“LDB is a game-changing solution”: Interview with NLDS’s Surajit Sarkar

Interview with NLDS’s Surajit Sarkar

NICDC Logistics Data Services’ (NLDS) flagship product, the logistics data bank (LDB) is an overarching solution that integrates the information available with various agencies across the supply chain, to provide detailed real-time information within a single window. LDB was implemented across a number of ports and terminals with a view to leveraging information and communication technology and bringing efficiency to the supply chain. Since its implementation, LDB has brought about significant improvement in port performance, a reduction in container transit time and port dwell time. In an interview with Indian Infrastructure, Surajit Sarkar, chief operating officer, NLDS, talks about the contribution of NLDS to the logistics industry, its response to LDB, the timeline for implementation of LDB 2.0, emerging requirements in the export-import (exim) logistics segment, the role of digitalisation and NLDS’s future priorities. Excerpts…

What has been the contribution of NLDS to the logistics industry, especially in promoting efficient container tracking services in India?

The deployment of the LDB system by NLDS, formerly known as DMICDC Logistics Data Services (DLDS), has improved the performance of the logistics chain in India. NLDS’s flagship project, LDB, is a game-changing solution that uses internet of things (IoT), radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, big data and cloud-based solutions. It integrates the information available with various agencies across the supply chain to provide detailed near real-time visibility of exim container movement through a single window, that is, www.ldb.co.in. Currently, LDB has covered about 100 per cent of the country’s container volume. By now, over 38 million containers in the country have been tracked using LDB services.

NLDS recently extended its services to Nepal and Bangladesh, after the consent of the Land Port Authority of India to install RFID readers at the integrated checkposts at the India-Nepal and India-Bangladesh borders. The extension of services in Nepal and Bangladesh marks a successful growth story for NLDS and is a first step towards utilising NLDS services for improving global logistics.

The project has enabled quick decision-making and has improved the competitiveness of logistics and manufacturing industries. It has also provided better governance, transparent and visibility services for performance evaluation of ports, inland container depots (ICDs), container freight stations (CFSs) and the supply chain industry.

What has been the industry response with regard to LDB?

The use of LDB services has begun reflecting in the performance of the logistics chain, with shipment, warehousing and cargo consolidation witnessing improved dwell time after launching these services. This initiative has streamlined the container logistics operations at all major ports in India.

LDB has helped in bridging the gap among the various stakeholders in the supply chain by providing a common platform for their needs. It has generated visibility for containers during their transition, which, in turn, has created transparency and opened up competition amongst logistics operators to provide better services to end-customers, that is, exim-related companies. A competitive environment would help in reducing lead time and transaction costs for the exim process.

Unlike the existing scenario wherein trade is more dependent on middlemen, LDB provides visibility in terms of which port terminal operator has better performance and which CFS has better dwell time and route optimisation. This helps in planning the entire supply chain and taking informed decisions by users.

What is the timeline for the implementation of LDB 2.0? What are some of the upgrades being considered? What will be the potential benefits for the Indian port and logistics sector?

LDB has assisted in improving tracking and tracing capabilities in the Indian logistics sector. However, there are still a number of factors that require attention, including inventory optimisation, easy payment integration, cost reduction, secured information flow, just-in-time support, visibility of documents and logistics lead time reduction, besides integrated communication. In order to increase the scope of LDB through the deployment of new technologies, NLDS has proposed the introduction of LDB 2.0, which will enable efficiencies across other parameters of the Logistics Performance Index (LPI) in addition to tracking and tracing.

What are the emerging needs and requirements in the exim logistics segment?

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is home to some of the largest manufacturing facilities, delivering goods in both domestic and international markets. Global shipping has to be at pace with the moving economy. Currently, looking at the Covid-19 pandemic situation, there is a need for a common platform that could showcase the inventory of containers. At present, the logistics industry is facing a shortage of containers. We are in a situation to import empty containers so that goods can be stuffed in those containers and be sent for export. With the help of an inventory management system, the supply and demand of containers can be streamlined.

Second, there is a requirement to cut short the usage of paper. Like Singapore and the Netherlands, even we should start working on electronic bills of lading (eBL). The introduction of eBL is possible only if the implementation takes place in each and every port. To handle eBL, the platform should be common.

What is the potential role of digitalisation in meeting these requirements?

There has been a massive transformation in the supply chain industry in terms of digitalisation. Every stakeholder is trying to equip itself with the latest technology to cut down the time and cost and to make the process more efficient and effective. Stakeholders are trying their best to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) in their exim logistics segment.

As AI plays a crucial role, it can predict the event/transaction of goods in the logistics sector. Supply chain operations are complex but with the advent of AI and IoT-based technologies, we have been able to provide complementary insights into the whereabouts and status of goods and assets. All this data, put together, improves operational efficiencies.

What are NLDS’s top priorities for the next two to three years?

We are planning for extensive coverage in the coming years – connecting the hinterland with all Indian ports to maximise visibility and reduce logistics costs. Going forward, we intend to cover over 150 toll plazas and maximise coverage across CFSs and ICDs. We are further planning to track bulk cargo and extend NLDS’s coverage to all major special economic zones of India in the years to come. After achieving success in containerised cargo, we are now focusing on interconnecting all the stakeholders of Indian logistics in a single virtual data gateway by integrating Vahan, Sarathi, IEC, air cargo management system, etc. to digitally share data on a unified logistics platform. End-users can soon have a unified view of multimodal logistics, which, in turn, will increase our logistics competitiveness. w