Welcome to the latest episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast! In this episode, I chat with Ami Daniel, the CEO and co-founder of Windward, a maritime data and analytics company.
Ami and I discuss the power of data and how it can be used to improve supply chain visibility and efficiency in the shipping industry. We talk about Windward's innovative platform, which leverages AI and machine learning to provide real-time insights and predictive analytics for vessels and cargo, as well as the challenges and opportunities of working with stakeholders in the complex maritime ecosystem.
We also delve into the macroeconomic and regulatory factors affecting the shipping industry, the importance of focus and quality in data collection, and how Windward's customers, including freight forwarders, oil companies, and even the US government, use their data to gain insights and make strategic decisions.
If you're interested in the future of the shipping industry and how technology can transform it, you won't want to miss this episode!
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Things properly get manufactured in one place. Then consumed in another place. This cannot be done at scale without ocean shipping from a cost perspective, from an efficiency perspective, but also by the way, from a carbon emissions perspective. Air freight is great. It's fast, it's great when you order a notebook on Amazon. It's not as good when you wanna build a carTom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Digital Supply Chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. And just before we start, I would like to take a couple of seconds to thank sincerely everyone who has signed up to become a supporter of this podcast to-date. Helps me a lot. If you'd like to sign up to become a supporter of the podcast to help me continue creating informative and engaging episodes, simply click on the support link in the show notes or go to tiny url.com/d S C pod. You can make a small donation starting at just three euros. That's less than the cost of a cup of coffee, but it would really help me out. With that out of the way with me on the show today, I have my special guest Ami. Ami, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?Ami Daniel:
Thank you Tom. It's great to be here. My name is Ami Daniel. I'm co-founder and CEO of a company called Windward. We're a shipping plus AI company. We help people take better decisions on ocean related matters. Make more money or save money?Tom Raftery:
Okay. And just to set a bit of context, Ami ocean shipping, I mean, how important is that in the supply chain space?Ami Daniel:
So Ocean shipping is the backbone of supply chain and global trade, basically in a globalized world, which we still live in. I think, we can talk about geopolitics, but we still live in a globalized world. Things properly get manufactured in one place. Then consumed in another place. This cannot be done at scale without ocean shipping from a cost perspective, from an efficiency perspective, but also by the way, from a carbon emissions perspective, air freight is great. It's fast, it's great when you order a notebook on Amazon. It's not as good when you wanna build a car.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Fair enough. And Windward, how long has Windward been in operation now?Ami Daniel:
So 11 years now. We built a company back in the day where you couldn't see a vessel in the middle of the ocean. It was dark, you didn't know where that is. Let alone know what AI does and how you can predict the future. We built a company to bring visibility of the oceans and for many years, I think the sectors, which were more open to that were more of the public sector, by the way. It's still, until today, the US government is our biggest customer worldwide. But obviously in the last few years, uh, we've seen a big take up, due to geopolitics. Obviously the Russia, Ukraine war, is a big, has a big impact on oil markets and on the regulations and sanctions regimes. And obviously from, ports that now I think are much more open to being more efficient and digitalized as well as freight forwarders and shippers. I think everybody's getting there. It's still, there's still a lot of opportunity in an under digitalized sector, I think.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And in the last couple of months we've all been made kind of aware of how planes broadcast their position using their transponders and how you can track them online using the likes of FlightRadar. I'm assuming there's something similar that you guys are using for windward and ships correct?Ami Daniel:
Yes, correct. One of the, uh, sources is, it's called AIS. If, you go back to regulation, and originally I'm a naval officer, by the way, as is my co-founder. There is a treaty called Solas, the Safety of Life at Sea. And according to the SOLAS Treaty, you are required to transmit your location every two seconds. And you do that on a vhf, which is like the old Motorolas on cabs, like the black ones.Tom Raftery:
Yes, I can come and pick you up, I think. and it's supposed to be picked up by those around. In 2010, I think, the US Coast Guard had this idea, maybe we could pick it up from space, which today is a standard. So, absolutely. Today we've been tracking all the ships in the world for the last 10 years, and I think the expectation is that we know where every ship is all the time. And if you're not, we don't know where you are all the time. That might be a risk TomTom Raftery:
All right. And, this is completely left field, but I'm originally Irish and Solas- s o l a s is the Irish word for light,Ami Daniel:
yep, there you go. So why is it important that we know where ships are?Ami Daniel:
Well, I think we kind of take it as given that we know when ship where ships are. By now, I think if you don't know where a ship is, you have an issue. I think if you talk about supply chain, then it's not just about where a ship is, it's, if you think of it, I think you know where ship is, is raw data. And then you have process data, which I would say is where ship has been. What's the route, what's the schedule? That's still data. It still requires a lot of stuff. And then you have even more process there, which is where's my container? But still, if you have a hundred thousand containers, that's still kind of data why, are you gonna do this on every container manually? Really? Like until when? Although a lot of people still don't have that automated visibility in the supply chain, I think. Where we come into the picture, in our thesis, people need decision support and insight, not just data, which is not just where my container is, where the ship is, but is this ship going to meet the schedule by how much is it not going to meet the schedule? Which of my a hundred thousand containers or the 2000 right now in the water are gonna miss their connection, or their transshipment, which are gonna be rolled over? Which of where do I need to rebook my truck? I think that's a different level of insight, that the market is, I think, beginning to understand the difference. of yeahTom Raftery:
Okay. You've talked quite a bit about AI, but you haven't said what it is your AI is doing for your customers.Ami Daniel:
Oh, we need to say what it's doing. Can we just say AI and, and fancy? So let's take a step back. A lot of people say AI but don't really know what that is. So can I, can I explain simple terms what AI is?Tom Raftery:
please do.Ami Daniel:
It's a fancy word for math. That's it. It's a fancy word for math and statistics. So basically, people today, I think, understand that there are some problems which cannot be solved with the way a human conscious mind would think, which is, a, is influencing B and B is influencing C, and C is influencing D therefore, the answer is E. AI comes, I think handy when you have a multi-variate statistical problem, which you can't necessarily correlate in your brain instantly the influence, and I think ocean freight is a great example. If you have a ship with 10 ports or stops, if you will, like a bus, and it leaves the first port on time and the fifth port on time, it doesn't say anything on the fact that is or is not gonna come to the 10th port on time. That's a multivariate physical problem. You can't, your brain can't compute that. Now, you can't say, oh, there's good weather. It's all gonna be okay. Right. So AI is a, is an approach that by the way, you use it when it's appropriate. You don't use it when it's inappropriate. I think it's, by the way, it's very expensive, so you really need to use it only for the right things.Tom Raftery:
And we use AI across our business, soup to nuts, first of all to clean and process the data. And I'll give an example. Every time every two ships at sea do a ship to ship transfer or meet every time they in, in, a Zim vessel or a Maersk vessel bunkers, from a bunker barge, we know that automatically on every vessel. That's a deep learning model running in the cloud. So that's one layer. And then there's another layer of, predicting when a vessel will arrive. So we use deep learning, that's, called TCN, temporal convolutional networks, to run in the cloud concurrently on all the world fleet for the last two years, and predict when that vessel is gonna arrive. But that still isn't good enough for the ordinary shipper because actually they care about containers, they don't care about vessels. So we use another orchestration of AI networks to use another machine learning model to predict whether every vessel in the world would come on time to the transshipment and whether every container in the world will actually be loaded on that transshipment. So when you actually put a container number into our platform, you get the outcome of multiple AI or math models, to predict whether that container will arrive or not arrive on time. Is that a good enough explanation?Tom Raftery:
That's pretty good. Yep, it is. But you haven't mentioned, and it's probably just cause I haven't asked the right question, but for example, if a ship is on a bus schedule as you, as you alluded to, where it's doing 10 different stops on a route,Ami Daniel:
it's a bus. It's a nice bus. It's a big bus. I like the, I like ships, but they're buses.Tom Raftery:
And what if there's a, a strike or congestion in port number four, for example? Is that taken into account?Ami Daniel:
Yes. So the way AI works, it creates n number of connections between n parameters that it creates itself by itself on top of the data. So the key with building good and strong and repeatable AI model models is have great proprietary data. So if you don't have great proprietary data to teach the model, it sucks. That doesn't matter how good you are, it, it will just suck. So where we put that in play, so whenever we look at every vessel, we look last two years, we look at the weather at the point in time, every 60 minutes. In these two years. So there's actually multiple, when I say weather, it's multiple data points. It's swell, it's of a, the height of the wave, in the type of the wave and direction of the waves and the fog and the wind and so forth. As well as the buildup of the congestion that is also built into account. So all that is built into account. And as it builds, remember I said the, the models are running the clouds and something's called collaps, which I can explain if you want to, but it's a very technical thing. Then it recalculates everything, every whatever minute. So as the congestion builds up, actually your prediction will be different on the fly.Tom Raftery:
