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Logistics shippers are looking to technology to deal with the delays at the US West Coast ports

Port problems mean extreme delays. West Coast ports are consistently disrupted by port congestion, labor disputes and other crises. Flexibility in supply chains has become more critical. However, the size and scope of the U.S. West Coast port congestion and related labor dispute has limited the number of usual “bypasses.” Diverting cargo to Canada or Mexico is becoming more and more common in order to avoid the impact of the congestion occurring in both Long Beach and Los Angeles. Add to this the longshore labor dispute that’s becoming more rancorous.

“Technology can show you your options and help you figure out what the inland impact of any alternative is going to be,” said Ken Wood, executive vice president of product management at the global logistics technology company. “We have customers that are doing that, but they don’t always have a supply chain ready to go to bring in goods through Mexico or Canada.

“You can’t magically put the procedures in place to start handling freight through Vancouver,” Wood said. “It takes a lot of time and effort. There are business relationships that need to be in place before technology can do more than recommend alternatives.”

Eventually, technology will be able to do more, he said, as shippers, carriers and logistics partners build more integrated data systems that provide greater supply chain visibility and enable more dynamic decision-making.

“We’ve done projects where we’re able to postpone fulfillment decisions until the last-minute, almost waiting until the goods are in port before deciding where they’re going to go,” he said. “Some may go direct from port to store.”

In the meantime, he believes more shippers and carriers will invest in supply chain management technology in the wake of the West Coast port crisis.

Source: William B. Cassidy at

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