Supply Chain Security Poses Opportunities, Obstacles

With Hurricane Rita poised to hit Texas, showgoers at the Maritime Security Conference in New York grappled with how to implement supply chain security technologies adept at handling both physical disasters and terrorist attacks.

With hurricanes and transit bombings top-of-mind, vendors at this weeks Maritime Security Conference talked up supply chain security technologies, while customers pointed to implementation hurdles that include costs, complexities, and the still emerging status of industry standards and regulations.

As Hurricane Rita geared up to strike the Texas shoreline, speakers at the show in New York peppered their presentations with remarks around the urgent need to develop supply chain and other IT systems capable of dealing with all types of natural and manmade disasters.

On the one hand, the success of video surveillance cameras in catching four of the London subway bombers represents a great recent example of how technology can help, according to several attendees.

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But needs for new technologies remain rampant, and some customers expressed very specific requirements. At the close of one session, for instance, Harold W. Neil Jr., director of transportation for the state of New Jersey, said that sensor technologies available today still arent adequate for sniffing out the sorts of stuff that might show up in biochemical terrorist attacks.

By and large, corporate customers want supply chain security technology that will let them comply with government requests for information sharing, while at the same time protecting product data from their competitors, said Thomas Wilson, managing director of Global Trade Management for systems integrator BearingPoint.

"[Some companies believe that] this data is sensitive [if it lands] in the wrong hands, and that it shouldnt become part of the public domain," according to Wilson.

But at the same time, growing numbers of corporations are working with each other and government agencies to create a single "truly end-to-end solution" for port and supply chain security, said Sandra Scott, director of international relations for logistics specialist Yellow Roadway Corp.

"One goal [for corporations] would be to get their shipments expedited [through customs agencies]," according to Scott. "Companies also want to be able to provide their data in any format."

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As one effort along these lines, Scott cited ADTA (Advanced Trade Data Initiative), a program launched by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Also at the show, Jerry Cook, vice president for government and trade relations at Sara Lee Branded Apparel, said he sees an opportunity for the IT community to create an "integrated system for understanding risk [and] threat."

Next Page: Future security requirements.