Certainly most major storms, cold snaps, heat waves, and the like can be predicted with some degree of accuracy; but the actual timing and duration of these events are not as predictable as we'd often like them to be. Weather forecast errors pose inconveniences to our personal lives, but we learn to live with them.
Imagine, though, the importance of having accurate information about when and where a tornado touches down, or exactly where a flash flood is in motion, when it comes to protecting the transportation links in your supply chain. At that level, accuracy isn’t simply ‘convenient’. It’s CRITICAL.
Does the weather keep you awake at night?
Gregory Schlegel, Founder of the Supply Chain Risk Consortium, notes that there are many statistics available, especially from the insurance industry (which has been insuring countries, companies and individuals against weather-related events for hundreds of years), regarding the devastating effect — financial and otherwise — of weather events.
Extreme weather events that occur with rarity but have a catastrophic impact, are often viewed in retrospect as events the impacts of which could have been lessened… had more preventive measures been taken. Such infrequent natural disasters have a tremendous financial and deadly impact on countries, companies and individuals: Hurricane Katrina, 2005 —$125 Billion; China Earthquake, 2008 — $85 Billion; Japan Earthquake, 2011— $300 Billion; US Drought since 2012 — $150 Billion.
Weather impacts on a smaller scale are just as devastating to industries, companies and individuals. Consider the Thailand Flood in 2011: smaller in dollar impact than the events listed above, catastrophic nonetheless.
What is the specific importance of real-time ground conditions as they relate to your supply chain?
Companies of all sizes are expanding globally, and as a result so are their supply chains. As a supply chain expands, it requires more facilities and warehouses, additional suppliers and contractors, and as Schlegel states, “more uncertainly, complexity and risk.” Many new supply chains are operating in regions of the globe where the weather and the propensity for natural disasters are more frequent and severe and than companies are used to, and fast growth doesn’t always allow for solid risk planning.
According to Schlegel, several studies have documented that if a company experiences a moderate-to-severe supply chain disruption,shareholder value can decrease anywhere from 7-10%. For those companies experiencing this level of severity, about 20% go out of business 24 months after the event. Another 15% of those companies perish in 3 years!
Such statistics would convince any executive to manage the company supply chain from the ground up, literally, when it comes to weather. The challenge? Having to be infinite places at once, monitoring massive amounts of live data, collating historic information in order to create predictive analyses, is “mammoth and overwhelming”. Schlegel’s group applauds the fact that new 3rd Party solution providers are emerging to address supply chain risk management in the online, real-time weather-related arena.
What’s in your War Room?
“There are two sides to risk management,” says Schlegel. “One company’s risk is another company’s opportunity management.” He observes that of the 30-35 exemplar companies in supply chain risk management (SCRM), most have invested in weather intelligence technologies: “…operating 24/7 around the globe inside their SCRM War Rooms!”
Kathy Fulton, executive director of humanitarian logistics organization ALAN (www.alanaid.org), concurs. “Early, ground-based notification tools are a smart, necessary component of an all-hazards supply chain risk management toolkit,” Fulton says. Although some large organizations have their own “emergency operations centers” to prepare for and respond to extreme events, Fulton notes that for the typical logistics executive who can’t afford an on-staff meteorologist, having a source of real-time information and notification to help protect employees and assets on the ground is a smart move. “Bottom line,” says Fulton, “these tools really do save lives.”
Harris Corporation, a global supply chain and IT provider, has its own terminology for the solution to mitigating risk from the ground up. The company calls it “ground truth”.
Coming from a company that’s been providing advanced, technology-based solutions to solve government and commercial customers' mission critical challenges for over 50 years, ground truth might almost be taken as gospel. Harris Corporation traces its roots to the formation of communications in both government and industry since the late 1800’s — from the printing press to electronic communications, through the Space Age and into the Digital Age.
Since its beginnings, Harris has focused on providing innovative, reliable solutions that connect, inform and protect the world. Recent acquisition (2015) of Exelis, a company with 45+ years of expertise in weather sensing and image science, places Harris squarely in the supply chain industry as an optimal partner for weather intelligence serving supply chain risk management.
Along with Harris’ acquisition of Exelis came Exelis-created Helios, a digital platform that provides real-time ground weather intelligence — the tool for delivering a supply chain executive’s dream. This novel system uses traffic/web cameras to monitor, track and detect weather conditions that can be used for ground truth, along with situational awareness, alerts, and input for predictive models.
Kathy Fulton observes that supply chain logistics activities are quickly becoming viewed as “critical infrastructure” – meaning that they are supportive of the larger supply-demand ecosystem within which a business operates. Without logistics, the ecosystem collapses.
Fulton notes that mitigating risks to the ecosystem and its supporting activities is crucial to any system, community and, ultimately, even national resilience. The best way to mitigate risks is by having as much information about sources of disruption so that situations can be analyzed, logistics decisions made, plans changed, and implemented as needed.
Brian Bell, original product manager for Helios, says it best: “The data is not as important as the application. We not only detect and monitor: we comprehend, predict, and then help solve.”
When adverse weather threatens, images and video from a nation-wide network of traffic and surveillance cameras display a map featuring National Weather Service warnings. Using proprietary detection algorithms, Helios creates real-time notifications for high impact phenomena.
Helios: How it works for you.
Validate ground conditions with instant access to >23,000 cameras across the U.S.
Helios leverages thousands of cameras, enabling users to observe weather conditions
on a hyper-local scale for areas and locations of interest. You’re able to monitor outdoor
conditions, traffic flow, facility security, railroad property and other surveillance activities.
Track actual ground conditions within a warning area
Helios integrates on-the-ground surveillance with conventional weather-tracking
technologies to help identify events as they unfold, minute-by-minute, mile-by-mile.
Persistent monitoring and detection of weather conditions help you fill observation gaps at a hyperlocal level.
Apply intelligent analytics and image processing to extract relevant information
Helios transforms single-purpose surveillance images into data-rich, multipurpose content, enabling you to comprehend environmental conditions in an immediate area. You then make better informed decisions to protect company assets and in some cases, lives of your employees.
Utilize notifications to stay current
Notifications allow you to quickly view corresponding camera imagery for verification and closer monitoring. The analytics engine produces a data product that can also be incorporated into forecast models, so you can continue to increase accuracy to pinpoint current conditions.
Record and archive changing conditions for specified locations
Helios also provides real-time video and time-lapse views, which are stored and available for post-event analysis.
• Relevant, localized, real-time intelligence about current environmental conditions
• Enhanced situational awareness for better informed and critical decision making
• A foundation for predictive analyses using stored data for post-event review.
Is Helios for you? The where, when, why, how & who
Applications for Helios extend to virtually any enterprise affected by or needing to respond to weather events: supply chain and logistics management; transportation, utilities and agricultural management; disaster planning and emergency response; insurance and post-disaster assistance; broadcast weather outlets and other media. It incorporates easily into a company’s existing platform via Application Program Interface (API); or, it can be employed via Web User Interface (UI) for standalone use.
Catastrophic weather events wreak havoc on the supply chain — Disruption. Ensuing costs. Reputation. Liability. Companies that thrive in risk management have the ability to scan weather conditions minute-by-minute, mile-by-mile; capture events in digital form and assess local risk to facilities, assets and employees; enact control strategies earlier than a competitor; and have data for future planning and resolution.
Says Schlegel: “Mitigating risk means maximizing opportunity… and the biggest advantage is SPEED! SPEED is LIFE in supply chain management.”
Source: Harris Corporation
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