A Digital Vision of Leadership: Using Technology to Improve the Supply Chain in Los Angeles

By Meredith Martino


Ports are used to competing with one another for business. CEOs and business development staff can easily tell potential customers about the advantages their facilities offer – the landside connections, the depth of the water and the number of berths available. But technology is increasingly becoming a selling point for ports and a way for ports to distinguish themselves.

The Port of Los Angeles is one port seeking to use technology to stake out a leadership position within the industry. This spring, the port will launch a pilot project with GE Transportation to make maritime shipping data available to key stakeholders up to two weeks ahead of a vessel’s arrival at the port.

“Digital solutions that enable supply chain partners to receive a ship’s cargo information well in advance of arrival, like with the digital portal we are envisioning with GE Transportation, are a critical key to optimizing U.S. cargo efficiency and trade competitiveness,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

The pilot project will utilize GE Transportation Predix, an industrial cloud-based platform, with data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, two shipping lines and one marine terminal operator to populate a portal that can be accessed by beneficial cargo owners, freight forwarders, trucking companies, rail companies and others involved in the movement of cargo through the port and beyond.

“Hard infrastructure is our comfort zone,” said Chris Chase, marketing manager at the Port of Los Angeles. “This is a new venture and a new direction for us.”

Currently, BCOs and others only receive information about the placement and content of containers 48-72 hours in advance of a vessel’s arrival in port. The Los Angeles-GE Transportation pilot seeks to make that data available 10-14 days before a vessel arrives.

The pilot also seeks to make accessing shipping information more efficient for data users. Currently, a truck dispatcher in southern California may have to visit as many as 20 different websites to get information about containers moving through the port. This pilot project seeks to streamline the user experience by creating a single portal that houses data from multiple sources.

Right now, a user “may have a clear picture of one part of the system but not the whole,” said Seth Bodnar, chief digital officer of GE Transportation and president of GE Digital Solutions. The pilot project, which is expected to launch in either late first quarter or early second quarter of this year, seeks to provide that bigger picture look at goods moving through a terminal at the Port of Los Angeles.

However, the aim of the pilot is to test and refine this concept with a goal of digitizing shipping information in a new way for the all the terminals at the port and, ultimately, the larger supply chain. And while the pilot project is not seeking to change specific industry practices to improve goods movement, the partners involved have chosen to participate because they believe that the project will ultimately lead to process improvements that increase efficiency.

“We will likely see the entire supply chain have some of the slack taken out,” said GE Transportation’s Bodnar. “We can drive great reliability and efficiency.”

“The cargo owners themselves expressed that as the handoffs happen between supply chain service providers there are gaps. We are trying to fill those,” said Seroka at GE Digital’s Minds+Machines conference in December 2016…

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