Blog for updates and happenings in logistics in the Asia-Pacific region

March 24, 2014

The Logistician recognised as Global Top 50

Filed under: Logistics,Logistics Social Responsibility,Newsletter — admin @ 7:36 pm
The Logistician was this week identified as one of the Top 50 “Best Global Supply Chain Blogs of 2014”. by Supply Chain  The list shortlists high quality blogs that talk about international trade, global logistics, sourcing, risk/compliance,  green & humanitarian issues.
Being one of the oldest and highest subscribed Newsletter’s in the Asia Pacific region, we are glad that our efforts to support the industry has resulted in this small bit of recognition.
Thank you.

March 18, 2014

Global Trade in the Key of GTM

Filed under: Newsletter,Supply Chain Management — admin @ 1:00 am

Global trade management (GTM) solutions help coordinate trade compliance, and allow trading partners to share data.

The need for this is supported through the following article from the BBC, tweeted by one of the Twitter feeds we follow:

Curated from Inbound Logistics


March 15, 2014

How to Profit from Outsourcing

Outsourcing reverse logistics to a third-party logistics provider offers shippers flexibility and cost savings.

More companies outsource the reverse logistics function than any other part of the supply chain. In fact, most Fortune 1000 retailers and consumer goods manufacturers outsource part or all of their reverse logistics processes, and experts expect this trend to continue growing globally over the next 20 years.

Why do companies such as Walmart, Dell, Target, HP, Unilever, Pfizer, The Home Depot, and Dollar General outsource reverse logistics when they have well-developed forward supply chain capabilities? Why would some of the sharpest supply chain minds in the world decide to outsource reverse logistics?

The answer is: profits.

[Read full article – Curated from Inbound Logistics]


March 10, 2014

Robotic Ships may become reality.

Running away to sea has been a dream of escape for centuries, but unless you plan to be a tap dancer on a cruise ship, that door may be closing. In a report on the future of cargo shipping, Rolls Royce Vice President for Innovation, Engineering and Technology, Oskar Levander, outlines a vision for a time not far from now when freighters and other ships are unmanned robots that cruise the oceans under remote control by shore based captains.

Imagine it’s 20 years from now and a cargo container ship bigger than anything afloat today approaches the port of Shanghai. Despite its size, it looks surprisingly simple with a hull designed for extreme efficiency. It has Flettner rotors for catching the wind and helping to save fuel, but below the slim equipment mast there’s no superstructure. There’s no space for crew’s quarters, and there aren’t even lifeboats or guardrails. When the pilot comes aboard to guide the ship into port from the minimalist bridge (if it has one) there’s no one to greet him or offer a cup of tea because the vessel is a robot, without a single person on board.

According to Levander, this scenario may come about because of the economic pressures being put upon the merchant fleets of the world. The Rolls-Royce report works on the assumption that the era of cheap energy is over and that rising fuel costs will require alternatives to the heavy fuel oil that currently powers the world’s shipping. In addition, shipping companies will have to contend with increasing burdensome national and international regulation, especially in regard to greenhouse gases, which will produce major rises in costs.

This will require a great deal of innovation, such as converting ships to burn biofuels, developing more efficient hulls, and installing solar panels or wind propulsion in the form of Flettner rotors and the like to cut down on energy bills. However, the biggest cost to shipping is labor – in fact, industry consultant Moor Stephens LLP put this expense at 44 percent in an interview with the BBC.

This cost isn’t just in the form of salaries and pensions. Crews need living quarters, galleys, washing facilities recreation areas, lifeboats, and a lot of other things to keep them safe and comfortable. These cost money to build and maintain, as well as fuel to cart it all around the world. Rolls-Royce’s plan is to take an holistic approach to future ship design aimed at tackling the problem by incorporating new hulls, engines, solar power systems, and partial sails.

In all of this, the most radical is turning merchant ships into robotic craft, where Horatio Hornblower sails his ship all over the world without ever leaving Plymouth. That may not seem like much fun, but it’s a path that marine engineering has been on since the time when some ancient ship’s master figured out how to balance his sails, so he wouldn’t have to steer so much. Since then, all sorts of automatic steering and navigation mechanisms have been developed until today when it isn’t uncommon to read news stories of ships steaming into port of their crews abandoned them prematurely in some disaster.

