Smart containers are the future of the supply chain. Smart container solutions provide invaluable data that can be shared with shippers and other supply chain stakeholders. In addition to generating and collecting data, stakeholders need to manage large amounts of data and overcome difficulties arising from the use of various technologies that consume time in their core business.
The data provided by smart container solutions must be standardized for easy integration into different systems. It must support clear data interpretation and provide actionable information for all relevant stakeholders. When travel plans, cargo information, and other information are shared with service providers, smart containers can understand the business-as-usual situation during the journey and alert them when conditions require stakeholders to take action.
Extraction of information from smart container data
Smart container solution providers need primary data from customers and understand their daily operational expectations and challenges. The UN/CEFACT Smart Container Project sets standards for data generated by smart containers. The data model defines data elements that can be used to describe the smart container events that occur during the journey of the smart container.
Determination of parameters of the smart container solution
Smart container solutions must be able to measure, clean, and analyze physical parameters, such as temperature, shock, etc., that shippers or other supply chain stakeholders can use. This means that the solution must be configured to distinguish between normal and out-of-bounds conditions. The data collection parameters depend on the type of goods transported and the particular data requirements of the beneficiary shippers for their business. Only in this way can smart container solutions deliver smart data.
Parameterized use cases
Intelligent container data and analysis information can realize highly targeted container and cargo management across logistics networks. Ideally, the shipper will communicate the travel plan and acceptable measurement physical parameter ranges to the service provider or other stakeholders at the time of booking. The more data shared with service providers, the greater the value smart containers can provide to stakeholders.
Even without sharing parameters with service providers, they can still capture and communicate essential information, such as geolocation coordinates and data collected by sensors in use. On this basis, they can provide customers with the latest information about their goods and constantly update their arrival and departure estimates.
When the owner communicates the travel plan, parameters can be set to share events or alarms, such as the goods are packed, loading at the port, actual delivery time, empty the entrance in the warehouse, alerts about the departure from travel plans, or appearing in high-risk areas, ETA calculation, etc.
Alarms and events
The smart container solution captures event data throughout the journey. They can generate alarms when events exceed normal parameters’ values. For example, if the container is sealed before shipment, the smart container solution will alert stakeholders when the door is opened during transportation. Data is passed to the stakeholders’ internal systems via messages, emails, or via APIs. When certain conditions exceed the configured threshold, the parameter will trigger an alarm.
These types of alerts enable stakeholders to proactively expedite investigations, alert other stakeholders, assess potential damage, and avoid extended waiting times.
Defining attributes and strategies
With their geolocation data, smart containers can distinguish whether they are at sea, within a designated port, in a private warehouse, or at the time of final delivery. It knows which events are regular and which are not, and based on that, it can convey inland transportation itinerary tracking, which may indicate theft or unloading at the wrong port, shield border opening to achieve fast customs clearance, time is taken at each waypoint along the trajectory, and entering into a region of interest for waypoints, specific ports or other parameters
When the mode of transportation communicates for each travel segment, a smart container can be configured to analyze movement and acceleration. These data can be correlated with geographic location, ZOI, and time elements to identify events such as loss of a container on board or transfer from ship to truck.
Supply chain members can use smart container data to optimize their business processes. Data can be extracted into existing business information systems and analysis tools to generate an analysis for different business departments.
Over time, anonymous historical data collected and aggregated from multiple smart containers on multiple routes can understand process improvement opportunities. For example, analyzing the lead time between ports can improve the accuracy of future booking decisions. Identifying bottlenecks on a given route can improve routes and contingency plans. Calculating the average container stationary period for a specific terminal can reduce demurrage. Smart container information benefits everyone involved in the journey, and the data can be customized to the needs of the different stakeholders. The benefits are so evident that smart containers are bound to become the future of supply chain management.