Although there are already some standards for information and communication systems to manage transport and logistics operations, it is apparent that a paradigm shift in interoperability is needed if logistics efficiency is to be improved, and political goals of reducing the environmental impact of transport are to be met. One example of an industrial initiative in this direction is the development of a new Logistics Interoperability Model (LIM) by GS1. Behind the LIM proposal are large manufacturers and logistics services providers (LSPs).

A number of EU funded research and development projects have been addressing the issues of information and communication technologies in transport and logistics. While industry led initiatives often started from large companies, EU funded projects have also included SMEs as users of interoperability standards. The DiSCwise project was launched in order to specifically address this issue even stronger, also demonstrating the use of ICT solutions in practice that would support SMEs to use such standards.

To date, these projects have been quite autonomous and there has been little coordinated contact between them. This has, however, now changed. The partners in a number of ongoing projects have realised that there are significant benefits to be gained from better cooperation, a view which is also shared by the EU Commission. DiSCwise has been closely involved in achieving concerted action on the part of these projects, with the specific added value of its focus on SMEs and the validation of the interoperability framework by industrial pilots in which SMEs were key participants. Part of that validation is also the interconnection with the Descartes Global Logistics Network (GLN), showing how interoperability can be ensured to a large logistics platform that connects a multitude of logistics actors, each with their own ICT systems.

 One major outcome of this joint initiative to significantly improve interoperability is the development of a Common Framework for exchange of information between ICT systems in transport and logistics.

The Common Framework supports interoperability between commercial actors and communication to authorities and transportation network responsible - to make the best possible use of the available transportation infrastructure, provide appropriate supply chain security, and support compliance requirements. To drive the required paradigm shift, the Common Framework addresses interoperability issues at two main levels in a technology-independent way. At the process and information level, the Common Framework is developed to ensure that only necessary and sufficient information is being exchanged, that the number of messages and their complexity is kept to a minimum, that the messages are unambiguous and that there will essentially be no need for business process harmonisation. At the architectural level, the framework builds on open services platforms and self-configuring logistics networks and devices - to support Intelligent Cargo, Single Windows and other mechanisms for collaboration and monitoring.

The Common Framework approach lowers the cost for companies to electronically connect in transport and logistics, without forcing those who already have invested much in the area to stop using what they have. Close cooperation has been established with standards organisations. In addition to being deployed in industry, the Common Framework will provide a mechanism for current and new research and development project to provide interoperability of relevant results.

To read more about One Common Framework for Information and Communication Systems in Transport and Logistics, click here.