Even with the largest ship, steering a course is relatively simple and its rare for a helmsman to touch the wheel between ports. What’s really needed is the ability of a ship to pilot itself and keep watch under the guidance of shore operators. Many ships are already equipped with all sorts of cameras that can see at night and through fog, not to mention radar, sonar, GPS and a plethora of other sensors hooked up to high speed satellite data relays. Rolls-Royce foresees a time when these sensors and automatic systems will allow onshore crews to control and monitor ships from land-based centers with little difficulty.

Aside from the more obvious cost advantages, such an arrangement would allow one person ashore to control several ships. Levander sees this as both safer and making it easier to retain skilled crews, saying that it’s better for a ship to be operated by five operators on shore as opposed to 20 wrestling with the ship in a gale in the middle of the North Sea.

However, shiphandling is a complex task and a ship doesn’t operate in isolation. Before robot ships can set sail, there are serious safety issues to be answered about collision avoidance and similar concerns. There are also many legal hurdles about responsibility for the ship and compliance with regulations and maritime law, which might see a token crew kept aboard with nothing to do except fulfill salvage law. If these and other objections can be overcome, then the seas may be a safer and more efficient place, albeit a less romantic one.


March 2, 2014

3D Printing – All talk or a serious game changer?

Filed under: Logistics,Newsletter,Technology — admin @ 4:03 pm
Printing a 3D turtle - image courtesy of Keith Kissel

Printing a 3D turtle – image courtesy of Keith Kissel

3D printing is “a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material” (Oxford Dictionary). The talk of Additive Manufacturing (or 3D printing as it is more widely known) has hit the supply chain profession, and there is a great deal of speculation as to whether this will be something that changes the face of the supply chain in what the technology community call a disruptive way. Nike and Adidas already use it for prototyping – reducing time and cost involved in producing prototypes. General Electric are using 3D printing to produce the fuel nozzles for its new Leap jet-engine – a capacity for which they don’t have and are looking at supply chain partners to augment. Some argue that it’s too early to tell and serious impact is not likely in the near future.

Our upcoming LogiSYM symposium features this technology, with on-site printing (a first at a logistics and supply chain event) and no discussion would be complete without presenting both sides of the argument.

If you are not familiar with the technology, it would be worth considering looking at the TED Primer on 3D Printing.

There are a number of challenges facing the technology before it will be something that can be used in the more widespread way that fans envision. Cost of raw materials for 3D printing is still quite high, which does prove to be a hurdle in terms of cost of the final product. Savings can certainly be gained in prototyping, but the cost reductions required for mass production must be greater. The number of raw materials that can be “printed” at the same time, or combined to produce an item is currently limited. This is significant in that different sub-assemblies must be printed first, and then assembled to form the final product. The finish of the product, while improving, can also be quite rough when compared to other manufacturing techniques. In a number of cases sanding and other finishing techniques are required, which again while appropriate for prototyping, is not something desirable in mass production, and not something a mainstream user will want to do.

Probably the most limiting factor in preventing its use in widespread manufacturing is time required to “print” an item. Generally print times are measured in terms of hours or days. This may be suitable where set up times for the equipment producing prototypes is extensive and expensive, or for worldwide collaboration on prototypes (where time for shipping from the US to Japan and back again is less than the print time). Mass production requires significantly shorter print times. Reduced times are also required for service parts production, an area where supply chain experts see tremendous opportunity for this technology. highlight a number of opportunities that 3D printing presents:

  • Streamlined logistics models where manufacturers reduce in-process and final product inventory levels, and warehouse sizes. The opportunity to remove obsolete or slow-moving inventory from shelves is indeed attractive for a great number of industries – manufacturing and distribution alike.
  • Customer-managed inventory with suppliers installing 3D printers on customer sites, enabling software designs to be sent to customer sites and printed on demand. There is even speculation on licensing and pay-per-print revenue models developing around this concept.
  • 3D printing hubs where consumers and businesses alike can obtain printed products on submission of their designs.
  • Home 3D printing where retail printers are sold and home users are able to print their own designs for enjoyment, or as the primer above mentioned, for home manufacturing of spare parts for obsolete equipment.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and for more information you should come to LogiSYM 2014 to explore the impact of this technology further from a supply chain perspective. The LSCMS is making resources available to delegates over the coming weeks which will provide you with valuable insights in to the opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.