to transact in real time. To learn more, visit https://go.onenetwork.com/article-one or follow them at https://twitter.com/onenetwork

 

Artificial intelligence

THE RISKS, CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES OF PROCUREMENT POWERED BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial intelligence, better known as AI, is popping up everywhere as the panacea for everything. There appears to be no limit to where it can be used to make businesses work smarter to improve profitability. The International Data Corp. (IDC) Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide forecasts that cognitive and AI spending will grow to $52.2 billion in 2021.

In addition to autonomous vehicles, predictive maintenance and chatbots responding to customer inquiries, AI can have an immediate positive impact on the bottom line by helping companies select suppliers that provide goods and services at the lowest price, with the least amount of risk.

Here are some opportunities and challenges of using AI to increase procurement effectiveness.

Spend Analytics

Spend analytics can be armed with AI software to collect, cleanse, classify and analyze expenditure data to help procurement teams identify excessive costs. For example, AI systems can identify when duplicate suppliers were used to purchase the same goods, urgent purchases were made without using better terms in existing contracts, and when there were suboptimal payment terms.

But to find savings opportunities, AI software has to be good at classifying data. Statistical and pattern-based AI techniques can have weaknesses dealing with one-off purchases and infrequently used suppliers. They can also be stumped by new languages and geographies, which happens more and more often as supply chains become global. The best way to achieve ROI is to pilot a system where there is a large volume of transactions involving standard repeated purchases, so that there are more opportunities for increased efficiencies.

Strategic Supplier Sourcing

By using AI, procurement officers can be armed with knowledge about market conditions, upcoming mergers and acquisitions and real-time product and support comparisons. This ensures that there is a data-driven strategy for awarding suppliers, and that procurement is getting the best possible terms.

Using AI also reduces the time required to analyze all of the supporting data. Evaluating responses to a bid process can be reduced by as much as 80 percent. It can also be used, on a continuous basis, to provide recommendations of suppliers on demand. Responding to market opportunities in seconds versus weeks can speed up time-to-market by receiving the needed parts and materials quicker.

Guided buying is also an AI innovation that enables employees to quickly and easily buy goods and services from preferred suppliers with minimal support from procurement teams. Employees can use voice-activated commands to find the best price or a supplier that can deliver on time where there is an urgent request. Many of these systems enable direct communication with suppliers with embedded rules to ensure that the buying process is compliant with procurement policies.

Many automatic personal assistants also have the advantage of being able to learn from experience. But if the AI system is self-taught, there is the risk that it can be corrupted by outside influences, so communications and procedures need to be protected from hackers or rogue employees. For example, the famous chatbot, Microsoft’s Tay, was taught by trolls to use inappropriate language until it was taken off the market for further testing.

Contract Analytics

The majority of organizations do not have a database containing all of the data in their contracts–and they definitely do not have an easy way to extract all that information–so there’s no quick and efficient way to, for example, view and compare agreements. Using AI, companies can review contracts more rapidly, organize and find large amounts of contract data to significantly lower the possibility of contract disputes and increase the number of contracts that they can negotiate and execute.

For example, using AI, company contracts can be accessed based on renewal dates to inspect conditions and negotiate accordingly. Finance and procurement teams can inspect if pricing discounts are not being consistently applied across the organization in line with contract terms or keep track of the wording of specific clauses in different divisions. The beauty of AI contracting software is that it helps organizations maintain consistency in the terms and usage in all of their contracts, which makes it easier to identify instances of non-compliance, and make sure that less-than-ideal provisions are dealt with quickly.

The Challenge: Data and Application Integration

None of the benefits of AI can be realized without a strong data foundation. Firms need to invest in data management—as well as data and analytics—to have a 360-degree view of their business operations. Only if their CRM, ERP and financial systems are fully integrated can they have access to all the data that is required.

Point-to-point integrations can initially appear to be more cost effective when there are only a few systems connected together. But, in time, with more and more data shared with different departments, suppliers and partners, a third party integration platform can result in lower development and maintenance costs while providing the scalability and consistent data handling that’s needed.

Once companies have a strong data foundation with all of the necessary integrations and data sharing, new machine learning-based platforms can be used to enforce the best procurement practices. Although today AI procurement systems are not always accurate, machine learning uses algorithms to learn from data, allowing platforms to continuously improve themselves.

As we start to see spend analysis platforms classifying data at levels of 98 percent accuracy—the same level as human analysts—it is more and more likely that AI will become a trusted tool for the procurement process.

Tsipora Cohen is the global head of Marketing at Magic Software Enterprises, a global enterprise software company headquartered in Or Yehuda, Israel. Visit www.magicsoftware.com.

Takeoff Technologies Puts Robotics in Grocery Orders

Retail grocers including Albertsons, Stop and Shop, and Sedano’s are a few of the brands that have partnered with Takeoff Technologies, tapping into its innovative technology and robotics-focused strategies to more efficiently fulfill online customer orders.

Through the partnership, Takeoff’s Automated Micro Fulfillment Centers put AI-enabled robots to work to quickly gather and assemble large customer grocery orders, ultimately reducing time and cost compared to manual assembly. It’s reported that these robots can prepare as much as 60 items in a matter of minutes.

“The time is ripe for eGroceries,” said Jose Vicente Aguerrevere, co-founder and CEO of Takeoff. “Grocers have been dipping their toes in eGroceries for years. Now it’s time to jump in with both feet. Our automated, hyperlocal fulfillment centers enable grocers to do so with minimal operational costs.”

The company is encouraging grocers in urban and suburban regions to consider their Micro Fulfillment Centers once launched. These Micro Fulfillment Centers can be made out of existing space and extend market reach through a hub-and-spoke model.

“Takeoff is a win-win for grocers and consumers across the board,” said Max Pedro, co-founder and president of Takeoff. “Our eGrocery automation is a turn-key solution that uses robotics to unlock ultimate convenience for shoppers without need of charging fees or a price premium.”

About Takeoff:

Takeoff is an eGrocery solution that empowers retailers to attain profitable online growth by leveraging automation at a hyper-local scale. Orders are placed online through established retailers (whether using their existing eCommerce platform or Takeoff’s customized UI solution) and Takeoff’s automated technology fulfills the order using robots in Micro Fulfilment Centers.

The company’s robotics technology is proven and ready to deploy thanks to Takeoff’s exclusivity agreement with Knapp, a leading global provider of automated warehouse solutions. By leveraging automated Micro Fulfillment Centers, Takeoff’s innovative model operates at a much lower cost-to-serve than other eCommerce platforms, solving for both the cost of assembling the order and cost of the last mile. This results in savings for both shoppers and retail partners. For more information visit www.takeoff.com.

Dubai Customs Reports Export & Non-Oil Foreign Trade Growth for Q1

Non-oil trade volumes, exports, and re-exports were all reported with robust growth percentages during Q1 for Dubai, according to information released this week from Dubai Customs. Exports led the growth patterns by increasing 30 percent and accumulating AED 42 billion. Additionally, Dubai’s non-oil trade volumes were reported at 28 million tons, up from 21 million tons for Q1 in 2018. Overall, the report highlighted 7 percent year-on-year growth for non-oil foreign trade.

“This robust performance and marked growth of Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade is an indication that we are on the right path of revenue diversification in alignment with the values and standards outlined in the 50-Year Charter.,” said His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai. “The Dubai Silk Road Strategy supports decades of successful investment in developing the emirate’s infrastructure. In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we are committed to developing our government services so that we can become a world-class model for future governments based on knowledge, innovation and advanced AI applications.”

Credit: Dubai Customs

Breaking down the numbers even further, gold, diamonds, and jewelry traded through Dubai saw values increased by nine percent and totaling AED 90 billion. Leading the way in growth contributions, phones were reported at AED 42 billion while petroleum oils increased by more than twice as much from last year.

Credit: Dubai Customs

Among several AI-based initiatives, Dubai Customs boasts the first of its kind ‘Virtual Stock Guarantee’ initiative providing support for re-exports from free zones to external markets. Other disruptive strategies implemented consist of the Smart Vessel Berthing System and the ‘Productivity Engine.’ All three serve a unique purpose from enhanced productivity to cost reduction, all while helping Dubai remain a leader in the market.

“We are pleased to report that trade in Dubai has rebounded in the first quarter of 2019 with non-oil trade growing 7.3% year-on-year to reach AED 339 billion,” added Sultan Bin Sulayem, DP World Group Chairman & CEO and Chairman of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation. “This strong growth has been delivered despite the challenging macro and geopolitical environment, which further highlights the strength and resilience of the Dubai economy. Importantly, we have seen significant growth in both exports (+30%) and re-exports (+7%) which reinforces Dubai’s profile as the key hub for the region. Overall, despite geopolitical headwinds, we remain excited about the outlook for Dubai, particularly with the lead up to EXPO 2020.”

Source: Dubai Customs

How Technology Can Help Recruit and Retain Workers of all Ages

The big question in the minds of business managers–in warehousing, manufacturing, transportation and beyond–is not only how to retain a solid workforce, but how to attract a variety of skillsets and ages within the worker population. It’s not a surprise to imagine that old-school approaches are becoming a thing of the past. As Gen Z workers continue to increase representation in the workforce, employers are faced with the reality of adopting more innovation, technology and mindsets to successfully cater to both older and newer generations of workers. If the current strategy is limiting recruiting capabilities, companies are setting themselves up for failure and limiting their full potential in operations and employee expertise.

What some companies might not realize is the amount of visibility provided with modern technology and the capabilities enabled through automation. As the workforce changes, so does the method of recruiting and the level of technology necessary for successful staffing. Completed.com is a great example of how automation and technology take recruiting one step further through real-time, reliable feedback on employees seeking work in any industry.

“We saw a need to create a platform where one can review anyone in business,” explains Completed.com CEO Michael Zammuto. “One of the reasons employers haven’t had a successful platform like this before is because it’s inherently at risk of being used improperly. The technologies we’re starting to talk about are one potential and significant source of solution for that.

“Completed.com at its core includes machine learning-driven technology which looks at and develops an internal credibility score for every reviewer and every review,” Zammuto continues. “This is one of the more important things that companies like Yelp have been working on, but it’s a difficult challenge. It starts with things like technology where the talent is validated, making it more credible. In addition to that, there’s a lot of pattern matching and sediment analysis that’s done to develop an internal credibility score. This is important because of constructive, professionally-focused reviews.”

So, how much is technology really changing the pace for employee recruitment? Quite a bit, according to Zammuto, who adds that the human element is still very much needed, just for a different role. It’s not about eliminating the human element in recruiting, but reallocating it.

“Everybody in every industry has the same issue: finding and attracting the right talent,” Zammuto says. “We got to see it from the other side–the client’s issue about how they were represented online. We realized that hiring people has become complicated because of technology, but the important part of this topic is that one can automate 99 percent of something that’s content-driven and has a subjective element to it, but you do need people to review things that algorithms determine problems with.”

This insight confirms that technology is becoming more involved within the logistics world, creating even more of a dynamic between connectivity, visibility and efficiency. The secret here is employer and company information are just as valuable to recruiting the right kind of talent as is the available employee information. Just as companies want to learn about the candidates sent their way, employees are looking for an environment that offers more than just a paycheck. If a strong candidate is subjected to a miserable climate, outdated practices and lack of recognition, they’re more likely to visit with competitors that meet their expectations.

In the modern workforce, competing companies are willing to offer tempting salaries with promising career incentives to win over another great employee. Recognition is just as much of a factor as the dollar amount on the paycheck. “Part of this process is ensuring great employees receive recognition they seek while others are held accountable,” Zammuto notes. “This gives you a chance to hold people accountable and celebrate the employees and managers that do great work, and you can take it at face value.”

Taking it even further, regular internal reviews are highly encouraged to successfully maintain talent retention. Not only do these regular checks reiterate accountability for management and the employees, skills development is evaluated and encouraged, ultimately eliminating the mundane aspect of a job. Workers are encouraged with feedback and become motivated to polish their skillset while voicing concerns and addressing redundancies. This is a critical element that goes beyond recruiting and retention as it impacts all aspects of company operations. At the end of the day, your employees are the backbone of the company.

“Most of the traditional methods have either disappeared or been weakened in some way,” Zammuto says. “The remaining method that’s useful is direct referrals to jobs. This is the only remaining valid strategy for getting good candidates to your company, but it’s very slow and doesn’t always scale very well. Companies are having trouble finding people because of the mechanisms for doing so have weakened a lot. With people being more mobile than before, but the information about that mobility shielding the good from the bad performers, how is anyone supposed to hire the right candidates?”

Technology is the common denominator in solving this problem. As companies learn about automation integration for maximizing workflows, this same method should absolutely be considered for selecting the best and preferred types of employees. This approach challenges the old-fashioned methods and takes a granular look at the talent pool, saving time, money, resources and energy invested.

The bigger picture shows that recruiting methods are changing and directly impacting retention. Any company can fill a position, but retaining that position is where the challenge is. What benefit is it to hire a candidate if they don’t contribute and end up leaving? There is no benefit. A company that fills three roles but only retains one isn’t fulfilling its bottom line. Something is missing and technology is the answer to solving this issue. Preserve company resources and time by investing in technology that can identify the best candidates that are looking for long-term careers. The investment upfront will pay off in the long haul.

Global Customs Platform “RIISE” Showcased in Uzbekistan & Romania

Disruptive global customs platform RIISE was announced and released this week by PCFC subsidiary, Customs World. The in-house customs project was presented to Uzbekistani officials and received positive feedback for its automation capabilities and elimination of traditional, time consuming trade bottlenecks.

“This disruptive technical and functional CMS (Customs Management System) and the trade enabling platform takes the lessons and builds on the learnings and 100 years of distinctive experience and practices of Dubai Customs” Nadya Abdullah Al Kamali, CEO of Customs World said. “The system recognizes the threats and challenges of today and provides the levels of border integrity that governments and their communities expect in such a way that sets world benchmarks for cross border trade.”

The plug-and-play solution is equipped to meet specific needs of customers and utilizes technology such as AI and machine learning to simplify and streamline decision-making and operations. Additionally, the open-source system eliminates the need for third party license and is predicted to improve rankings on the global indexes, increase revenues, facilitate trade, secure borders and the supply chain for countries that utilize the platform.

“RIISE is built with a vision to be the number 1 partner of choice for
governments to protect their borders and facilitate trade following the standards and requirements of the World Trade Organization, SAFE and Kyoto. It is a disruptive option to a stale market currently monopolized by companies with a 1990’s mentality dumping old technology and re-branding old processes.”

From Excessive Gratuities to Egregious Typos, Receipt Verification Finds Them All

Auditing expense reports requires auditors to closely examine each expense to verify if the correct receipts are attached, and make sure the receipt matches the information input by the employee. This may sound daunting, but this process is essential for catching potential mistakes – or worse, fraud within travel and entertainment (T&E) spend.

Catch discrepancies between the receipt and user inputs

At the end of the day, employees are human, and humans make mistakes. Take for example an employee who traveled to the UK and submitted their hotel stay as $300,000 instead of the actual charge of $300. Is this potential fraud?

Nope – at least not this time. In this case, it was just an honest mistake. For anyone who has traveled to the UK, you know that receipts are formatted differently than those in the US. The comma is used inverse to the period, meaning a charge that would appear as £300,00 is representative of a total of $300.00, not $300,000.00 (actually it’s something like $392.00, but you get the point).

Regardless of whether an instance such as the example above is an honest mistake or blatant fraud, receipt verification helps auditors catch these discrepancies by reading the contents of every receipt – such as the total amount, the date of purchase, or the merchant, and matching it with the information input by the employee.

Avoid out-of-policy spend with itemized receipts

Using AI to read the contents of every receipt will help companies detect out-of-policy purchases such as drinks from the mini-bar in a hotel room. This type of violation can easily be hidden by submitting a non-itemized receipt.

To avoid out-of-policy purchases from slipping through the cracks, we recommend companies require itemized receipts for certain expenses such as meals and hotels. Our AI’s receipt verification will detect and flag any reports that don’t have an itemized receipt attached to line items marked as meal or hotel expenses.

Prevent overly generous or creative tippers

Most would agree that it’s common courtesy to tip a server or taxi driver. In the US, this often rounds up to roughly 15% of the total. Some may argue that great service is worthy of a 20% tip, however, it’s unlikely that any auditor would agree that an 80% percent tip is reimbursable when it’s on the company’s dime.

Whether the employee is just extremely generous, or perhaps cleverly adds an extra number in front of the original tip amount for their own financial gain, our AI will flag the potential risk to an auditors’ attention for further investigation.

Optimize receipt verification efforts

We often hear that requiring a receipt for low-dollar purchases is a headache for auditors. In fact, efforts spent penny-pinching often cost the company more money than it saves, because auditor time is wasted looking over every receipt.

Detecting greater financial risks often yield a greater impact when reducing T&E spend and, therefore, should be the primary focus of the auditor’s attention. We recommend considering a $75 threshold for receipts on entertainment, meals, gifts, and travel expenses. Not only will this help travelers submit their expense reports in a more timely fashion, but it also saves auditors a significant amount of time.

Using AI to verify receipts alleviates the need of an auditors aimless review every single receipt submitted within an expense report. Instead, auditors can focus on reviewing potential financial risks when they are notified of reports that appear questionable and require additional investigation.

Travis is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at AppZen.

Transplace Earns Challenger Position by Gartner Inc.

Gartner Inc. confirmed the inclusion of leading logistics solutions provider, Transplace as a Challenger for the 2019 “Magic Quadrant for Transportation Management Systems.” The company’s robust portfolio offers top grade technology solutions for companies both large and small, creating streamlined operations with a strategic approach.

“Companies are constantly seeking new ways to improve supply chain performance and reduce costs while maintaining high levels of service to increasingly demanding customers, and today’s technology solutions that give them greater visibility, predictability and control over their logistics operations than ever before,” said Jim French, CTO, Transplace.

“We believe our positioning in the Challengers quadrant by Gartner continues to validate Transplace’s commitment to provide innovative transportation management solutions that enable shippers to better manage their transportation networks, improve financial performance and deliver outstanding service to their customers.”

Transplace’s transportation management services are credited for supporting businesses in manufacturing, retail, automotive, chemical, distribution and more, ultimately increasing visibility while improving efficiencies.

“As the supply chain continues to become faster and more complex, shippers need technology and logistics platforms that enable them to more effectively plan and execute a strategic, data-driven logistics strategy,”
Transplace CEO Frank McGuigan said. “Transplace continues to invest in its logistics solutions and services, including integrating machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics, to achieve greater supply chain automation, optimization, predictability and visibility.”


Optimization Software Helping Air Cargo Carriers Address Challenges, Improve Performance, and Maximize Growth Opportunities

For air cargo carriers, there are many factors converging to introduce new challenges to their logistical planning and operations. Changing customer expectations, new partnership definitions, and emerging competitors are all conspiring and requiring air cargo carriers to adapt to these new market dynamics. Mastering the so-called “disruptors” will require optimized strategies and processes both of which gain a significant boost from leading-edge optimization solutions. Understanding the disruptors and how best to address them will be the key for today’s air cargo carriers’ continued growth and ability to successfully compete.

Challenges and Performance Improvement Goals

There is no question that despite positive growth projections by leading airline industry groups, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air cargo carriers have hurdles to overcome. IATA’s prediction of a rise in cargo in 2018 came true with 62.5 million tons of cargo carried in 2018, a 4.5% increase over figures in 2017 leading to an 8.6% increase in cargo revenues at $59.2 billion. This growth boosts confidence, but air cargo carriers are not celebrating just yet. Still, air cargo carriers are not celebrating just yet. They realize that to achieve growth and profitability, they need to improve their value proposition by optimizing their processes and overall performance. This will require they get ahead of new challenges, while embracing new tools that facilitate better performance.

