Supply chain intelligence can mitigate issues faced by the shipping industry. For instance, the Panama Canal is facing an exceptionally severe drought. Consequent restrictions have significantly reduced the volume of cargo that can be carried through the Canal. The shipping industry would be aided in dealing with such disruptions by using trusted data networks on the global supply chain – for instance, through the use of blockchain. Data points from sources such as customs authorities can be combined to chart the global supply chain. Supply chain parties can then respond to the updated information, mitigating the impact of any obstacles – such as the Panama Canal droughts.
AI can be used to optimise shipping routes, enabling shipping companies to reduce their fuel consumption and emissions, in addition to avoiding disruptions such as droughts. It may even also be possible to use AI to predict the droughts, in much the same way as it is being used to predict water pollution in south-west England so as to minimise impact.
A major disrupter to supply chains is port congestion. High volumes of cargo can cause shipping delays and increased costs. The impact of this can be exacerbated by sudden increase in demand for different types of cargo. Ports can use AI, particularly machine learning algorithms, to optimise schedules for vessels. Port managers can use AI to produce accurate demand forecasts and plan for rapid increases in cargo volume, while avoiding congestion and consequent delays. Similarly, AI can help to optimise cargo routes. This can reduce the number of vessels that require access to a port, reducing the demands on the ports. AI technology could be used to reroute shipments away from congested ports. Therefore, the impact of AI usage in ports could reduce delays in the wider supply chain.
Overall, the above technological advances could represent a variety of benefits for the shipping industry in respect of supply chains. There are already an increasing number of start-ups and logistics firms applying AI to help businesses to minimise supply chain disruptions, and this will likely continue as more companies look to utilise supply chain intelligence.
Authors: Sally-Ann Underhill and Imogen Harding