How a Cal Poly study illustrates the need for strategic integrations

The findings of a Cal Poly study shed light on the critical role of strategic integrations in the logistics industry. In this blog, Walker highlights this research stating that integrated solutions are critical for the future of the supply chain.

How a Cal Poly study illustrates the need for strategic integrations

For this week's blog, we’ve combed through one academic study in particular - one we think does an excellent job outlining the various and disparate technologies in the industry, but also one that we think PortPro can help add to by way of this blog. A link to the article is shared at the bottom of this post and a PDF can be downloaded for free from the provided website. The study was prepared for the USDA (Department of Agriculture) and focused on ag exports in its thesis. However, given the broad nature and exposure the marine terminals in LA/LB have, the study quickly expands to cover the more general flow on containerized cargo as well. The authors are both tenured Cal Poly Professors, Chris Carr & Cyrus Ramezani. Full credit is due to them for the extensive research - and what we know - was a cumbersome process.

We’ll not go into great detail for risk of repetition & detraction from key points and would implore those reading this blog to explore the publication themselves, but the sum of the research is such that it explores the appointment solutions present and operational at the port of LA (POLA) in relation to the health and function of ag exports. More pointedly, the thesis statement (or one of them at least) looks to explore the opportunity and possibility of a fully integrated and universal appointment system across the entire port complex; with focus on LA for methodologies sake.

The publication does a good job of outlining the problems terminals face in their day-to-day operations. Everything from yard planning, to equipment management, to labor relations is covered extensively; most operationally intensive functions are owed to the Terminal Operating System (TOS). The appointment solutions, by contrast, in the San Pedro Bay Port Complex act as front-end capacity management for the TOS and as a portal for the broader trucking industry to book an appointment with. These tools (TOS & TAS) are critical for yard management, capacity planning, and functional supply chains.

The study goes into great detail about how a terminal operates and what it means to book an appointment at one. There are several TAS providers in LA/LB - eModal, Voyage Control, TermPoint, and other custom solutions. Drayage carriers looking to book an appointment must often go to several different websites and deal with equipment, wait time, and visibility issues. More often than not, this symphony of running a drayage trucking company and dispatching drivers is mostly managed in the heads of operators and on excel sheets. The crux of the study, then, is data. Both a lack of and access to data are problems the study rightfully highlights.

To be more specific, the publication spends a lot of time talking about the presence of data in a TOS, a TAS, a TMS, in an ocean carriers system, but the lack of data sharing and more importantly, the lack of what certain organizations would do with data should they be provided with it is what the min point of the publication is. As we know, there is a lack of visibility between ocean carriers, port, terminal, drayage carrier, and warehouse. As an aside, this is ultimately what PortPro is developing tools for on a macro - and micro - level. I digress, Chris and Cyrus nail the problem - lack of visibility and data sharing, plus tangible tools to lean into the data should it be provided in meaningful ways to the aforementioned parties.

On a separate topic, one particular point of contention for us here at PortPro was the fact that we were missing from the TMS portion of the study. We can’t blame Chris and Cyrus though - we’re fairly new to the market even though we are the fastest growing TMS in North America (our TMS product has eclipsed 280+ drayage carrier clients as of this writing). The point is that Chris and Cyrus nail it yet again when they outline the limited and almost non-existent integrations between and among nodes & products that would make supply chains more expeditious. EDI is a thing of the past and one-to-one integrations are not congruent for scale or depth as it relates to international trade and the management of millions of assets from ship to terminal to truck.

In sum, the terminals do their best with what tools they are provided. TOS & TAS are critical applications. The same can be said for drayage carriers, ports, and vendors like our fabulous partners (brokers, forwarders, appointment providers, operating system providers, etc.). At PortPro we believe that solutions are collaborative and technology is the answer. Step 1 is to enable the integrations Chris and Cyrus outline, step 2 is then to provide and elevate tools that help those aforementioned parties so that the data sharing can be more meaningful. Peel-off piles are a good idea, but we think the solutions are more so related to a collaborative approach to building better products for a more congruent supply chain.

Research Gate, Cal Poly, USDA