In global transportation, besides Air freight services, ocean shipping is obviously the cheaper, but also reliable option for international trade. What we definitely can address with solutions like SAP TM 9.2 (and certainly earlier releases as well) is planning and administrative processes in preparation and execution.

Global Transparency - International Logistics and Integrated Business Planning Slide 1

With Strategic Freight Procurement in SAP TM, we also have a great solution to use your analytical information, either from Data Warehouse solutions such as SAP BW/BI, now also possible from transactional analytics with SAP HANA, if you’d run SAP TM on Hana, but certainly as well from Excel Spreadsheets, to prepare and perform long term contract negotiation processes with multiple Ocean Carriers and Logistics Service Providers. This added a tactical aspect to solution portfolio provided by SAP. In short, you should here not only focus on the cost aspects, but clearly on reliability and quality of services, as the solution provides you the possibility “cherry-pick” Ocean Carriers to operate only specific lanes, where they might excel in service and quality, instead of excluding them in your overall service portfolio, simply because the complexity of handling more carriers in your portfolio becomes an operational thread to your business team.

Nevertheless, once you have established your business partner portfolio, the quality of business relationships with your customers or to your own benefit, e.g. in the area of inventory planning, real time data is a key element in operating global supply chains. We are certainly used to the fact, to look up on time performance of e.g. air traffic (real time monitoring of air crafts e.g. at http://flightaware.com/live/) , but there is certainly also data collected on the ocean side. For example at http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/home you will find real time data of ocean vessels on a global scale. The website has great filtering capabilities and the interactivity leveraging interactive maps helps a lot to find your vessel in real time.

A well kept “secret” though is that you can also feed that information into SAP TM/EM and display the additional data in the map, leveraging the capabilities of Visual Business. But rather than just using that in a display mode, certainly ocean carriers/liners are feeding event details and status updates, which you can combine then with your container information, vessel details of your booking in SAP TM.

Also very interesting is following blog that has been posted by SAP on Future activities and current development plans between the port of Hamburg, SAP and the Hasso Plattner Institute. It provides interesting insights and references on logistics challenges and real time information that is processed in Ports. Please take a look: Port Logistics

In-Transit though, sources like MarineTraffic allow to really trace vessels in process, which definitely adds quality for risk and ETA assessments as your inventory is in-Transit.

SAP is offering therefore a great platform to collect and process information as part of their overall supply chain solution strategy. Two of the strategic pillars in that concept are certainly Logistics and Order Fulfillment solutions (like TM, EM as described above), but also the brand new SAP Supply Chain Control Tower, which is part of the Integrated Business Planning and Supply Chain Monitoring Solution Portfolio of SAP (IBP). Besides the planning and forecasting aspects from a demand and supply solution perspective.

The SAP Supply Chain Control Tower is also based on SAP’s Cloud Solution Architecture and is technically leveraging SAP HANA as a central infrastructure element. The idea is to establish with the solution a harmonized platform across the global demand and supply network of enterprises collaborating on a day to day basis in real time. The platform will enable analysis and alerts of real-time information across the end-to-end supply and demand networks and therefore it provides also the possibility to leverage visibility information as described above to used for real time updates while in execution. As the SAP Supply Chain Control Tower is not only designed to monitor current activity, but also provides an environment for the what-if simulations and predictive analytics required by supply chain professionals, I see a real potential shift on how SAP TM/EM will allow to dynamically contribute to far more than only execution. This can also drive new scenarios in Supply Chain Management bringing logistics and Demand and Supply Networks operation seamlessly together.

So, let’s get started, that is possible right now.