DHL’s Trend Report on 3D Printing and Future Supply Chains

dhl-3d-printing-study3D Printing is an interesting invention which foresees some radical developments in the manufacturing and logistics space in years to come. It also suggests that Customs administrators need to monitor these developments as they may likewise have a profound effect on how the actors in this space operate, including possible changes to legislative and compliance models.

DHL has released its latest Trend Report – 3D Printing and the Future of Supply Chains. DHL has been testing a variety of both 3D printing hardware and techniques for several years and has identified applications that have potential to redefine manufacturing and supply chain strategies. While the 3D printing market is estimated to grow between US$180 billion and US$490 billion by 2025, the report however finds it will not become a substitute for mass-production but a complementary process.

Ther report recognizes 3D printing as a transformative technology. However, it is not a magic bullet that will render factory mass production and manufacturing obsolete. Its exciting potential lies more in its capability to simplify the production of highly complex and customizable products and spare parts – and this could bring logistics and manufacturing closer together than ever before.

Also known as additive technology, 3D printing involves manufacturing products by layering heated plastic or metal injected from the nozzle of a 3D printer onto a plate to create a three-dimensional object, potentially replacing processes such as forging and molding at a fraction of the cost. It can lead to improved product quality, multiple products being made by a single printer, new types of products – and new supply chain strategies and models.

Factors currently limiting more widespread adoption of 3D printing – around since the 1980s – include lack of management knowledge, economic and technological issues. Many printers can use only one material and costs are still high for industrial-grade 3D printer. As well as facing warranty, liability and intellectual property issues, 3D printing needs to become faster, more agile and more advanced before it can become a core production technology.

Ther report highlights opportunities for companies to team up with logistics providers offering 3D printing. These areas include ‘spare parts on demand’, a model that would cut enterprise storage costs; ‘end-of-runway services’ for fast production of time-sensitive parts, and ‘product postponement services’ to increase customization options and simultaneously reduce lead time to the customer. Source: DHL

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WCO declares 2017 to be the year of Data Analysis

wco-icd2017The Secretary General of the WCO, Kunio Mikuriya, announced today that 2017 will be dedicated to promoting data analysis under the slogan “Data Analysis for Effective Border Management.” WCO Members will thus be called upon to further promote their efforts and initiatives in a sector that is becoming a key element in Customs modernization process: collecting and analysing data.

Customs has a substantial amount of data at its disposal, such as data submitted for the Customs clearance process. Customs can also tap data from other government agencies, commercially available databases, and open source information platforms such as digitized global public records and multilingual news sources.

Moreover, physical objects are nowadays embedded within electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data, a phenomenon known as the ‘Internet of things’.

Simply collecting data for its own sake, however, is not sufficient and Customs administrations may face the risk of being overwhelmed with an avalanche of data. Data only has value when it is used effectively and efficiently. It is critical, therefore, that Customs administrations leverage data to make informed decisions, especially given the sophisticated and evolving challenges that Customs administrations face every day.

Data analysis can propel Customs to new levels of success in both compliance and facilitation, by enabling it to:

  • improve risk management which supports enhanced detection of irregularities, illicit consignments, the suspicious movement of people and financial flows, and the facilitation of legitimate trade;
  • learn from historical activity to predict trader or passenger behaviour;
  • engage with other government agencies to leverage their experience and expertise;
  • conduct quantitative research for purposes of building knowledge;
  • enhance performance measurement to improve officer practices and integrity. Data analysis thus can greatly support the core Customs’ objectives of revenue collection, border security, collection of trade statistics, and trade facilitation.

“To achieve these benefits, Customs administrations should make data analysis a strategic priority and acquire cutting-edge technology, establish appropriate automation policies, and recruit experts to collect and analyse data, and act upon the data-driven insights”, said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.

There are of course potential obstacles to an optimal use of data, such as the lack of qualitative data, data that has not been integrated or merged, lack of harmonization of data across border agencies, lack of skilled resources, IT infrastructures and cultural challenges. In addition, it is vital that appropriate privacy and confidentiality laws be respected.

“Data analysis and related challenges will be thoroughly discussed within the WCO during 2017, and at events such as the Information and Technology Conference, the Global Conference on Transit, and the Technology and Innovation Forum”, Dr. Mikuriya added.

As part of this initiative, the WCO will enhance the promotion of tools such as the WCO Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) which is a global Customs seizure database; the WCO Time Release Study (TRS) which is a methodology for measuring border agency clearance times; mirror analysis which involves using the HS Code to compare imports (or exports) of a country with exports (or imports) reported to the country by its trading partners to detect gaps in terms of quantities, weight or value that may reveal fraudulent flows or practices; the use of performance measurement to improve Customs procedures and integrity, such as through the techniques presented in the WCO Performance Measurement Contracts Guide; and the Data Model which supports data analysis by improving data collection and enabling the sharing of data between government agencies.

