Logistics

A National Freight Data Hub … the first steps are already happening

At iMOVE our main focus is to form and manage research projects, particularly in circumstances that require co-participation of multiple stakeholders.

In this space last month (June 2019) I wrote about collaboration, because we see collaboration as playing a central role in coordinating the efforts of the many people involved in the development and improvement of the nation’s transport systems.

However, projects and collaborations are not amorphous blobs, nor are they ticks in a bureaucratic box. To be effective they require structure and leadership. Here, I want to acknowledge the leadership shown by our 44 partners when they stepped up at the beginning of the CRC and committed to make investments of their time, effort and resources into improving transport and mobility across the country.

Since then they have reinforced that leadership by taking action, starting initiatives, and getting projects to happen.

The recent news that the Federal Government is funding the design and trialling of a national freight data hub was universally welcomed by the freight and logistics sector.

The money, the scope, the timeframe

The government has set aside $8.5 million in the 2019 Federal budget for this project. This comprises $5.2 million for the hub design itself and $3.3 million ‘for the establishment of a freight data exchange pilot to allow industry to access freight data in real time, and also to undertake a survey of road usage for freight purposes. Work has already started and will continue over the next two years.

By the end of this time there will be an agreed approach on critical design elements for the Freight Data Hub, along with a business case, a roadmap for implementation, and system specifications, including hosting and interface options.

What data? And how?

The areas that will be vital to the successful creation of the Freight Data Hub will come as no surprise to anyone involved in data in any sphere. What data to collect and how? How to protect the data and maintain confidentiality and privacy? How to aggregate, access and share data and ensure fairness? How to physically host the data securely and ensure it remains relevant into the future?

iMOVE has been focused on these issues for a while now, as they apply to both the movement of people and freight. We held a workshop on the broad topic of ‘Data’ last year to identify possible project opportunities, and we continue to progress some of those conversations. The Freight Data Hub itself was a key recommendation in the Freight data requirements study, a project completed for the federal government by iMOVE in early 2019.

The Freight Data Hub represents the first important step in creating a coordinated digital approach for the Australian freight and logistics sector. In a competitive, a low profit margin industry, the injection of smarts to create efficiencies is vital to its success.

Real-time

Building on the outcomes of the Freight Data Requirements study by using available data to optimise parts of the supply chain is the next logical progression. I outlined some of the possibilities in an article last year (2018): Where’s my box? The case for improved supply chain visibility. Now! In the scenarios described in the article, the establishment of real time track and trace technology not only gives the operators a boost in efficiency, but it also enables customers and suppliers to know with confidence where their products are when they are likely to arrive.

More work on the way

iMOVE is committed to supporting the development of the freight and logistics sector through use of data and technology. There’s more happening on this behind the scenes here which I look forward to sharing with you in the near future. In the meantime we look forward to contributing to the discussions as the federal government moves its Freight Data Hub plan forward.

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