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Logistics & Supply Chain

IBM helping to battle COVID-19 medical supply chain shortages with the launch of IBM Rapid Supplier Connect



IBM helping to battle COVID-19 medical supply chain shortages with the launch of IBM Rapid Supplier Connect. Image: IBM
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As part of IBM’s approach to combating COVID-19 with technology solutions that enable more trustworthy information, accelerated discovery, resiliency and adaptation, the company announced IBM Rapid Supplier Connect, a blockchain-based network designed to help government agencies and healthcare organizations identify new, non-traditional suppliers who have pivoted to address the shortage of equipment, devices and supplies needed for COVID-19 relief efforts.

Rapid Supplier Connect is available at no cost until August 31, 2020 to qualified buyers and suppliers in the United States and Canada.

Suppliers and buyers currently joining the network include hospitals and other organizations such as Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, and The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, which is onboarding more than 200 American suppliers from its 3,000 global community members.

“Northwell Health has had adequate supplies to protect patients and our staff during the increase in New York COVID-19 patient cases,” said Phyllis McCready, vice president and chief procurement officer at Northwell Health. “It is through creating our own GPOs and supply chain, and joining forces with non-traditional suppliers that we have maintained an adequate stockpile of PPE and other equipment and supplies, so we are pleased to join IBM Rapid Supplier Connect.”

With healthcare workers and other first responders feeling the impact of supply chains disrupted by unprecedented challenges, many large and small businesses from outside the traditional healthcare procurement system are reconfiguring to mass produce masks, gowns and other essential supplies. In order to begin purchasing from them at scale, buyers — including hospitals, state procurement divisions, pharmacies and others — need help identifying these new suppliers, efficiently vetting and on-boarding them, and understanding their real-time inventory availability. The network also helps identify existing supplies and excess inventory going unused, allowing hospitals to make it available to others and redirect supplies where they are needed most.

Buyers who access the network can benefit from a broader range of suppliers outside of their traditional supply chain, a streamlined supplier onboarding process, validation checks and inventory information in near-real time. Suppliers benefit from a portable online identity, access to user feedback and the ability to post and manage inventory availability. Real-time insight into a volatile and uncertain supply chain is never simple, and with the challenges of the current global situation, IBM harnessed the Trust Your Supplier blockchain-based identity platform built by Chainyard for qualification and identification, in conjunction with its existing Sterling Supply Chain Suite and highly scalable Inventory Visibility microservice to deliver this increased visibility.

Rapid Supplier Connect complements existing supply chain networks and their payment systems, however buyers also have the option to use the services of a third-party paymaster for a fee, CDAX, which will secure funds on behalf of buyers in a custody and settlement account, holding goods ordered contractually from the supplier under a consignment arrangement until the buyer verifies acceptance of the order and releases funds to the seller. Project N95, which is serving as a clearinghouse for information on COVID-related suppliers will also help with supplier vetting. Dun & Bradstreet is contributing its identity resolution, firmographic data, and supplier risk and viability scores, RapidRatings provides financial health data on suppliers, and KYC SiteScan will provide “Know Your Business” due diligence report access. Thomson Reuters will provide access to its CLEAR customer due diligence tool, to provide buyers with access to real-time and comprehensive data to vet suppliers and identify potential fraud risks.

Joining the network is expected to take buyers and suppliers approximately 30 minutes, with industry and technical support provided by IBM’s operational support center to assist with onboarding and getting value from the network.

Logistics & Supply Chain

Seegrid acomplishes 3 million autonomous miles driven without a single personnel safety incident while supporting essential businesses through COVID-19 challenges



Seegrid acomplishes 3 million autonomous miles driven without a single personnel safety incident while supporting essential businesses through COVID-19 challenges. Image: Seegrid
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Seegrid, the leader in self-driving industrial vehicles for material handling, today announced that its vision guided vehicles (VGVs) reached three million autonomous production miles at customer sites without a single personnel safety incident.

As the industry pioneer, Seegrid’s VGVs log more autonomous miles at customer sites than any other infrastructure-free automated guided vehicle (AGV) company in the world. This achievement comes only 36 weeks after reaching two million miles driven — an average of nearly 4,000 miles daily — a testament to the company’s commitment to self-driving safety while remaining steadfast in providing solutions to support their customers amid COVID-19 challenges.

“We are extremely proud to be at the forefront of the infrastructure-free AGV industry, delivering one of the safest and most proven solutions to a market that is constantly evolving and becoming more complex, especially during these unprecedented times,” said Seegrid CEO Jim Rock. “Our teams remain focused on — and dedicated to — helping our manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics customers, many of which are providing essential products and services to support our communities.”

Seegrid Vision, the company’s proprietary, unique navigation technology, is fundamental to Seegrid’s ability to reliably navigate the most dynamic industrial environments. Using stereo cameras, sophisticated algorithms, and machine learning, the patented technology enables the VGVs to see and process more information about the environment than laser-based navigation systems.

This detailed, expansive field of view, combined with robust safety systems, enables VGVs to navigate seamlessly and safely alongside humans in high-traffic environments. Seegrid VGVs reliably follow the intended route, maintain the right speed limits, avoid collisions, behave predictably and consistently, and never behave erratically. Because there is no greater concern than the safety, health, and lives of workers, Seegrid self-driving vehicles are designed with fail-safe features that meet all industry regulatory requirements. Seegrid’s technology is utilized by several global leaders in manufacturing, distribution, and e-commerce fulfillment.

