From COVID-related lockdowns and extended border closures in Asia to worker shortages and a war in Ukraine, supply chains have been battered by constant disruptions in recent years. Hardware companies have been forced to deal with a shortage of all sorts of processors and other components, made worse by last year’s fire at a large chip plant in Japan.
However, vendors in Asia have been slightly more fortunate compared with counterparts in the US and Europe, as companies have managed to proceed with plans to build hyperscale data centres despite supply chain disruptions.
The halt in construction projects in the West was due to shortages in components like fibre optics, batteries, and racks, according to Rick Villars, vice president of data centre and cloud research at IDC.
For instance, during the pandemic Equinix went ahead with a US$6.9 billion joint venture with GIC, a Singapore financing firm, to build data centres in Tokyo and Osaka to support the world’s largest hyperscale cloud platforms. Its chief rival Digital Realty Trust had also been working with Mitsubishi to finance and construct new data centres across Japan as well.
Rising demand for end-to-end visibility
With all the disruptions from the past two years, there's been an increasing demand for better visibility and transparency of the supply chain. According to Gartner, real-time transportation visibility continues to be a key priority for shippers, third-party logistics (3PL) companies and their customers.
They predict that by 2023, fifty per cent of global leading enterprises would have invested in real-time transportation visibility solutions. Another Gartner report stated that supply chain visibility adoption is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for organisations, no matter the size, geography, or industry.
Jumping on that demand, HERE Technologies, a multinational group dealing with mapping and location data technology, recently announced a five-year strategic collaboration agreement with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help organisations improve visibility, transportation and logistics (T&L), fleet routing, and estimated times of arrival (ETA) from the first-to-last mile of delivery.
HERE is a partner of customers across the ecosystem of shippers, 3PLs, 4PLs (fourth-party logistics), freight forwarders, and road carriers. Hundreds of companies within the transportation, logistics, and mobility sectors utilise HERE location data, software, and technology to power fuel, time, and cost saving applications.
As part of the collaboration, HERE will list its supply chain solutions on AWS Marketplace, and work with AWS to offer support across processes like warehouse and yard management, predictive ETA calculations, as well as CO2 fleet emission solutions.
“Customers have been asking about ETAs and we know from some of the data that if they don’t have a good delivery experience, they’ll just switch suppliers or vendors,” said Jason Jameson, senior vice president and general manager of Asia Pacific at HERE Technologies, when speaking to Channel Asia.
“The pandemic was a confluence of many events, so what we’re seeing is a soaring in shipment costs and organisations wanting to become more efficient in their supply chains. It’s driving a lot of structural changes around how they look into visibility.”
Evolution of partnership and customer strategy
Helping customers tap onto data and analytics to tackle supply chain issues isn’t a new strategy but may be an effective solution to manage disruption – especially when there’s no way of avoiding or predicting them even beyond the pandemic. Many vendors can offer such solutions, so why did HERE choose AWS for the partnership?
“It’s an evolution of our [customer] strategy,” Jameson said. “We’ve been a long time customer and partner of AWS. What this will give us is, firstly, we have HERE’s supply chain solutions on the marketplace, and AWS has the largest cloud share, so [customers on Marketplace] will be able to readily consume solutions directly.”
Jameson emphasised that the partnership is “really targeted” at meeting the needs of transportation and logistics organisations. AWS is supporting HERE’s location-based service applications to increase visibility across supply chains while tackling some of the sector's biggest challenges.
The development roadmap includes extending asset visibility beyond transportation modes and into the yards and warehouses, enabling tracking beyond containers, pallets, and cages to monitoring the location and status of actual shipments, as well as increasing the accuracy of predictive arrival and departure times (ETA/ETD) across transportation modes with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
They’ll also provide services to measure fleet CO2 emissions in compliance with global standards and to conduct what-if scenario planning for fleet transitions to alternative fuels and drive trains.
“T&L companies around the world rely on real-time visibility for customer satisfaction and operational efficiency,” said Bill Vass, vice president of AWS Engineering. “When shipments do not arrive on time, or don’t arrive at all, someone’s bottom line is impacted.”
With HERE Technologies’ solutions accessible on Marketplace, coupled with AWS’ capabilities, Jameson hopes that it’ll help transform the supply chain sector and result in “much more automation” from planning to execution and post trip analysis.
Future of supply chains
While accelerated transformation remains the ideal end goal for the sector, Jameson believes developing resilience should go hand-in-hand as a priority for organisations to weather through disruptions.
“I’m a perennial optimist so I do think that companies will continue to improve the visibility of their supply chains,” he said. “I think because there’s been some structural shifts in customer behaviour, it’s going to take some time for [disruptions] to really see itself through.
“There’s a shortage of truck drivers in Europe and the US and there are container ports shut down in China because of their COVID mitigation strategy – these things are going to continue so supply chain resilience is another thing that’s got to be front and centre for organisations.
“There’ll be big, ongoing structural shifts and location intelligence services will play such a key role, that’s why I think HERE is really well positioned.”