BiS: PortSide: Luncheon celebrates logistics industry

Experts share strengths, successes of area network

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Chris Carr speaks at the Savannah Logistics Lunch (Photo by John Carrington)

By Mary Carr Mayle, as published in Business in Savannah

Last year’s inaugural Savannah Logistics Lunch was such a hit that organizers had to find a larger site for Thursday’s second annual event.

“We increased our venue size by 50 percent and still sold out,” said Jannine Miller, director of the state’s Center of Innovation for Logistics, which co-sponsored the event with the Savannah law firm HunterMaclean at the Armstrong Center on the campus of Armstrong State University.

“There’s clearly great interest from our logistics providers and cargo-owning companies to network and learn about the latest trends in the industry.

“I think this is proof positive that Savannah is an economic powerhouse when it comes to logistics,” Miller said.

Chris Carr, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, agreed.

“You can’t talk about Georgia logistics without noting that Savannah is the home of the nation’s fourth-largest and fastest-growing container port,” he said. “Not only that, the port of Brunswick is the nation’s No. 1 for auto imports.

“The impact that Georgia’s logistics network has on recruiting new businesses and helping existing businesses grow is immeasurable,” Carr said, adding that, according to Area Development magazine, site selection consultants named Georgia second in the U.S. for infrastructure and access to global markets and first for distribution and supply chain hubs in 2015.

“In fiscal 2015, our global commerce division announced 329 projects statewide,” he said. “As a result of those projects, companies will be creating nearly 27,000 new jobs in our state and investing $4.75 billion.

“More than three-quarters of these private investments require logistics for their business models to succeed — a big reason they chose Georgia.”

Last year, Georgia’s software and technology industry grew job opportunities by 128 percent and increased investment by 219 percent over fiscal 2014, he said.

Emerging technology sectors in Georgia in fiscal 2016 include financial technology — or fintech — and cyber security, Carr added.

“In fintech, Georgia is now the third largest state in the nation — behind only New York and California — in revenue. In addition, 70 percent of all transactions in North America are processed through systems in Georgia,” he said.

In cyber security, Georgia now leads the nation in information security in terms of research, talent and number of data centers, Carr said.

“More than 25 percent of worldwide security revenue is generated by companies in Georgia. That’s a phenomenal number.”

In introducing the panel, HunterMaclean partner Chris “Smitty” Smith said it takes logistics to create innovative technology and it takes technology to create innovative logistics.

He asked each panelist to talk about the latest trends in logistics technology and how those trends are being implemented locally and regionally to increase operational efficiency, safety and client services.

Chelsea “Chip” White, the Schneider Chair for Transportation and Logistics at Georgia Tech, talked about how the “Amazon effect” of wanting it now has challenged supply chains, which are responding with such “next generation” technology as drones, smart sensors and biometrics to create more efficient customer service levels while finding ways to move freight better, faster and cheaper.

“For example, resequencing and rerouting traffic — changing a route pattern according to real time traffic data — is an example of using technology to be more efficient,” he said.
Chris Jones, executive vice president of Descartes Systems Group, a global leader in providing on-demand, software-as-a-service solutions for logistics-intensive businesses, said retailers and distributors see information as being almost as valuable as the actual product these days.

“They want to match inventory with the real time flow of goods, which means matching information to the flow of goods,” he said. “They want to deploy their goods before they hit the dock door.”

Ways to do that, said Brandon Tatom, include Electronic Date Interchange, which communicates data from providers’ systems; GPS tracking and mobile apps.

“Global visibility — ‘where’s my truck?’ — is the most important thing the customer wants to know today,” said Tatom, a strategic sales executive for C.H. Robinson, a Fortune 500 third party logistics and supply chain management provider.

A major stumbling block to global visibility is the fact that there are many different truckload providers out there and not all of them can make the kinds of capital investments EDI and GPS require.

“Fifty percent of the truckers on the road today own 50 trucks or less,” he said. “At C.H. Robinson, we work with 68,000 different carriers and we needed to find technology that was available to all of them.”

The company patented Macropoint, which uses basic cell phone tracking technology to submit updates.

“We make this technology available to providers and drivers in the lower 48 states,” Tatom said.

Kent Williams, regional vice president of trucking giant Averitt Express, talked about safety issues and such technological advances as the Meritor On Guard Accident Avoidance System, which provides forward collision warning alerts, collision mitigation and active braking and stationary object warning systems; and AutoVue, a system that detects when a vehicle drifts across a lane marking and emits a loud warning.

”About 35 percent of truck accidents are related to lane departures,” Williams said. “We’ve found this system has had an 80 percent reduction in lane departures.”

Another technological advance, Williams said, is the concept of truck platooning, which involves a number of trucks equipped with state-of-the-art driving support systems – one closely following the other. This forms a platoon with the trucks driven by smart technology, and mutually communicating.

“First generation platooning is basically each truck with a driver but operated with something like an auto-pilot system. So you might have five trucks running very close together with engines talking with each other to control speed and braking. This produces great fuel efficiency and reduces the road footprint.”

Gordon Hammer, general manager for Client Relations at Georgia Ports Authority, talked about matching the latest technology with “the human touch” to optimize customer service and satisfaction.

“Use your technology tools for added value,” he said. “But it’s your human touch that will retain customers.”