More and more organizations worldwide are integrating AGVs and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to work alongside employees within facilities. Between the tens of thousands of manually-driven forklift injuries occurring each year, customer demands continuing to climb and shift, and emerging pressures due to COVID-19 impacts, automation is now a necessity throughout the supply chain network. By implementing Seegrid’s automation solutions, safety is increased, throughput and efficiency are improved, and disruptions in material flow are mitigated.

“Our manufacturing and distribution center customers need efficient material flow, now more than ever.  We are honored that our technology is playing a role in their efforts and supporting the continuity of their operations,” said Rock. “Helping our customers remain resilient and flexible — and enabling them to safely move material — is a responsibility we take very seriously.”

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Air Freight

DACHSER launches 30th charter flight



DACHSER launches 30th charter flight. Image: DACHSER
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Since the start of the coronavirus crisis at the end of February, DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics has chartered 30 aircraft and transported a total of over 60 million respiratory masks plus medical items, such as personal protective equipment and protective gloves, for its customers. At the end of April, DACHSER organized eight charter flights in one week for the first time in the company’s history, including three on the Hong Kong—Los Angeles route.

“With these flights, we can offer our customers access to capacity for all DACHSER branches in the US as well as various locations in Latin America,” says Timo Stroh, Head of Global Air Freight at DACHSER. DACHSER is preparing similar so-called “mini” air charters for the Shanghai—Dallas, Shanghai—Los Angeles, and Hong Kong—Dallas connections.

In arranging these charter flights, the logistics provider supports its customers in the supply of important medical goods. At the same time, it is compensating for the decline in air freight capacity, which has shrunk by half due to both the global pandemic and the almost complete suspension of passenger flights.

Doing their part for society

“This has become an important business in an otherwise very difficult market for DACHSER Air & Sea Logistics,” Stroh says. “But at the same time, there is a sense of motivation and satisfaction that we’re doing something relevant and helpful for society while further establishing the DACHSER brand on the air freight market.”

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Logistics & Supply Chain

F-drones completes first commercial beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone delivery in Singapore



F-drones completes first commercial beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone delivery in Singapore. Image: Pixabay
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F-drones has completed the first commercial BVLOS drone delivery in Singapore on 19 April 2020. The drone delivered 2 kg of vitamins over 2.7 km in 7 minutes, to a ship managed by Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS). EPS, which is one of the world’s largest privately-owned ship managers, is F-drones’ first paying customer.

In Singapore, like in most parts of the world, a BVLOS authorisation or permit is required when operating drones beyond the visual range of drone pilots. Without which, commercial drone delivery services would not be viable.

F-drones is the first company in Singapore to receive an authorisation from the aviation authority, to conduct BVLOS drone deliveries to ships in Singapore. For now, this is limited to drone deliveries to ships anchored south of the marina area. This already is a significant milestone for both F-drones and Singapore, as globally, there are only a handful that are operating commercial BVLOS drone deliveries. And F-drones is already working towards expanding their area of operations.

Started little more than a year ago, F-drones is a home-grown startup developing large-scale delivery drones which are fully electric and autonomous. Their goal is to eventually use their proprietary drones, which would be able to send 100kg loads over 100km to ships and offshore platforms. This would help alleviate the pain of sending supplies in marine & offshore applications, which rely on small boats and helicopters.

“These traditional means of transport are expensive, slow, labour and carbon intensive. F-drones’ solutions can help save up to 80% of the costs, time and CO2 emissions. Besides being efficient, delivery drones can also reduce unnecessary human contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”, according to Nicolas Ang, CEO of F-drones.

For now, F-drones is using an off-the-shelf drone which can only deliver 5kg loads over 5km. Its CTO, Yeshwanth Reddy, says this is “one of the best drones we can buy off the market”. He adds “as the marine & offshore industry requires much bigger loads to be sent over longer distances, F-drones is innovating on the aircraft at a systems-level.”

F-drones plans to complete the development of its 100kg-100km drone in the second half of 2021. Its latest prototype, which is its third, named as Hyperlaunch, would be able to deliver 5kg loads over 50km to ships. F-drones will be starting commercial operations using Hyperlaunch towards the end of 2020, after more tests and improvements. Hyperlaunch in itself is already an attractive product for the shipping industry.

Gil Ofer, the Head of Open Innovation at Eastern Pacific Shipping, says, “EPS has been part of F-drones’ test deliveries since November 2019, when they joined the Eastern Pacific Accelerator powered by Techstars. We believe their solutions will play a significant role in reducing shipping’s overall carbon footprint. The successful BVLOS delivery is a milestone event, and we are extremely proud to be part of their journey.”

F-drones is also working with Hafnia, a world leading product tanker company. Shanker Pillai, Head of Innovation & Change at Hafnia, adds that “We are excited to work with F-drones to develop drone technology with the aim to conduct remote delivery of small packages and emergency deliveries to vessels. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, drones can potentially help to reduce human contact during deliveries. We are glad to be part of this development and are looking forward to the first commercial drone deliveries to our vessels.”

Indeed, drones have proven to be of great value in dealing with COVID-19 around the world. F-drones’ BVLOS authorisation is certainly timely, allowing it to commence commercial deliveries at a time when human contact needs to be reduced.



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