GE’s program to speed up US Imports through US ports

An article in the Wall Street Journal (March 6, 2018) titled ” GE Units Expands program to speed up U.S. imports through supply chains”, describes GE Transportation’s work with the port of Long Beach in California to speed up imports through the port through use of its GE optimizer software. The software aims to pull data together from ‘shipping companies, port terminal operators, freight railroads and other supply chain layers into a single portal’, thus enabling visibility into shipments two weeks before they arrive. This improved visibility is expected to help coordination and thus better match supply and demand. Should such software be developed as open source elements that can get connected through standard protocols or would it help to have a third party company orchestrate the data connections ? Will emerging blockchain initiatives reduce the need for such centralized software solutions ? How should users be charged for the visibility into their shipments ?

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2 Responses to GE’s program to speed up US Imports through US ports

  1. Ross Ridge says:

    I believe that the software should be developed with open source elements to allow other systems’ software data to be pulled into the “optimizer” software. This would provide greater visibility into shipments and throughput densities.

    I personally did not know what emerging blockchain initiatives were? What I discovered…blockchains are digital databases that contain information (such as financial transactions records) that can be simultaneously used and shared within a large decentralized, publicly accessible network. Blockchain technology is at the heart of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. It is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties and in a verifiable and permanent way. I think blockchain technology could enhance and potentially replace centralized software solutions, but it is too early to tell. I’m not sure we fully understand the vulnerabilities that may exist with this technology and the impacts if compromised.

    Charging customers for visibility of their shipments? Since the GE optimizer software is only as good as the data it receives, it requires companies to release their data to populate the centralized database to provide visibility of shipment throughput. If that is the case, then there should be no cost to those companies using the port for container trans-shipment. However, there is a cost to use the Port of Long Beach and this software capability helps port authorities to better manage flow and throughput of container shipments. As such, the port authorities benefit from this capability more than the companies using the facility. So shipment visibility is seen by the customers as an advantage for using the port. The port should leverage this capability to entice companies to use their facilities and services, rather than going to other U.S. ports. The cost should be incorporated in the overall service charges for using the port.

  2. Nick Vandal says:

    I think developing the software as open-source would be the most beneficial to all parties, that way each of the different users (shipping companies, freight railroads, port operators, etc) can develop their own tool that “plugs” into the system and they all can each communicate with each other through the one central software tool.

    Blockchain is still in its infancy but the disruptive technology will most likely lead to many centralized bookkeeping technologies going obsolete. This will have repercussions across many industries from shipping supplies to financial ledgers. Imagine if you (your card) didn’t have to go through visa or mastercard to process the transaction anymore when you swipe your debit card, the entire industry is going to change and I don’t see shipping ledgers as being any different. One thing though to be cautious with blockchain is the security behind it. The software still has a way to progress before any major changes are going to come to fruition.

    As Ross stated, the software is only useful if all of the parties use it, so I think it should be provided to the transportation companies relatively cheap if not free. The ports are the ones who would benefit the most by having such as resourceful technology that it could bring more business into their port, terminal, etc so they should be the ones footing the bill for the software, for the most part.

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