The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) and GS1 Australia have announced a significant step toward the adoption and implementation of global data standards (GDS) to improve freight visibility and supply chain efficiencies in the logistics industry.

Acting on a recommendation from the ALC Technology Committee, the ALC Board has endorsed a policy statement that “ALC and its members work towards the adoption of GDS by all participants in the Australian logistics industry.”

The decision is driven by Austroads’ Research Report AP-R538-17 – Investigating the Potential Benefits of Enhanced End to End Supply Chain Visibility released in March 2017 followed by the Inquiry Report into the Priorities for a National Freight Strategy in May 2018.

The Report from this Inquiry encouraged “the adoption of global data standards and collaborative electronic platforms across all freight modes to streamline the exchange, comparison and understanding of data within the land, sea and air freight sectors.”

“ALC, its members and the industry will now work towards adopting and promoting the Australian Freight Labelling and Transport data exchange guidelines, an extensive body of work that was developed by industry in consultation with the ALC Supply Chain Standards Working Group and GS1 Australia and launched in 2016,” ALC’s Interim CEO, Lachlan Benson, said.

Based on GS1 global supply chain standards and best practice, the Australian Freight Labelling Guideline and Australian Transport EDI Guidelines provide one common label format for consistent identification of freight units and one common data file format to exchange data throughout the freight transportation process.

“The Austroads’ report examined industry pilots across multiple complex logistic supply chains operated by Toll Group, Nestlé and Liberty OneSteel (formerly Arrium OneSteel) to investigate end-to-end supply chain visibility improvements on multi-leg transport corridors using GS1 standards,” Bonnie Ryan, GS1 Australia’s Senior Manager – Freight, Logistics & Industrial Sectors, said.

The supply chain visibility pilots demonstrated that the use of global data standards would result in real-time visibility across multiple legs of a transport journey from origin to destination, improve interoperability across different service providers by leveraging a common tracking identifier, and increase productivity and reduce costs in the end-to-end supply chain.

“Based on the pilot findings, the economic benefit to Australia could exceed $1 billion,” Ms Ryan said.

To achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility and to support new technologies such as blockchain, it is necessary to establish common data standards for the consistent serialised identification and labelling of freight and transport units.

“GS1 supply chain standards enable parties across the supply chain to operate more efficiently with improved freight visibility using a common standard for identifying, labelling and sharing data relating to the movement of freight units,” Ms Ryan said.

“Enhanced freight visibility is a clear priority for logistics companies, and increasingly for consumers. The guideline will help industry participants implement the agreed GS1 standards to improve freight efficiency and visibility across all modes of freight transport,” Mr Benson said.

The ALC Technology Committee is now working to develop a proposed timeline for the adoption of the standards to be presented to the ALC Board for approval.

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