SYNCHRO-NET nominated at the Global Freight Awards

SYNCHRO-NET: Nomination at the Global Freight Awards

SYNCHRO-NET's success has led to a nomination for the Sea Freight Award at the Global Freight Awards to be held in November 2018. MJC² has worked with Cosco during the SYNCHRO-NET project to develop a system to optimize their operations in Valencia and Piraeus. The GFA award is given to freight forwarders that demonstrate "expertise and high performance, a drive for innovation, customer centricity, continuous improvement and results for customers and themselves", and Cosco has been nominated.

The SYNCHRO-NET project is due to draw to a close in December after three very successful years. SYNCHRO-NET has developed highly innovative set of "smart steaming" and "synchro-modal logistics" Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms. The focus of these new tools is "de-stressing" the supply chain. The project, coordinated by DHL, brings together 20 collaborators from 8 countries.

De-stressing the Supply Chain

Smart steaming algorithms allow shipping services to be optimised strategically and operationally, enabling intelligent, fuel-efficient response to delays caused by port congestion and weather. The synchro-modal logistics optimisation software is a ground-breaking multimodal logistics planning solution, addressing what is known as multi-objective optimisation i.e. taking into account not only cost, but also GHG emissions and risk/reliability when choosing the optimal multimodal route for a shipment through the global supply chain.

In this manner the supply chain can be de-stressed in a number of ways. Smart steaming increases reliability for shipping operations, making it much easier for the customer to plan and manage their supply chain. At the same time, fuel usage, costs and emissions are reduced - all hot topics in the maritime world. SYNCHRO-NET takes a holistic view of costs and factors affecting voyages, including, for example, dynamic inputs from weather forecasts and berth schedules, and all operating costs associated with the vessel.

Similarly, the real-time synchro-modal logistics algorithms de-stress the supply chain in terms of the way consignments are routed through the multimodal network and allocated to services/resources. In the current economic climate, the customer typically looks for the lowest cost solution. However, such solutions are often not the greenest, and often depend on everything working to plan to achieve the required delivery date. SYNCHRO-NET adopts a more intelligent optimisation strategy, finding not just the cheapest solution, but also other solutions based on a range of key performance indicators. Furthermore, the real-time algorithms allow the consignment to be dynamically re-routed in response to (e.g.) delays, with all subsequent required changes cascading automatically down the supply chain (e.g. changing rail, barge and feeder vessel bookings and even last-mile haulier/truck allocations).

SYNCHRO-NET Innovation

The SYNCHRO-NET algorithms can deliver concrete, tangible benefits, not just for the shipping companies, but also for their customers, suppliers and other stakeholders in the supply chain: Shipping companies, such as SYNCHRO-NET partner Cosco, can benefit from reduced costs while offering increased service to their customers, and reaching their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) objectives. In turn, customers can benefit from an increased range and flexibility of available services, and even more competitive commercial rates. SYNCHRO-NET also includes optimisation tools to support logistics suppliers: real-time planning and scheduling of rail, truck and shipping operations, plus integrated port scheduling and berth allocation systems. Furthermore, the wider stakeholder community benefits from reduced emissions and congestion, especially in busy shipping lanes and around major ports and terminals. SYNCHRO-NET maximises the ROI on major infrastructure projects, optimising the use of new capacity on rail and inland waterway connections.

Positive Results

Despite being very ambitious, involving cutting-edge AI algorithms, SYNCHRO-NET has already been proven to succeed. Trials conducted in 2018 for Cosco Shipping Lines Spain showed substantial cost and efficiency savings.

Operational savings of around 5-10% have been observed, along with corresponding reduction in emissions. Following these promising results, leading to substantial potential for increased revenues and profitability, Cosco is continuing with evaluating potential of the application of SYNCHRO-NET to address a much wider geographical and functional scope. SYNCHRO-NET has presented many technical challenges. Perhaps the most significant feature is the requirement to integrate voyage optimisation with port/berth scheduling and hinterland logistics optimisation, all in real-time. Existing solutions on the market do not address this breadth of scope, for a simple reason - it is very hard! Mathematically the problem is known as "NP-hard" - a technical term which effectively means that naïve approaches to solving it would literally take longer than the lifetime of the universe. Innovative AI algorithms enable SYNCHRO-NET to handle the dynamic nature of the supply chain and the ever-increasing expectations of shippers and customers.

Market response has been very positive. Partners DHL have been actively involved in SYNCHRO-NET, benefitting from the multi-stakeholder nature of the new systems. SYNCHRO-NET is interoperable, communicating by standard e-Freight protocols to allow seamless information exchange between partners and their customers.


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