Predictive Applications Take Supply Chains into the Future

Anything can happen in the supply chain–trucks break down, ships get rerouted, goods are stolen, parts are faulty, ports close, dockworkers go on strike, and supplier production lines go down. This uncertainty causes companies to buffer inventories beyond what is necessary to service forecasted demand just in case something goes wrong.

But this is an expensive process that ties up working capital and often leaves companies with unused excess inventory. In fact, studies have shown the annual additional cost of holding excess inventory can be 25-32 percent, according to The Retail Owners Institute.

Many companies handle supply chain anomalies with reactive planning systems. They quickly try to remediate problems with optimization algorithms once anomalies occur. But this is tantamount to looking in the rear-view mirror. Plus, lead times to ship products, procure new goods, or produce new goods are often lengthy, making it impossible to react to meet customer demand when supply suddenly changes. One new approach to dealing with supply chain uncertainty is to use machine learning to predict what might go wrong and use that as the basis for the supply chain planning processes. This approach uses scenarios constructed from predictive models.

Machine learning tools build these models from available historical data that can be applied to future scenarios. For example, let’s assume a company has 1,000 ASNs (advance shipment notices) in flight at any given moment. While each of those ASNs has a scheduled delivery date, if a planner, supply manager, or someone in receiving is asked where they all are, they will tell a story about a scheduled ASN that is expected to be late. How do they know? It’s because they have access to data that gives them this predictive signal and because they have learned how to pattern match that data to predict supply chain events.


A new data platform called online predictive processing (OLPP) – essentially predictive applications – can automate this insight. It can create expected “scenarios” directly from machine learning models that predict which ASNs are likely to be late and estimate how late they will be. With OLPP, machine learning models can provide every ASN an “expected” date in addition to its scheduled date, creating a new “scenario” comprised of all live ASNs and their expected deliveries.


Scenarios are powerful. 3PLs can use them to warn receiving companies of anticipated changes, giving them an opportunity to plan around problems. 4PLs and manufacturers can do even more. They can propagate scenarios down their supply chains, surfacing production orders and even sales orders that are impacted by the anticipated events. This tool can plan around shortages, satisfy customers, and produce predictable revenues.

OLPP is a new technology that enables both the analytical processing required for the learning of predictions, as well as so-called “transactional” processing, to model inventory availability and power what-if scenario planning.

To learn models, OLPP platforms process volumes of historical ASN data such as carrier, source, destination, mode, port, size, weight, shipper and receiver, as well as exogenous data such as fleet data, weather data, and even news summaries. OLPP uses this past experience to train models that, when deployed and applied to live ASNs, provide a prediction of how late an ASN will be based on all of the experiential data it has seen.

Then, the OLPP platform can set the expected delivery dates according to these predictions and project inventory levels down the supply chain. The application can surface any expected shortages or overages based on these expectations and even let planners move other orders on the schedule in order to resolve problems.

The power of this approach to supply chain management is that instead of buffering excess inventory unnecessarily, trying to forecast supply chain glitches, or just reacting to them when they happen, companies can use data to train models to predict when they are “likely” to happen and use planning tools to proactively plan around these expected events, saving millions of dollars in inventory, vastly improving supply chain efficiency, and ultimately satisfying customers downstream.

Source: Inbound Logistics

EU Council reaffirms rail potential of TEN-T corridors

Ministers from the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council of the EU met in Brussels to consider how policy can continue to help implement sustainable transport systems where energy consumption is low, but mobility for users is improved through better transport times and routes.

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Next European Shortsea Conference in Lübeck in 2018

2018 ShortSeaShipping Days to have Stronger International Focus

Bonn/Lübeck/Valetta, Date – The ShortSeaShipping Days will gain further in importance when the event is held for the third time next year.

The well-established ShortSeaShipping Days will then be held jointly with the European Shortsea Network’s annual conference for the first time. The organizer, the German ShortSeaShipping Inland Waterway Promotion Center (spc), is expecting around 500 participants to gather at the shortsea shipping industry meeting on June 20 and 21 in Lübeck, Germany. The Lübeck Chamber of Commerce and Industry is once again co-organizer of the event. Along with the conference, there will be around 40 companies from the shortsea shipping industry taking part in a trade show in the Lübeck Music and Congress Center.

