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Industry leaders call for supply chain interoperability between modes

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A group of senior executives from across the freight transport modes have issued a call for the industry to develop common multimodal standards.

The aim is to “meet the heightened expectations of sellers and buyers when it comes to detailed tracking of the location and condition of their goods”.

The Loadstar today publishes the first of a two-part article produced by the group, which explains the work under way to develop a new level of supply chain interoperability that ensures data can be transmitted across modes.

“We are now in a transition from the standards adopted by individual transport modes to current efforts by multiple international standards organisations to identify a normalised method(s) of identification of the required data that will be applicable to any seller-to-buyer shipment, regardless of the transport mode,” they write.

While acknowledging the work undertaken in air, sea and road freight by bodies such as IATA, the Digital Container Shipping Association and the IRU, the authors claim that, for increasingly complex supply chains of today to function effectively, work must begin on developing interoperable standards that are consistent across all modes.

“Due to the usage of different standards for identification and tracking between the various transportation modes, it is often difficult to transmit all the information regarded as pertinent to the varied stakeholders in an intermodal transaction,” the authors write.

“Visibility of the shipment may be lost to parties other than the current transport operator until arriving at the destination of that transport mode.”

They argue that in order for supply chains to be able to offer cargo owners and freight service providers features such as seamless end-to-end shipment tracking “two types of ‘interoperability’ that identify the data communication needs and the system requirements in order to effectively communicate between stakeholders” will need to be developed: semantic and technical interoperability.

Creation of the former “ensures that the precise format and meaning of exchanged data and information is preserved and understood throughout exchanges between parties”; while the need for technical interoperability “covers the applications and infrastructures linking systems and services.

“Aspects of technical interoperability include interface specifications, interconnection services, data integration services, data presentation and exchange and secure communication protocols,” it says.

In today’s article, the authors discuss the challenges facing the development of semantic interoperability and how they may be overcome.

The writers come from the key sectors in global supply chains: Hanane Becha, DCSA IoT programme project lead and vice chair for transport and logistics leading the UN/CEFACT Smart Container Project; Todd Frazier, strategic project lead in the US Regulatory Compliance group, FedEx Express-accredited representative to IATA and chairman of its cargo standards formulation body; Rudy Hemeleers, director of consultancy 51Biz-PPMB Luxembourg Inland Navigation Europe representative to the EU Digital Transport and Logistics Forum; Steen Erik Larsen, head of technology M&A at Maersk and the carrier’s representative to the DCSA; Bertrand Minary, chief innovation & digital officer at SNCF Logistics Rail & Multimodal Division; Henk Mulder, IATA’s head of digital cargo; André Simha, chief digital & information officer at MSC and DCSA chairman; and Jaco Voorspuij, head of industry engagement transport & logistics at GS1, and co-chair of the International Taskforce Port Call Optimization.

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