Once upon a very long time ago, when I was but a nipper, I had an uncle who worked for a transport company. I’m not sure I was old enough then to understand quite what he did there, or when it became not a transport company but a distribution company. Some time later (I suspect around the same time that the Personnel Department became the Human Resources Department), it turned out he was now working for a logistics company; he seemed to be doing the same job, only now he had a computer on his desk.
This sort of ‘title inflation’ has become endemic across industry and in the military context: it is akin to ‘buffing up the CV’ – it all comes down to trying to look a little more important than one really is. In that respect, it is very different from the Newspeak – or ‘lying’ - that infects so much of political discourse these days, although they both have common a will to mask what is really going on.
To some extent, then, I am not that surprised that there are still those of you who doubt the impact that the process of digitising the supply chain could have – and is already having. Those ‘digitisation deniers’ presumably feel that this is just another case of gussying up an existing practice – track-and-trace, say, or telematics – and making it sound shiny and new and exciting.
But, as we discuss over several pages in this issue, the implementation of digitised systems is having a significant and practical impact right across the dangerous goods supply chain. Sure, to some extent these new systems offer better, faster and more accurate tracking of consignments, as well as providing a facility to track unaccompanied shipments from end to end, even in deepsea transport. But there are examples of digitised applications in the bulk storage sector, in IBC and tank container transport, and in port operations, all of which aim to make operations more efficient and more effective.
As those digitised applications bed in, we are getting a clearer picture of where they can make a difference. One obvious application lies in keeping track of unaccompanied assets, be they tank containers, rail tank cars or IBCs. Owners need to know where their containers are, ideally in real time or near-real time, so that they can get them back and into service again. Shippers also have an interest in knowing when their goods arrive with the receiver, so that they can raise an invoice. Digitised systems tied into ERP systems can do that automatically.
The other useful area of implementation is in applications where there is a lot of data available; digitisation allows that data to be used in innovative ways. A prime example of this is in port communities, where there are a lot of players, each with large amounts of information about their own activities and those of their business partners. Port authorities are well placed to collect data and deliver useful information to all stakeholders.
But we are still in the initial phases of the Industrial Internet of Things and are only scratching the surface with such applications. What is really exciting (or threatening, depending on your position) is not just new ways of doing old things, but of doing new things.
Peter Mackay[post_title] => Editor's digital letter [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => editors-digital-letter [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-01-28 15:02:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-01-28 15:02:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=15711 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )