May 17, 2020

Stena Line introduces first AI-assisted vessel

AI
Stena Line
Shipping
Technology
James Henderson
3 min
Stena Line introduces first AI-assisted vessel
As part of Stena Line’s efforts to reduce fuel consumption and minimise environmental impact, the company is running a pilot where artificial intellig...

As part of Stena Line’s efforts to reduce fuel consumption and minimise environmental impact, the company is running a pilot where artificial intelligence technology is implemented on board vessels.

In close collaboration with the technology company Hitachi, an AI-model is being developed that will help predict the most fuel-efficient way to operate a certain vessel on a specific route.

The model will be a support for the captain and officers on board, and if successful it will make an important contribution to Stena Line’s sustainability target to reduce fuel consumption by 2.5 % annually. 

“The model simulates many different scenarios before suggesting the most optimal route and performance setup. With the help of AI we are able to consider a number of variables, such as currents, weather conditions, shallow water and speed through water, in various combinations which would be impossible to do manually”, said Lars Carlsson, Head of AI at Stena Line. 

The model is still under development and it would not be possible to take it further without a committed captain and crew.

That is why the first pilot study is taking place on Stena Scandinavica, under the supervision of Senior Master Jan Sjöström who has been working with fuel optimisation at Stena Line for the last 40 years.

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“Since we are helping the AI to evolve, we might be assisting the AI more than we are at the moment, but it is a very exciting and rewarding process. We’ve been making adjustments to the model after each trip for about four weeks and it is amazing to see how quickly it is learning”, says Jan Sjöström, Senior Master at Stena Scandinavica.

The goal is to create a model that is so precise that it would be the ultimate decision support system for the captain when planning each trip.

For example, if AI could assist with accurate predictions of currents, which is one of the most complicated variables today, it would help even the most experienced captain or officer.

Moving forward, the model will also help sharing competence and knowledge to the next generation of captains and officers.

“Planning a trip and handling a vessel in a safe and, at the same time, fuel efficient way is craftsmanship. Practice makes perfect, but when assisted by AI a new captain or officer could learn how to fuel optimise quicker. In return, this contributes to a more sustainable journey”, says Jan Sjöström.

Stena Line has an overall goal that the whole company should be assisted by AI in 2021 and the pilot study on Stena Scandinavica, on the Gothenburg – Kiel route, is the first of several studies regarding AI-assisted ferry trips within the fleet this year. At the end of the year there will be an evaluation of the project, before deciding how to continue with AI-assistance on the company’s 38 ships.

“We are proud to be working with Stena Line to develop and implement AI technology that will deliver benefits to both the company and the environment. By taking a co-creation approach, working together to combine industry expertise with data and AI, Hitachi and Stena Line have been able to show how digitisation can optimise existing physical assets to create a better outcome”, says Ram Ramachander, Chief Digital Officer at Hitachi Europe Ltd.

Stena Line is already being assisted by AI within several areas such as administration, finance, customer experience and customer care. 

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Jun 9, 2021

Upgrading RFID and Automated Track and Trace Solutions

Supplychain
Logistics
RFID
DigitalSupplyChain
Elise Leise
5 min
Why do decades-old tech like RFID remain relevant despite digital disruption - and which recent innovations can accelerate traceability and SCM?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, global supply chains faced the challenge of rapidly adjusting their business priorities to new customer preferences. Local supplier backlogs, winter storms, and the Suez Canal backup in March underscored the need for efficiency and visibility across the supply chain. 

According to Christof Backhaus, Digital Lead Product Supply and Smart Label Project Lead at Bayer, companies must now place critical importance on tracking and tracing their products. “All large enterprises in the world dealing with finished goods,” he said, “seek functional and technical solutions to real-time channel inventory.” 

Indeed, RFID’s real-time tracking data allows executives to make quick, well-informed decisions in moments of supply chain crisis - and rather than unfolding across days or weeks, it only takes a matter of minutes. 

Why does RFID remain relevant despite digital disruption? 

 

Essentially, RFID uses radio frequency waves to transfer data wirelessly between a scanner and a tag. In contrast to barcode technology, which requires a stationary scanner, RFID tags can be pinged from anywhere in the world, allowing companies to track real-time movement through the supply chain. RFID tags can also scan unique SKU numbers and distinguish between varying product sizes, colours, and styles: a critical feature for increasingly personalised end-user products. 

 

Though the first patent for RFID tags appeared in 1973, higher accuracy rates, lower costs, and advances in sensor and data technology have made it newly accessible to a wide range of companies. Today, the technology is used in logistics networks, manufacturing and delivery networks in the pharmaceutical industry, and any business where efficiently tracking and monitoring product location is critical: raw materials, consumer products, cars, electronics, retail, and agriculture. 

What are the key benefits? 

 

Overall, automated track and trace solutions keep labour costs low, optimise operating costs, mitigate security risks, use capital effectively, and assist companies in adhering to regulatory requirements. 
 

Below are three in-depth dives into how RFID benefits major industries: 

 

  • Pharmaceuticals: RFID tags help manufacturers safeguard sensitive products such as vaccines, tracking where they are and when they will arrive in real-time. Sensors closely monitor temperatures to ensure regulatory compliance. If anyone tampers with a shipment, the sensors alert the company. 
  • Logistics: RFID identifies process gaps and frequent anomalies by monitoring a product’s lifecycle from shipment to delivery. This data helps decision-makers predict the most efficient routes and therefore optimise their distribution schedules. 
  • Retail: Sensors help guard shipments against theft and provide critical intelligence when shipments go missing. Before adopting RFID technology in 2203, UK retailer Marks and Spencer relied on barcodes to scan inventory. When they made the switch, their productivity increased from a maximum of 400-600 items scanned per hour to up to 15,000 items scanned per hour. Building on their initial success, the retailer expanded the use of the technology and is still using it today. 

Regardless of the industry, RFID promotes accuracy, immediacy, and efficiency. Companies reduce human error by automatically scanning products, keep track of inventory even in geographic locations with poor connectivity, and help streamline warehouse operations by identifying exact product locations. 

Which recent innovations have changed the game? 

 

With recent developments in cloud technology and IoT, a multitude of cloud-based alternatives have emerged to challenge traditional RFID technology. One of these cutting-edge solutions is Sony’s Smart Label - an intelligent shipping label that runs on AT&T’s global cellular network. 

As with any good innovation, Sony’s proprietary technology started with a customer need ready to be solved: the Bayer Crop Science Division lacked an international IoT solution that could track seed products from start to finish throughout its distribution channel. Millions of dollars of revenue stood at stake, so Bayer turned to Sony to develop a smart label that would set the organisation up to manage its supply chain with end-to-end visibility. 

Sony’s printable and disposable adhesive label allows companies to track the condition and location of their products worldwide and act upon the vast amounts of data it collects. The process is simple: the label activates when attached to the package, connects to AT&T’s secure LTE-M network, and sends data to the Smart Label Cloud in real time. 

In sharp contrast to other smart label solutions that place trust in a patchwork combination of Wi-Fi, radio-frequency identification, and other limited coverage connections, the Sony Smart Label connects solely through a secure and universally-available cellular network. “Working with Sony,” says Robert Boyanovsky, the vice president of Mobility, IoT and 5G at AT&T, “we provide full visibility of every item shipped.” 

Most importantly for companies on the edge, the Smart Label integrates with existing enterprise systems to achieve full visibility, thus adding value without disrupting supply chain process flow. 

Why is this important now? 

 

Companies that previously delayed introducing RFID and other automated track-and-trace technologies can capitalise on recent developments that lower costs, improve accuracy, and supercharge traceability. 

Clearly the technology has value in today’s uncertain global marketplace, and can help decrease the costs of tracking goods. To quote Christof Backhaus, the Project Lead at Bayer, “the Smart Label indicates how much product is in the market, from the packaging line to the end customer.” Companies no longer have to spend a small fortune to take advantage of recent IoT developments. “Due to the technical composition [of the label],” Backhaus explains, “we don’t require additional infrastructure, manual scanning, or other expensive tools.” 

Over the decades since RFID was first introduced, support for introducing it to company supply chains has also improved. AT&T’s IoT Professional Services Organisation, for example, supports companies through the end-to-end design and integration process--from installation to deployment and project management. 

Companies that invest in traceable and visible supply chain solutions stand the best chance of survival, adjusting in real-time to natural disasters, shipping backups, and slowed-down supplier turnarounds as a result of the global pandemic. “Smart Label promises to help businesses like Bayer realise the full potential of the IoT,” says AT&T’s Boyanovsky. “[We can] deliver improvements in revenue and cost savings and make supply chains more efficient.” 

Certainly, company executives will be hard-pressed to ignore recent innovations. In an age of uncertainty, RFID and its challengers herald a welcome sense of supply chain security. The next step? “Our sales team,” Boyanovsky adds, “is prepared to engage with prospective customers now.” 

 

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