Among the key challenges air cargo carriers must address are:

-Those relating to the delivery of different cargo in accordance with the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for each cargo product, and recording time-stamps required for the audit trail;

-Optimal management of staff and equipment resources on the apron and in the cargo warehouse; and

-Maintaining optimum situational awareness and management by exception even in the most complex and confusing situations.

In addition to helping address these challenges, air cargo carriers also need solutions that will help them improve their performance of various tasks such as:

-Transporting of cargo between the aircraft and cargo center, as well as transports between different locations within the cargo center;

-On-time dolly availability at aircraft stands and holding areas;

-Preparation of dolly and trailer trains at aircraft and at outbound docks;

-Cargo build-up and breakdown in the warehouse;

-Loading/unloading of aircraft; and

-Loading/unloading of road feeder services.

The Disruptors

Competitors

When Amazon announced plans to launch its own delivery service, more than one carrier took note and stock of the implications. While its plans are to start accumulating a fleet of branded trucks, what is to say that the Amazon logo won’t soon appear on its own fleet of air cargo carriers? And, will Alibaba be far behind?

Blockchain

When a group of Japanese businesses operating in global trade announced their pilot program to evaluate the application of blockchain technology to streamline and improve cross-border trade operations, there was interest by air transporters as well as those in other modes of transportation. This group is not alone in exploring ways to leverage this digital database that uses linked blocks secured by cryptography to improve transactions and logistics. UPS, for one, has expressed interest in utilizing blockchain technology in its operations.

Big Data

Big Data is also causing a stir within the air cargo industry. Carriers realize that by harnessing the power of real time data, along with more flexible management of workforce and other resources, they can increase their overall efficiency. This is particularly true when it comes to better determining the number of planes needed for cargo transport during specific periods; efficiently scaling up or down accordingly.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Like Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also getting a closer look by air cargo carriers. While some don’t expect AI to immediately impact the industry, there is a generally accepted viewpoint that it will ultimately help the carriers better forecast their facilities’ needs, improve cargo tracking, enhance revenue management, and optimize processes such as load planning, route planning, workforce management, and customer service. Among the top five air cargo carriers, at least two, FedEx and UPS, are known to be researching the implementation of AI.  Consolidation services are also being looked upon by air cargo carriers as a way to mitigate challenges faced by organizations with lean supply chains and/or those that need to provide a Just in Time (JIT) service even for the smaller quantities.

All of these “disruptors” have changed customer expectations; the operative words here are faster, more flexible, more transparent, and lower prices. These expectations lead us to optimization software. It is already helping air cargo carriers optimize their processes so that they can effectively address challenges, best leverage the new technologies like AI and position themselves for the changing marketplace.

Optimization Software Helping Carriers Retain Their Competitive Edge

Regardless of the challenges, air cargo carriers still have a distinct advantage over other modes of transport; specifically, they are faster and more reliable. Cargo IQ data indicates that air cargo shipments, on average, take 140 hours to go from shipper to the consignee. The reliability of air cargo carriers is another notable differentiator. That is, however, not to say that air cargo carriers don’t benefit from improved processes. Optimization software is intended to take their operations to a whole new level and enable them to retain their competitive edge.

There are advanced solutions that optimize a wide range of carrier processes, from ground handling and airport operations to turnaround management and aircraft maintenance. These solutions have demonstrated a direct impact on the carriers’ productivity, costs of operation, performance levels, communications, and resource management. They enable an air cargo carrier to achieve best practices and process transparency which help them perform with the consistent speed and reliability they tout over other modes of transportation. Let us look at how some of the challenges faced by air cargo carriers are being effectively addressed by applying optimization software.

A key operational challenge faced by air cargo carriers is that different cargo products have different Service Level Agreement (SLA) limits relating to when the cargo must be delivered to the aircraft. This requires carriers to establish and allocate the necessary resources (e.g., dolly trains) in an optimized manner and in adherence to the SLA. There also is another requirement for time-stamps to be recorded as proof and for subsequent auditing purposes. Optimization software addresses this challenge by automatically taking SLA limits into consideration when allocating tasks to resources. Additionally, each action is connected to a time-stamp so that a detailed recording of activities performed can be guaranteed.

Air cargo carriers are further challenged by today’s highly competitive industry and the demand for optimal management of staff and equipment. By applying state-of-the-art algorithms to automatically allocate tasks to staff and equipment in accordance with various parameters (e.g., availability, functional requirements, legal considerations, etc.), optimization software helps carriers achieve optimal asset management and remain competitive.

Given the many operational complexities and typical infrastructure limitations air cargo carriers must contend with, maintaining sharp situational awareness, even under the most stressful and/or chaotic conditions, is vital. Built-in optimizers in today’s most advanced software solutions alleviate much of the confusion enabling staff to fully focus on critical tasks, thereby facilitating management-by-exception.

Real Benefits Derived

Optimization software is delivering real benefits to carriers. INFORM’s GroundStar optimization software suite has made a significant difference on behalf of various cargo customers. For example, by applying the software to allocate and manage its employees, one customer is now able to turn around 350,000 express freight shipments, on average, per night. Having to cater to an estimated 65 cargo flights per night within a short window of just four hours, situational awareness and pro-active decision-making is crucial. The GroundStar solution elevates situational awareness to the highest level to facilitate optimum decision-making. On a typical day, approximately 250 loading staff and drivers are allocated in parallel for efficient workforce management. During the peak holiday season, the strength of the implemented solution is especially evident as more than 500,000 parcels must be efficiently handled per night.

INFORM’s GroundStar also is helping air cargo carriers meet the demands posed by the 5% annual increase in the number of express shipments. It is enabling these carriers to effectively manage expansion by supporting them with advanced automation and optimized and focused decision-making which, in turn, is helping them increase productivity without adding staff.

Another example of how INFORM software is benefiting its cargo customers relates to their estimated 20% increase in dolly train utilization. Prior to their application of GroundStar, the carriers’ loading and cargo transport supervisors were not always able to utilize the full capacity of a tug and its dollies to meet SLAs and other timelines. After the implementation of GroundStar, the information regarding a tug’s status (i.e., whether a tug driver has enough time to wait for another unit load device (ULD) to be collected or to leave the stand with only three ULDs instead of four) is a strategic decision automatically handled by the INFORM software.

The Way Forward

The future for air cargo carriers and their continued process optimization will include further leverage of data – small and Big Data – to extract new insights and empower all staff levels from management to technicians. In turn, air cargo carriers will be able to gain even greater clarity to support their optimum decisions on matters ranging from dynamic disruption management and efficient aircraft turnaround, to aircraft maintenance, workforce management, and supply chain management.

Maven Wave Earns Google Cloud North America Services Partner of the Year

Google Cloud Premier Partner, Maven Wave, now boasts its second consecutive title as Google’s North American Partner of the Year following recognition during this year’s Partner Summit at Google Cloud Next ‘19. The consulting and technology firm’s outstanding ability to deliver digital solutions to customers served as the focal point of the recognition. Maven Wave is known for developing these solutions through the utilization of Google Cloud innovations.

“It is an incredible honor to receive this award for the second year in a row. This achievement recognizes the extraordinary efforts from our teams who, together with our visionary customers and valued Google Cloud partners, have been able to realize remarkable success in enterprise digital transformation,” said Jason Lee, Partner and Founder at Maven Wave.

Maven Wave has served as a Google Cloud Premier Partner for nine years with specializations in areas such as Application Development, Cloud Migration, Data Analytics, Enterprise Collaboration, Infrastructure, Location-Based Services, Machine Learning, and Marketing Analytics.

“Google Cloud provides industry-leading, cloud-native products that allow us to accelerate the development of innovative enterprise solutions, from modernizing infrastructure to creating intelligence from data and enabling work transformation. We remain absolutely committed to our Google Cloud partnership and look forward to continued success for our customers in 2019 and beyond.”