The WCO’s annual theme will be launched on International Customs Day, which is celebrated annually by the global Customs community on 26 January in honour of the inaugural session of the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) which took place on 26 January 1953.

The WCO invites the Customs community to mark 26 January 2017 in their diary. Source: WCO

SARS Management benefits from the WCO LMD Workshop

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As part of its Capacity Building programme, the WCO organized a Leadership and Management Development (LMD) workshop from 14 until 25 November 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa. Nineteen middle managers of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) were inspired to strengthen their leadership and management capacities, as well as their personal effectiveness to drive reforms within their organization. The workshop was made possible with the support of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During a meeting with a delegation of executive management at the end of the LMD workshop, participants were invited to not only implement their newly acquired skills and insights in their own units, but to also continue learning and developing themselves as well as the whole organization. A first follow-up meeting to that end was immediately planned.

In the LMD workshop participants learned that knowing yourself and self-awareness, managing strategically, people management, outstanding communication skills and change management are very important to address SARS’ future challenges. The participating managers were extremely participative and showed a strong motivation and commitment to know, improve and manage themselves, in order to have a great and positive impact on others, as well as on the organization. With personal testimonies at the end of the workshop participants demonstrated their motivation to bridge the gap between policy making and organization-wide implementation of changes.

In the near future SARS will implement its own Leadership and Management Development programme. For further development as a regional centre of expertise in this LMD domain SARS and WCO plan to strengthen their cooperation.

For more information on the WCO Leadership and Management Development Programme, please contact Capacity.Building@wcoomd.org. Source: WCO

Why dogs’ noses out-sniff the most advanced bomb detectors

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In 2010, after spending six years and $19 billion on research to develop better bomb detecting technology, Pentagon officials admitted that dogs’ noses were still superior to their most sophisticated technology. Now scientists say the reason for this might lie simply in the way they sniff.

In her book Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, an assistant of psychology at Barnard College, offers an analogy to show just how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is: while we might be able to tell if a teaspoon of sugar has been added to our coffee, place the same amount in a million gallons of water (roughly the equivalent of two Olympic-sized pools) and a dog would most likely be able to detect it.

This ability to single out and pick up even the faintest of odors is what makes dogs invaluable as bomb detectors. They can detect trace explosives in crowded settings such as airports and public transit areas, as well as odorless chemicals like TNT.

However training pooches to be effective bomb detectors is expensive and time-intensive. While all dogs have a superior sense of smell, not every breed is trainable. Hence the on-going quest to develop an e-nose that can equip bomb detectors with the canal physiology of dogs.

In the latest development in this arena, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory and the US Food and Drug Administration have found that the way a dog sniffs could shed light on how to improve trace detection capabilities.

While we don’t differentiate between breathing and smelling, a dog, with its far more complex nasal system, treats them as two separate functions. According to Matt Staymates, a mechanical engineer at NIST, apart from having a complex olfactory system, the key to what makes dogs so good at sniffing out bombs is, well, in its sniff. This is a two part-process and key to this is what happens when it exhales.

Breathing and smelling are treated as two separate functions in a dog’s nose. When it inhales, the air is channeled into two different paths and when it exhales, the air exits through the sides of its nose so that the exiting air doesn’t interfere with its ability to smell. As counterintuitive as it might sound, when it exhales, the outgoing air jets “entrain—or draw in—vapor-laden air toward the nostrils. During inhalation, the entrained air is pulled into each nostril.”

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Using a 3D model of a Labrador retriever’s (one of the most commonly used breeds in bomb detection) nose to mimic how dogs sniff, and together with the help of schlieren imaging – a technique used for imaging the flow of air around objects – and high-speed video, Staymates and his team were able to confirm the above conjecture.

In their first set of experiments, they found that compared with trace-detection devices that rely on continuous suction, the artificial dog nose was four times better 10 cm (3.9 inches) away from the vapor source and 18 times better at a stand-off distance of 20 cm (7.9 inches).

When they integrated it with a commercially available vapor detector, the switch, which enabled it to sniff like a dog rather than inhale in its standard 10-second intervals, improved its ability to detect odors by a factor of 16 at a stand-off distance of 4 cm (1.6 inches).

This research team is not the first to study how the canine sniffing abilities can be used to develop a better bomb detector. In 1997, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched the Dog’s Nose program for this purpose. One of the technologies to emerge from it was a chemical explosives detector called Fido, which was modelled after the canine nasal physiology.

However while there have been various attempts to develop a canine e-nose over the years, the results, while promising, have not yet resulted in a breakthrough for the industry. Reliability as well as the ability to detect things at a distance remain a challenge and while this latest study confirms yet again the dog’s remarkable olfactory prowess, it is “just a piece of the puzzle,” as Staymates notes. “There’s lots more to be learned and to emulate as we work to improve the sensitivity, accuracy and speed of trace-detection technology.” Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST