Raytheon take a load off aid delivery
When a disaster strikes, it is important to get humanitarian aid out to those in need as soon as possible. However, when facing unique demands in hard to reach territories, it is important to consider the limitations of the vessel you are using to transport goods.
Unlike naval ships, commercial vessels such as cargo ships are not designed with the capabilities needed for aid missions. Often, naval ships carrying aid could face inadequate docking systems, and therefore rely on specialised lifting and transport facilities in order to get this important cargo to its destination.
Naval ships are in high demand across the US so are not always readily available. A new system developed by security and defence specialists Raytheon tackles a number of these problems by enabling ordinary cargo ships to participate in aid missions, providing specialist equipment which can be quickly readied to carry out an aid initiative with limited manpower.
“There are Natural Disasters every year. One of the greatest difficulties with natural disasters is making sure that you have the right resources available soon enough to be able to respond. In a lot of cases, in this country the US Navy would be probably the main responder for a large amount of aid and their ships can be deployed on missions around the world,” explained Dennis Hansen, part of Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems department.
Developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the new ‘Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform’ (TEMP) program provides specialist equipment capable of maintaining aid mission operations for 30 days or more.
Described as ‘an innovative system of modular technologies’, Raytheon’s TEMP program contains cargo transfer and onboard support resources in addition to unmanned aerial vehicles, which can ready an ordinary container ship for humanitarian operations in less than a day.
“From one of seven strategic locations placed around the world, we can pick the closest container ship that would carry a minimum of 2000-3000 containers. We reflag it so it is legal within the waters, load it with aid and take that ship to the disaster area,’ said Hansen.
The TEMP system is made up of a series of key technologies, including a unique air delivery system, motion stabilized cranes and mission management modules which enable communication with NGOs and aid workers on the ground.
“One of the biggest difficulties is how to get aid off the ship. It’s hard if there is no dock area- if you have to load a ship in 24 hours, you’re not able to weld anything onto the ship that would be able to offload it. So, we have developed modular, autonomous crane able to move fully loaded containers with a company called ATR. The autonomous cranes you essentially load onto the ship, they’re able to pick up a 20-40ft container,” said Hansen.
The autonomous crane consists of a number of stackable container sized rigid tanks, which can be filled at the destination with sea water as ballast. These tanks can be stacked similarly to lego and fastened to create the desired height, and the tanks can be filled as needed depending on the ballast requirement.
Once the ship is able to move containers, the next challenge is finding a method to send them to land when the ship is unable to dock and there may be difficulties with onward transport.
“There may be wreckage from ships near the port so you can’t actually get near the shore, so how do you actually bring aid in without waiting a long time for the cleanup operation?
“We’ve looked at several methods considering the cost per operational hour; we believe that ParaFoil is the most cost effective way to do this. This unmanned, engine-powered paraglider can land and take off on a ship, which has never been done before. It carries 3000 lbs which is more than a helicopter can take, and we can create a supply chain of multiple ParaFoils, that can fly up to 100 miles inland,” explained Hansen.
The ParaFoil system can be used in conjunction with an ancillary surface craft which DARPA developed, to deliver a combined value of 1,125,000 lbs of aid to land each day when multiple ParaFoil units are used as an ‘air bridge’. Able to travel up to 120 km without refuelling, the system incorporates a video system capable of recognising a clear landing zone, and can relay communications and provide geographic information for up to 48 hours.
The final key part of the TEMP system are the mission modules, which facilitate operations planning, communications, control of air and sea assets, tracking deliveries and maintaining safe operations. Applicable to a range of scenarios, each of the systems are stored in a standard intermodal/ISO container, making them easily stored and transported should a disaster strike.
All of the TEMP equipment is designed to be the same physical as a normal container, in order to ensure that ports can easily handle and store the resources ready for loading. Able to reach any disaster location within a week, the TEMP system requires extra crew due to the labour intensive unloading process, but can be operated by anyone with the relevant skills in warehouse equipment and crane operational training.
“The long and short of it is a quick response to load the ship with goods. At this point in time, we’ve completed the design and architecture of this project. We’re working with DARPA to take it through the critical phase, so it’s not ready yet for operation, but we are now developing it to the next stage.”
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”