The previous ShortSeaShipping Days held in 2014 and 2016 already provided many new impulses for development in shortsea transport. That ESN is holding its annual conference “Shortsea 2018” in conjunction with this event underlines the European dimension of the topic. ESN is a cooperative network of European shortsea promotion centers, including spc. “In securing this branch event we have managed to put a focus on internationalization, in this way targeting the needs of cross-border shortsea trade more strongly,” spc CEO Knut Sander explains. The annual ESN Shortsea Conference has previously been held in Paris, Lisbon, Copenhagen, and Barcelona.

The Lübeck Chamber of Commerce and Industry is again co-organizing the event, thus showing its support for the shortsea transport industry and its concerns. IHK managing director Lars Schöning says, “We want to provide the branchanother outstanding highlight with the third ShortSeaShipping Days next year, building on the success of the last two ShortSeaShipping Days in Lübeck.” He adds, “The conference’s even stronger international orientation corresponds to the direction the industry is taking and will thus make the conference even more attractive.”

The ShortSeaShipping Days provide an ideal framework to showcase the successful European networking for the national shortsea promotion centers within the ESN and for the industry. “The goal of the conference is to emphasize the importance of shortsea transportation for the development of European economic markets,” as Godwin Xerri, current president of ESN and head of the Maltese SPC, stresses. “We want to make everyone active in the supply chains to be thinking of shortsea shipping as an alternative.” ESN is also a channel for the exchange of information and contacts with DG Move, the body responsible for transportation in the European Commission. In this way, the association also remains close to topics of European transportation policy that are important to the maritime branch.

Topics of current interest in shortsea shipping will be on the agenda at the conference in Lübeck. These will include issues of sustainability, economic efficiency, logistics, development of European markets, and the effects of political regulation. An additional focus will be on developments and innovation in regard to automatization and digitization.

The conference and the accompanying trade fair are aimed at representatives from the entire transport chain such as consignors, forwarders, shipping lines, ports, and terminals. Registration is now open at the event’s website You will also find regularly updated information about the conference there.

Source: ESN Special Newsletter

The new triennium of Forma’t al Port takes shape as sponsors meet to renew agreements

The Forma’t al Port project, sponsored by the Port of Barcelona, Barcelona-Catalunya Logistics Center, the Provincial Council of Barcelona (Diputació de Barcelona) and the Escola Europea, begins a new triennium (2018-2020), following the success of its creation and consolidation in the years 2015-2017.

The project, through which the port community approaches students of Transport andLogistics, and International Trade, ended the year 2017 with a record high participation rate. 419 students had had contact with the Port of Barcelona and the business in its community, compared to 2016’s 114 students.

On the 10th of January sponsors and collaborators of the project met in Barcelona. Represented among the attendees were associations, companies and relevant entities from the Catalan sector. During the meeting an analysis of the activities carried out in 2017 took place, an outline of those planned for 2018 was given, and culminated with a review of the agreements for the new triennium. The sponsors were incorporated this year were also introduced. They are COSCO Shipping and the Diputació de Lleida. As a result of these new agreements, a new institute was allowed to participate in the project, namely the Escola del Treball of Lleida. Moreover the Escola will now start to negotiate with other institutes and centers in the Catalan territory outside of Barcelona, to ensure that Forma’t al Port grows in relevance throughout the province.

During the event the importance of the internationalization of the academic and professional activities of the centers was highlighted, along with the need to encourage the incorporation of students into dual training schemes within the businesses of the sector, with the overall goal of helping to prepare a future logistics community that is able to meet the strategic challenges of the region. With this goal in mind, the Escola Europea has organized meetings with foreign institutes and has collaborated with companies to assimilate students into the world of work.

Later on this month the first Academic Committee Meeting of 2018 will take place, comprising representatives of the centers linked to the project, associations and other entities such as the General Subdirectorate for Planning and Inspection of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The first two Introduction courses will also be organized, giving impetus to the programmed activities.

Thanks to its brilliant results, the project continues during a new triennium, with the goal of helping position Barcelona and Catalonia in the first line of logistics activities in Europe and the world.

For more information go to the webpage of the project: or contact us at:

In the photo the partners and collaborators of the Forma’t al Port Project 2018-2020: From left to right: Diputació de Barcelona, CIMALSA, ATEIA-OLTRA Barcelona, Hospitalet del Prat de Llobregat, Port de Barcelona, Holding Condeminas, Terminal Port-Nou, Transportes Portuarios, COSCO Spain, Associacio d’Agents de Consignataris de Barcelona, Diario del Puerto, Col·legi d’Agents de Duanes de Barcelona and Escola Europea.