Pacific Rim Report: Trust over transparency

"No amount of technology is going to help move cargo off the docks without collaboration."

By ·

An exhaustive discussion on the benefits and perils of digitized logistics took place at last month’s hosted by the in Los Angeles. But if a single conclusion surfaced after the premier Pacific Rim event, it was this: end-to-end transparency can be too much of a good thing if it undermines trust.

As he did last year, IBM’s Rob Allan gave a keynote address describing how his role as leader of Watson Supply Chain analytics has evolved with demands placed on today’s global logistics managers.

“Risk readiness is a constantly changing dynamic,” said Allan. “And that’s why we see more and more managers taking a chance on artificial intelligence. The fact that Watson prevailed in a match of wits with ‘Jeopardy’ a few years ago certainly had something to do with it.”

The question-answering computer system has since been embraced by managers for risk mitigation, Allan maintained, noting that Watson can utilize its predictive analytics for both weather and traffic congestion forecasting. This helps managers avoid jeopardizing their own operations domestically and overseas.

Walmart is among several other major companies comprising IBM’s recent initiative dubbed “Food Trust Blockchain,” which Allan said would identify threats to shippers and consumers of contaminated grocery goods.

“We’re also working with the Master Lock Company—the largest global manufacturer and marketer of padlocks and personal safes—to penetrate new markets and work with new partners, each with their own specific local requirements,” he said.

Finally, Allan summed up IBM’s “historic” alliance with Lenovo designed to bring long-term value to companies needing to continually reinvent themselves. “Lenovo is now the preferred provider of IBM-branded personal computers, and we will continue to finance and maintain services for those PC solutions in a fully transparent manner,” he concluded.

A subsequent panel discussion on “Digital Transparency in Logistics” may have been meant to reinforce some of these rosy predictions, but a fair amount of sobering skepticism was also evident. senior director of transportation global logistics, Scholastics Inc., was particularly critical of promises made by AI and Big Data providers.

“We’re currently using Oracle’s TMS software to arrive at one version of the truth,” said Zraik. “But there are still too many blind spots. That’s because you have to feed the beast with a lot of facts and numbers before you can gain data that is of true value.”

executive vice president with the consultancy Armstrong & Associates, Inc., agreed that AI integration would also be reliant on a younger, educated work force. “Currently, there’s some apprehension about data being shared and revealed to competitors,” he said. “It also exposes a company’s mistakes to its customers. But as application programming interface becomes more widely used by shippers, we will see less concern about this…especially if it helps ports and terminals with their discharge operations.”

This observation was questioned by Maryanna Kersten, senior manager of international logistics at Del Monte Foods, Inc. She was among those in the audience who championed “trust above transparency.”

“No amount of technology is going to help move cargo off the docks without collaboration,” said Kersten. “The Port of Oakland convenes a monthly task force with all of its stakeholders to stay on the same page when it comes to expediting operations,” she added. “When you have shippers working with labor, terminals and ocean carriers to achieve this goal, there’s less reliance on technology that can quickly become obsolete.”

, executive vice president commercial, for the Mediterranean Shipping Company, also shared an insight from the floor, observing that without trust, efficiency will always be evasive. “Just knowing where your goods are in the supply chain at every moment does not necessarily help the shipper or the carrier,” he said. “They have to have faith in each other and understand that cargo will always be delivered as promised. No amount of added transparency is going to change that.” 

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [ protected]

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.

Article Topics

Global Trade · Pacific Rim · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Is It Time For a New Network Strategy?
A successful supply chain network design gives companies a competitive advantage, pinpoints ways to significantly reduce costs, improves service levels, reduces overall cycle times, streamlines all processes and systems used, and more.
Download Today!
From the May 2019 Logistics Management Magazine
May is our Technology Issue, and we’ve devoted the majority of our pages this month to the evolution of the technology toolbox that’s now within our grasp.
The Digital Supply Chain Takes Shape
Top 30 U.S. Ports 2019: Trade tensions determine where cargo goes next
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Technology Roundtable: Are you ready for what’s next?
In this webcast LM's group editorial director Michael Levans gathers four top supply chain management technology analysts to discuss how some of the hottest software and technologies is helping logistics and supply chain management professionals streamline their operations to meet the pressing demands of digital commerce and manage through the tightest labor market in a generation.
Register Today!
35th Annual Salary Survey: Compensation matters more than ever
While job satisfaction remains the primary reason for today’s logistics managers to stay with one...
2019 Rate Outlook: Pressure Builds
In 2019, the world economy will enter a third straight year of broad-based growth, but many...

2019 Transportation Management Systems (TMS) Market Update: Keeping pace with the times
The transportation management systems market is growing right along with the number of challenges...
The Logistics News that Shaped 2018
Every year at this time, group news editor Jeff Berman combs through the mountain of news that was...

what to watch on amazon prime