No Longer Miles Apart – Supply Chains and the Digital Age

By Dan Berger, TUID Working Group Member and Director of Business Development at InventureIT

By any definition, today’s global supply chain is a complex system. Just consider its scope:

  • Billions of tons of goods ship worldwide each year
  • 24/7/365
  • By land, air, and sea
  • Across an area measuring 57.5 million square miles
  • With a population of almost 8 billion people

To operate supply chains worldwide requires coordination and communication between vast numbers of interconnected parts. These relationships may be non-linear. In other words, the output is not proportional to the input, spawning collective behaviors, unexpected interactions, and unpredictable outcomes. As we have all experienced, our supply chains are not always predictable, much like the weather.

For centuries, a major difficulty in supply chains was the speed of information flow. Information about a shipment only traveled as fast as the goods themselves (e.g., bill of lading, inventory lists). Bills of lading have been in use since the 1400’s. A carrier would issue this legal document to acknowledge the receipt of goods for shipment. It then served as a contract for carriage and a receipt for the goods. The bill of lading also contains valuable information about the shipped goods, including quantity, description, packaging, and destination. 

Bills of lading are well entrenched.

Note: the U.K. only began to allow for electronic bills of lading beginning on September 20, 2023!

Currently, electronic bills of lading stand at 2% adoption.

Of course, other modes of communication about shipments have been available for a long time. Fax machines had their pros and cons but were heavily in use in shipping during the late 20th century and early 21st century. It has only been in recent years that supply chain information has begun to enter the Information Age under the banner of “Digital Freight.”

Digital freight refers to the use of digital technologies and platforms to streamline and optimize the process of moving goods from one location to another. It encompasses various aspects of the freight and logistics industry, leveraging digital solutions to improve efficiency, visibility, and collaboration throughout the supply chain.

But the sheer increase in shipping volumes, destinations and multimodal transportation make the benefits of a digital information system not only compelling but urgent. Digital information can be sent and received instantly, providing updated information about a shipment while still in transit. It also lends itself to standardization to ease adoption and provide for interoperability.

DFM Data Corp.’s Transport Unit Identifier (TUID) is an excellent example of a unifying digital and standardized approach. The TUID intentionally codifies specified shipment information for a load that has been authorized for shipment, adding date and time available, origin and destination locations, cargo buyer corporate identity and its reference number. When adopted, the TUID will help shippers, carriers, and shipping exchanges improve efficiency and transparency in the global supply chain internationally.

By working through committees, international standards bodies, and other interested parties, the TUID recently gained traction as ISO 8000-119.

This has come as the result of the tireless work of the TUID Working Group. Collaborating with a cohort of non-profits, government bodies, and “for profit” entities, each entity contributed to the process by promoting their own agenda.

Each member brought along their own personal objectives and egos, yet all coalesced around the shared objective of promoting the public good worldwide and has improved an essential identifier of today’s digital commercial world.

Well done!

Learn more about the TUID Working Group

Participation in the ASTM work on the related Goods Movement Process

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