So Ami, the global supply chains have been in a lot of flux over the last two and a half years,Ami Daniel:
but they're starting to settle down, right? Things are getting better, so, do we need Windward anymore?Ami Daniel:
That's a great, great question. So, the question is why do you need stuff? Why do you need technology for I think from the very basic thinking way to think about it, I think a first instance is automation and efficiencies, i.e. savings. So we all know that global ocean freight rates has basically jumped off a cliff, since September, down from 11,000, I think, to about a $2,000 level. And it's probably near the pain point or the breakeven level. Plus I would even say that if you go down to the details of people who actually are in the know about carrier negotiations, carriers are even talking about kickbacks. So if you actually commit to a certain amount of shipments with them, they will give you a kickback. So you might, on paper it's 2000 bucks, but in, in effect it might be 1700 or 1600, or even 1400. So, so I think that's a bit of short term thinking, a) we humans and, and I think especially in the term in a downturn, everybody's looking to be more efficient. We know, and we've done that with some of our customers, that there is a huge amount of efficiency to be captured and to be saved. I think one of the case studies we've done is over 80,000 containers, we've seen customers save about $750,000. Only on efficiency. When I say efficiency, let's, can we just get, let's break it down one second. What, what does it mean people pick up, picking up the phone and calling MSC or Maersk or Zim or whatever and say, where's my container? People dealing with tickets from customers. Hey. Hello, Mr. Freight Forwarders, where's my shipment? Hello, Mr. Freight Forwarder, please rebook it. Understanding you do need to rebook. Automating the inputs and the outputs on the DnD calculation. So when you get a demurrage and detention calculation, you don't go need to go one by one. You can automate that on the global scale. And I think in a downturn, which I think is where we're heading right now in the world, obviously people are looking for efficiencies. So first answer is if you don't have to, but if you actually wanna be efficient, actually save money, then technology's a very good investment. So that's one thing. And I think where the world is, you know, supply chain is a pretty big space, Tom. There are millions of people. I think there are only 6 million shippers shipping into the US alone according to, Import Genius. And it's basically formal customs data in the US. So the vast majority of these people haven't yet done that. So take, and let's do kind of back of the envelope analysis, is that ok? All the customers of P 44, N four kites and us and Vizient and Forecast and Shipio and all these guys combined, for sure it's south of 10,000 customers. Without doubt. I would even say it's south of 5,000 customers. There's 6 million shippers to the US only. So, so I think when you look about at that perspective, it kind of shows that we're only the very, very, very early days of the journey in the supply chain space.Tom Raftery:
Okay, cool. And do you have any successful, well, you obviously have lots of successful, stories, but do you have any good customer stories? You can tell some outcomes of what you've been doing.Ami Daniel:
So I think when you talk about success, the question is how do you measure success? I think we measure success in the success of our customers and in good case studies with Metro Shipping in the UK, they've been our customer for over a year now. They're using our technology. So first of all, they've seen double the amount invested in customer service and in a downturn where people are really scrapping for capacity, if you will. And I would expect it's the carriers, but I would expect there's also, uh, a healthy competition right now between freight forwarders because if demand is down, right, and I, I've spoken to, one of the experts I know in this space, and he said l yesterday, that he thinks that container volumes are 30 to 40% down because a lot of the shippers to the US and Europe have, front loaded their containers in back in March. And therefore the warehouse capacity and the inventories are pretty damn high. So that means that, you know, there's 30% less work to go around and the price, and you, and you take a slice off the margin, right of the mar of the price. So the price is 2000 bucks, not 11,000 bucks. Now it can be a big impact. So for a company like Metro and freight forwarders, I think being able to double your investment in customer service, I think gives you a pretty good shot at getting more at getting the business you want this year. They've also seen 10 to 15% reduction in the margin attention. Just by automating the process, understanding where every container comes in, comes out. Actual time arrival. Actual time departure where we have about a hundred percent coverage. And I think that something's pretty compelling to shippers right now, whether they work directly or with freight forwarders. Obviously in downturn you want efficiency and you wanna save, and you can save a whole lot on DnD. That's a pretty manual space at this point. Does that make sense to you as an example?Tom Raftery:
Yeah, that's pretty good. It is indeed. What kind of trends because, you know, we are now at the start of 2023. So what kind of trends are you seeing for, shipping for the next 12, 24 months?Ami Daniel:
Yeah. First of all, I think we, we should talk about, ports as part of the ecosystem. I think they're a less spoken of part of the supply chain, which is important. And I think these guys are starting to look more and more in how they, they improve efficiency. And some of these have been doing that with us. It's a very under digitalized world and it's pretty manual. So being able to measure its skill on the fly, your turnaround efficiency in every port in the world, and compare it to every other port or terminal in the world, on the fly gives you as a CEO, CIO, CTO, a pretty good handle on how to make yourself more efficient. So I think, that's one thing we'll be hearing more and more of. I think that's an under digitalized space where people will be leaning into. The second is we're gonna see 35% of new builds coming online within the coming, let's call it 18 months. If freight rates have jumped off a cliff,Tom Raftery:
by, by new builds do you mean new ships?Ami Daniel:
Yeah, yeah. Sorry about that. New ships. Yeah, uh, new ships have that have been built. Thank you. So, so that means if, if there's an over capacity now just wait and see what over capacity is. You have the CII, the carbon intensity index. It's coming online in 2023 and it's gonna be taxed in 2024. So at this point, first of all, a lot of people in the industry from Cargill to Maersk, and a lot of other people have been saying that CII doesn't necessarily make sense as a metric. And they doubt kind of the definition, but still they don't define it. They play within the definitions. And right now the only way to actually meet that CII is to sail slower. So, so there's a correlation between the fuel you burn and the speed. This is what's called an eco speed. And between the fuel you burn and the emissions, basically emissions is, is, fuel times 3.2. So in a world where the carriers will need to meet that CII, there's a good chance you'll see vessel sail slower, which on a global, which by the way might serve their needs because if they wanna ramp up the price they need to reduce the supply. And if their ships are selling slower, by definition, they're doing more form, less protocols, you need more ships. So it's all part of the same picture. So I think that's where we're gonna see. I still think the digitalization is gonna be a big thing. As I said, I don't see more than 5,000 current customers for visibility. So I think we as humans tend to get tired of trends, but really in its very basic form, and I've gone through this in marine insurance, digitalization, its definition, sorry, digitization. You know, there's a difference between them. Did you know?Tom Raftery:
Yeah. Yeah.Ami Daniel:
So a lot of people didn't know, but digitization means just making something, computerized, right? Not. Digitalization is digitalizing how you make you do business. So I think there's a whole lot of savings to be, reaped from, providing automated visibility, automated ETA automated connectivity, and I, for one am a big believer in ecosystems. So I think people think about freight forwarders or shippers or ports or carriers as different groups. I think they're closely interconnected and technology has the hope and the capacity to connect them and make things frictionless.Tom Raftery:
Oh, okay, and where are to next for Windward? What are your plans for the next three to five years?Ami Daniel:
Well, we set on a path, we took the company public a year ago, in London. Obviously it's been a tough market for capital markets. You know, you need to be a rocket scientist to know that unless you've been living under a rock, and I think it's part of a macroeconomic space. I'm sure the, the listeners all know that, but, basically when interest rates go up, you have an alternative to, to put your money, get 6% interest, and that means the less money going to capital markets and private companies and so forth. The second is I think, on my behalf, and I know this is Supply Chain podcast, we're a tech company, so I think it's worth talking about it. I think it's been a moment of reckoning in the last few months for tech companies. A lot of companies either have not making revenue. We have from day one. Or haven't been profitable. So I think, turning the profit is high up in my priority list and I think we'll be very laser focused on that, within the next 12 months, because I think that's the right thing to do for the business. Lastly, we've gone the journey and we just got into the supply chain business about a year ago, and I think that's our main focus. So the main part of the company is working on that. I'm a big believer in reducing friction and creating more communication and collaboration between these different segments, which are carriers, ports, freight forwarders, and shippers. We also have a big chunk of regulators. So the US government is our biggest customer in the world, and therefore we believe they're also an important part of the ecosystem. And I think our focus a, figuring that out and how we create a network effect and a value add between all these people. Which means you don't just buy a product, you become a part of the community. Uh, if that makes sense.Tom Raftery:
and I'm, I'm curious, why is the US government interested in, in the, the data that you're providing?Ami Daniel:
not, they're not shipping.Ami Daniel:
No, they're not shipping, but, but A, for maritime security, B for sanctions, uh, enforcement. C for, for the Jones Act Enforcement, which is a big thing in the us.Tom Raftery:
What's the Jones Act?Ami Daniel:
You're basically not supposed to ship things in the US now with the US flag. That's the simple version. so there's a lot of fines for that. It's an act that supports US businesses, basically.Tom Raftery:
Uh, uh, you said it. I said it, it's an act that, that supports US businesses. Well, you could also call it protectionism. Yeah. But, you know, not my policy. Right. Um, so, so all these good things are being done with their, uh, with our platform and increasingly being used to build for use cases beyond that. You could, because you've been looking at every vessel in the world and how it's being operated for the last 10 years, then you could consume that at scale via API Insights lab and you can actually cross scroll it that with phones or with bills of lading or with anything you could even think of. So that provides a lot of potential, I think, for people who wanna figure out that big blue thing called an ocean. Oh, and I didn't say that, but illegal fishing and abused labor is a big thing. The US just sanctioned a couple weeks ago the first ever, company traded on Nasdaq, I think, it's a fishing company based in China. So I think that's a big thing.Tom Raftery:
Okay, so we have regulators and we have shippers and ports. Who else are your customers or potential customers?Ami Daniel:
Freight forwarders, obviously. We work with a lot of oil companies, so BP, Shell, Socar, Litasco, you know, these guys. Banks are our customers. They're a close part of the trade finance ecosystem. So basically every cargo, let say, is being financed. and obviously shipping companies as well, so they're all part of the same ecosystem, I think. Okay.Tom Raftery:
And any interesting insights you're getting from this data?Ami Daniel:
Yeah, for sure. I think first of all, reliability is indeed, going up, I think at, at scale, but in specific areas. It actually is, is still really inconsistent. I think via our Port Insights publication that was co-developed with industry experts, and you could put a link to the, uh, listeners here. You could see that there's actually context to growing or reducing congestion. I'll give an example. If you wanna ship to East Coast US, you can do this with Charleston, or Savannah, or, or New York or a couple other places, but actually there's a big difference within their efficiency now and the way we see it going forward. So I think that's something that on a global scale, if you can measure transit times, it can really make sense. So obviously LA LB is being cleared. There are places that are being upped in terms of congestion, like Purels, which is like 17% up in congestion. but I really encourage everybody to look at the Port Insights publication. Some shippers take it as data. Some just use the online dashboards. Some use it to do strategic planning, of their shipments, and also carrier negotiation because different carriers have different routes and can offer you different options. So I think it's a pretty good thing to look at.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic. Cool. We're coming towards the end of the podcast now, Ami, is there any question that I have not asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to think about?Ami Daniel:
I think it's important to think about focus. So on my behalf, I spent some time with Nest VP Ocean one of the biggest freight forwarders and you know, we were talking about staffing. He tell to tells me, we ocean people we're different. I was like, cool, what do you mean? Says, you know, I'm a shipping guy, you know, I don't do trucks, I don't do airplanes. I have a shipping guy, you know, I was in ships, I know ships, you know, it's my friends, it's my ecosystem. And, I think that strikes a chord with me. You know, I, I just spent some time with a CEO of a shipping company and all their team, like a couple hours ago, and with the big port operator yesterday. I think it's a matter of focusing on language. I think ocean shipping isn't just statistical data points on a map, it's an expertise. The data is in the details. So for me, it's a big enough market for all approaches. End-to-end like the P 44 s and the four kites in the world, or best of breed like we expect to have. I think both of them, by the way, you can think of it at Apple versus Samsung. So in Apple you have a closed ecosystem. You either do it via Apple or you don't do it at all. Samsung, you know, Android, take whatever you want. I think both are legit and I think every company should think about what's more important for me. Do I wanna have best of breed or I wanna have it all in one? And just know you, you're gonna pay some price for each. Best of breed you're gonna pay more for more integration all in one you're gonna probably pay for data quality, or get a lower data quality with no predictions and so forth. So I think it's an important discussion to have in the industry that I'm not seeing enough. And I also think that I think people should look more at, the quality, not just binary. As industries evolve, and if you ask any professional in the industry, they know the, state of the quality with ocean freight is pretty bad quality data. So you could have 60% coverage, which means, in other words, you get data back for 60% of containers or no ETs at all and no predictions. So I think as the industry evolves, it's less about do I have it, do I not have it? Its, do I have what it needs to actually save money and be more efficient or do I not? I think that's where the rubber hits the road.Tom Raftery:
Cool. Cool. Fascinating. Okay, if people would like to know more about yourself, Ami, or about Windward or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today. Where would you have me direct them?Ami Daniel:
Google. Just write Windward or Windward Ami Daniel or Windward dot ai. I'm sure you'll find us.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Super great. Amy, that's been fantastic. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.Ami Daniel:
Thank you, Tom for having me. It's been a pleasure.Tom Raftery:
Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, simply drop me an email to TomRaftery@outlook.com If you like the show, please don't forget to click Follow on it in your podcast application of choice to be sure to get new episodes as soon as they're published Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find a show. Thanks, catch you all next time.