New study finds freight data sharing needs improvement

A new study reporting on freight data sharing trials with companies including Woolworths, Nestle and Toll Group has identified opportunities to improve Australia’s vital supply chains.

The iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre study undertaken with the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) and GS1 Australia released findings which will assist the Australian Government in setting up the National Freight Data Hub (NFDH).

Supply chains, however, were suffering from limited access to real-time supply chain freight data which was adding to delivery delays.

The study comprised three components. These included two pilot trials involving Toll, Nestle, Woolworths and Infrabuild and a third pilot that deals with data aggregation through GS1 Australia.

Each of the trials sought to identify matching unique consignment information across partner supply chain management systems while verifying how this could be shared on different systems in real-time.

Although the trials were cut short by COVID-19, the early findings revealed that real-time freight consignment data is not currently shared across the supply chain and supply chain operators’ noted this impacted their ability to respond to disruptions.

“The multiplicity of standards and systems in use across industry, made it very difficult for project participants to reconcile and match related consignment records across the different systems,” the report concluded.

In some cases the study pointed to the unavailability of useful information about freight consignments once they left the despatch bay, with paper-based systems still widely used.

As a result, the shipper “typically had no visibility of delayed or late shipments, until queried by the customer, impacting the ability to respond to unanticipated disruptions in a timely and efficient manner.”

According to the report, it was the inability to link information across supply chain partners that resulted in significant re-keying of the same information multiple times across the supply chain, which led to increased costs and reduced efficiency.

The report also noted that “increasing digitalisation can assist improved visibility of freight consignments and interoperability between supply chain partners”.

“It can also significantly reduce the administrative burden for small operators. Improved visibility can help improve predictability, efficiency, and productivity of the freight industry, and improve industry responsiveness to supply chain delays, bottlenecks or error,” the report said.

The Federal Government has so far committed $8.5 million to fund projects that it considers enhances the collection of freight data across the nation as it looks to settle the design of a National Freight Data Hub.

According to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack the study will lead to improvements in getting goods to customers by improving access to real-time supply chain freight data.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted more than ever the critical importance of our freight supply chains and all those involved,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.

“The study provides insights for governments and industry for infrastructure planning and delivery,” said McCormack.

“It shows how increasing digitisation can improve visibility of freight for supply chain partners to decrease unexpected delivery disruptions.”

Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz said the report could open the door to improved productivity and efficiency for the freight industry.

“The report noted sharing real-time freight data would mean our supply chain operators could respond to delays and errors quickly, which will help our truckies do their crucial job getting goods to businesses and consumers,” Assistant Minister Buchholz he said in a statement.

“We want to ensure our freight is moving efficiently across the country, getting to our doors as smoothly as possible,” said Buchholz.

“This study has given the Australian Government a deeper insight into ways we can improve our freight supply chains.”

Industry, however, risked being out-competed by overseas operators who are reaping the benefits according to iMOVE Managing Director Ian Christensen.

“Freight operations overseas are working vigorously to reduce ‘transactional friction’ along supply chains,” he said.

“Australian businesses need to catch up and recognise the importance of sharing data to maintain the competitiveness of local supply chains.

“State and Federal governments in Australia are also focused on achieving stronger supply chain performance.

“Their interest is in making informed decisions on new infrastructure and better freight policy and to do that they need a clear view of the overall picture.

Christensen said this would be best achieved by aggregating real operational data from the freight industry itself.

“iMOVE wants to find ways for governments and businesses to work together to make this happen,” he said.

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