How data is the key to solving the supply chain woes

“Supply chains are under pressure and real time visibility is a new mantra,” says Simon White, Chief Digital Officer at Wallenius Wilhelmsen. “But while track & trace brings a degree of ‘comfort,’ real value comes from truly connecting and optimizing operations across supply and value chains.”

Simon White

The consequences of port congestion, pandemic restrictions and part shortages over the past 18 months have highlighted just how sensitive supply chains are to disruption. White says: “Such volatility is most likely the new norm. The role of data in making supply chains resilient is increasingly understood and it drives Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s expanding digital capabilities.”

Why is access to data key?

Data across supply chains, especially outbound supply chains, has traditionally been extremely siloed.

“Most ships on the water today are analogue and largely unconnected. Over the past two years we have made enormous progress in deploying internet of things (IoT) capabilities across our fleet so that the vast majority of our vessels now stream data into our Microsoft Azure Cloud environment,” says White, who stresses that similar efforts have been made to operations on land as well.

How has business changed?

White has many examples showing how Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s business has become tightly integrated with the use of data:

“Over the past 12 months, we have connected telemetry from land-based transport. We are rolling out new solutions across our processing centers, we have integrated active tracking technology for high value cargo, we have invested in digital inspection capabilities and supported operations with Augmented Reality capabilities.

“Publicly available data such as weather and port information have also been integrated into the operational flow to complement the wealth of information we have from our own operations.”

These digital initiatives helped Wallenius Wilhelmsen navigate the volatility over the past 18 months, and they are also being incorporated into our customer visibility and control tower products.

For me, digitalization and sustainability are two sides of the same coin.

Simon White

Chief Digital Officer at Wallenius Wilhelmsen

How does data lead to reduced emissions?

A single data element may be interesting, but is it valuable? White stresses that value comes in how data is combined, contextualized and embedded in processes.

“An obvious case is how we combine vessel, weather, port data with cargo forecasts to optimize ocean voyages. This allows better planning and improved predictability – and critically, it also dramatically reduces energy consumption and emissions.”

White goes further: “For me, digitalization and sustainability are two sides of the same coin.

Shipping and logistics have some way to go in the search for a scalable and truly sustainable energy source for future vessels.

“In the meantime, there is much that can be done already to remove waste and make environmentally sound and smart decisions across the supply chain by having the right data and the right digital solutions.”

Are we transitioning into a tech company?

“At our core, we are a global end-to-end logistics company,” says White. “To keep ahead in this market’s rapid digitalization, it has been vital to integrate technology into Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s overall strategy. Technology is embedded in almost every business process and decision.

Ultimately, we aim to be both!”

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