July 12, 2017

On 5 June 2017, several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar. These countries withdrew ambassadors, and imposed trade and travel bans, citing Qatar’s support for terrorism. Companies active in or dependent on intra-Gulf trade routes to Qatar (by sea, air or land) are seeing substantial disruptions to their operations and supply chains because of the blockade, primarily because they did not anticipate the trade ban, and they were unaware that their air and ocean carriers made unscheduled stops in Qatar.

This incident highlights two critical deficiencies inherent in traditional supply chains: 1) the inability to predict and avoid disruptions, and 2) a limited understanding of carrier, lane and node ‘behavior.’

Digital supply chains overcome both deficiencies by…

Predicting Disruptions

Digital supply chains constantly monitor and model events as they unfold in real-time and apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict future events. As a straightforward example, TransVoyant’s predictive analytics engine picked up political chatter and tone coming out of several middle eastern countries suggesting political and security tension and unrest between Qatar and its regional neighbors would result in sanctions weeks before the trade ban was officially announced.

Understanding Behavior

By tracking the real-time behavior of carriers across all shipping lanes along with the behavior of supply chain nodes along the journey, digital supply chains self-learn the behavior of carriers and other supply chain actors and processes over time. As an example, digital supply chain solutions know the transit times of carriers on specific routes, under varying conditions. They know which carriers have a propensity to make unscheduled port stops, where and when. In other words, a digital supply chain is always updating current and predicted lead times and variance to drive continuous and optimal global inventory and service levels. Armed with this intelligence they also calculate much more accurate predicted times of arrival weighing the impact of unpublished port stops and associated port congestion at those stops. That intelligence enables supply chain professionals to make more informed booking decisions, and to more confidently plan downstream operations. Supply chain professionals can also confidently promise inventory in motion around the globe. In the Qatar trade ban example, digital supply chain solutions highlight which carriers and shipments will likely be impacted, now and in the future, and make prescriptive recommendations for alternate carriers and alternate inventory to solve for customer orders.

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