Transport & logistics needs IT vendors to collaborate
Logistics data… quickly and securely exchangeable between disparate organisations and interpreted in the same way by everyone. Users who can start using new software applications super fast, just like an app on a smartphone. Sounds wonderful right, but would it ever become a reality? If it were up to us, it certainly would. That is why we as Simacan are so active in DALTI; Dutch Association of Transport and Logistics IT Suppliers. Like us, this alliance of IT suppliers for logistics is a staunch advocate of open standards and connectable systems.
It's time for a double celebration! For we are celebrating our 10th anniversary and industry association Dalti is also celebrating its 5th anniversary. But there is not much time to celebrate because we have work to do. A lot of work. Emission reduction, driver shortages, chain disruptions, congestion in cities... to face these problems, shippers, transport companies and governments are desperate for connectable IT systems. They need protocols, agreements and standard interfaces that allow data to flow seamlessly and 100% securely through logistics chains. Organisations are tired of paying a lot of money for interfaces, or worse: being curtailed in their freedom because they cannot use all the IT tools they need. Vendor-lock-in, or IT vendors preventing customers from interfacing with other software systems, does not foster the collaboration that is so necessary in the transport and logistics sector.
Open ICT standards for logistics in the Netherlands
Fortunately, more and more software and hardware vendors are starting to recognise that "shielding" products from those of competitors is not future-proof. They’re starting to realise collaboration is the new norm. This is evident at DALTI, which has now welcomed 45 IT companies operating in the Netherlands as members. Still, this Dutch initiative is just the beginning of hopefully a global movement. After all, transport does not stop at national borders, so it is important to spread the message of 'open standards' abroad as well.
This is easier said than done. Why would a major international software supplier conform to standards agreed upon by a group of Dutch companies - which are also potential competitors? For this, there is still a lot of lobbying to be done. As an active board member of DALTI, Simacan is therefore also closely involved in relations with foreign initiatives, such as the Open Logistics Foundation from Germany and the European FEDeRATED programme through the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Fortunately, there are already nice successes to report in terms of standardised data exchange and collaboration. One of these is the Open Trip Model (OTM). The Open Trip Model provides a data structure that defines how to unambiguously describe transport orders and trips. Information about loads, locations, clients and all ancillary items are stored in such a way that they are interpreted in the same way by all IT systems. This may not sound spectacular but is a breakthrough and has already led to cost savings in the industry. Manually retyping data and errors due to human intervention are thus a thing of the past.
Simacan was the initiator of OTM. In 2017, we released the data model to the sector. Under the management of the Stichting Uniforme Transport Code (SUTC), an initiative of logistics industry associations TLN (Dutch Association for Transport and Logistics) and EvoFenedex (Dutch business association for logistics). We are proud to say that in the past 5 years, under SUTC, in cooperation with DALTI and a growing active user group, the Open Trip Model has been further developed into a mature and very complete data standard for logistics!
Connectable IT systems for CO2 reporting
The need for connectable systems is now greater than ever. Transport is a process involving many parties and full of dynamics. Real-time information about orders or freight movements is essential and should be visible to everyone in the chain. This end-to-end visibility now becomes urgent as organisations are required to report their CO2 emissions. You need to map not only what you yourself are emitting but also what is happening in the rest of your supply chain. The law requiring this, the Corporate Sustainability Report Directive (CSRD), will come into force next year. So we should make haste to make this happen.
How can IT vendors work together?
Despite our 10 years as a software vendor, we are not yet at the point where our dream of full digital collaboration between all stakeholders in the supply chain has been achieved. There is still much work to be done for organisations like DALTI and software vendors like us to enable data to flow quickly, smoothly and 'securely' through the logistics ecosystem. To achieve this, the IT sector needs to join forces and agree on 'open standards', not only in the Netherlands, but also internationally!
Collaboration throughout the supply chain, that’s been our goal the last ten years. And it definitely is our future vision. Hip hip hurrah!