Kansas City SmartPort (KCSP) is a unique organization. Established in 2000 to promote and enhance the Kansas City region as a leading North American logistics hub, SmartPort is a non-profit entity supported by both the public and private sectors.
In working to carry out its objectives, KCSP focuses on three areas, says President Chris Gutierrez. The first is an economic development role. "We work to bring more freight into the 18-county market surrounding Kansas City by encouraging companies to locate distribution centers and plants in the area," he says.
Second, KCSP plays a significant role in making sure that the freight that comes in and out of this region does so efficiently, securely and in a cost-effective way, he says. "We have about 50 investors, many of which are transportation-related companies, who fund our efforts in this regard," he notes. Among SmartPort's transportation investors are YRC Logistics, Kansas City Southern Railroad, Wagner Industries, Transportation and Logistics Systems and Cadre Technologies.
Cadre is particularly involved in SmartPort's third focus, which is Trade Data Exchange (TDE), a supply chain visibility system designed to provide real-time cargo visibility, efficiency and security both in the Kansas City area and, eventually, on a global level. Cadre last year was named lead contractor on the TDE project, charged with developing a secure, internet portal that will be accessed and run by TDE members and service providers. The TDE tracking software is modeled on Cadre's LogiView system, a Web-based software solution that allows users to track and manage inventory levels and movements throughout a supply chain.
Bobby Kaemmer, vice president of supply chain services and support for Cadre, explains that railroads, boats and trucks all use different visibility tracking systems. "Currently, anyone trying to track a shipment through the center of the country using more than one shipping method must sign into and monitor different systems," he says. "One of the goals of the TDE is to combine these shipping methods into one system. The TDE will also provide specific information about all aspects of the shipping phase. Members will be able to monitor who is handling the freight and at what time it passed from one shipper to another," he says.
"One of the early things that our industry investors told us was that visibility and efficiency are critical to their supply chains," says Gutierrez. "They need to know where their shipments are, which carrier has them and when they will arrive. This information is important from a commercial risk standpoint and also so they can accurately build their staffing and communicate with their supply chain partners."
A byproduct of this efficiency and information availability is security, which is vital in the current business climate, adds Kaemmer. "We have not tried to apply specific security applications to TDE because that adds cost, but users will know in real time where their shipment is, when it is going to arrive at destination, even whether the door has been opened." Moreover, he says, the data collected will include all the information needed to meet security reporting requirements from Customs and voluntary programs like C-TPAT.
A small, proof-of-concept test of TDE was conducted about two years ago before the Cadre system was available, but the results were encouraging. This test focused on the Kansas City-to-Mexico lane "because we knew a lot of delays were happening at the border due to misinformation or missing data in the documentation," says Gutierrez. "When we took the information relevant to a shipment and made it available to all the supply chain partners, a lot of these delays were eliminated because the partners were better informed and better prepared." In one instance, he says, shipping time was reduced by two-thirds.
Live testing early this year on Phase One of the TDE using the Cadre technology was equally encouraging. "Participating companies were able to make decisions quicker," says Gutierrez, who cites an example involving the certificates of origin required under NAFTA rules. "The system tells all players whether the certificate of origin has been completed for the product being shipped," he says. "If not, it compares the product with the database of certificates of origin to see if one is needed and sends appropriate alerts so the document can be sent before the shipment gets to the border."
Phase One development has been heavily focused on trade documentation, says Gutierrez. "There are five key documents that have to go with every shipment to Mexico and we have automated those to a degree. They are available and populated and attached to the system so everyone sees them."
Kaemmer says his team is working on a few issues that showed up during the Phase One testing. "We also are working on a list of maybe a dozen enhancements to strengthen the system, but these still are in beta testing format," he says.
The pilot tests that have been run for Phase One should be completed in May and June "and we hopefully are looking to go live in July and have this available for public consumption," says Gutierrez.
In the beginning, most users will likely be companies that go through the KCSP area, but eventually that will expand to a global user base, Gutierrez says. "Once we get to Phase Two, which will probably be some time in 2009, TDE will be available to anyone, anywhere."
Cadre Technologies, www.cadretech.com
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