How to implement the ECTA digital data standards?

Are you ready for the SQAS 2025 revision addressing digitalization?

Digital collaboration and controlled data sharing amongst an ecosystem of actors is considered as a cornerstone in doing future logistics. By doing so, external data are used by each partner in a logistics ecosystem to improve its own decision making and customer service level. While the concept of digital collaboration is easy to understand, it still faces several challenges where the company and people mindsets towards digital collaboration form the biggest issue. Each of the challenges are explained below and are being addressed by ECTA and ECLIC:

1. digital best practice data standards

First, before any transactional “business to business” collaboration can take place between a chain of logistics partners, there is the need to use common data definitions which are defined in a digital best practice data standards

  • ECTA has been taking the lead and established already several digital best practice standards since 2019, which can be found here. The ECTA best practice data standards form the foundation.
  • Also ECLIC and EFTCO have been working on defining a digital industry standard like the eECD ( electronic EFTCO Cleaning Document) to the replace the standardized paper EFTCO Cleaning Document since 2018. Along the same lines, a digital eEQUIP industry standard got developed and implemented exchanging equipment master data.

2. Willingness to cooperate

A second challenge before digital collaboration can take place amongst a group of company actors, is that a diverse group of companies, suppliers and customers are willing to work together by exchanging data to improve safety, sustainability and to create new logistics efficiencies. In other words, companies with a common goal have to form a community or ecosystem that are willing to work together according to these industry best practices data standards.

  • ECLIC – the European Chemical Logistics Information Council is such a community, founded by ECTA-Ceficessenscia and EFTCO, that brings companies together in an ecosystem to discuss and digitalize Use Cases using the industry data standards as the foundation. As an example, in Q2 2024, ECLIC will further roll out its eECD 2.0 industry standard solution which will be translated into 6 languages.

3. Set up a "chain of trust"

A third challenge to implement industry data standards is that a trustful, connected data pipeline needs to be formed amongst all actors which is highly secured and forms a “chain of trust” to exchange data. That said, to implement these digital best practice data standards, this connected data pipeline needs to be secured, controlled and governed by data policies and governance rules. In addition, once data are exchanged they are maintained and stored de-centrally at company level so that the data provider can reap the benefits of the data exchange and not the central/federated IT platform. Something we see often happen with B2C social media or trade platforms which use data as a raw material and simply monetize data.

  • Again, industry associations do play a key role as neutral and non-profit “governance body” to ensure the data are used for a pre-defined purpose within the industry standard and are not used as raw material for other purposes without consent of the data provider. ECLIC is such as a community governance body, who is able to define the data sharing policies and rules amongst the ECLIC community partners and also extend these rules to the connected IT partners to avoid central data platform knowledge.

4. Change of mindset

Last but not least, to install data standards like the ECTA digital best practice guidelines, a complete change in mindset is required where individual company silo thinking need to be broken down to see the broader industry value picture, its industry competitiveness and digital benefits where we all know that using logistics paper documents like eECD and eCMR are not the future. Many companies do not embrace this digital change yet simply because digitalization costs money, it requires new investments/skills/talents and creates new business risks.

  • Industry associations have a role to play to prepare companies to change their digital mindsets and to facilitate the transition away from paper to digital e-document flows and this simply to let companies see the broader community sustainability values while making both the companies and industry more competitive.
  • While industry associations can define and promote the use of industry best practice standards, they can also trigger a shift in business benefits so that all companies joining such ecosystems have a more equal mindset and balanced financial win-win.
  • The existing Cefic-ECTA-EFTCO industry change management and continuous improvement vehicle used within Chemical Logistics to drive the overall safety and sustainability performance across logistics service providers is called SQAS. Therefore, we recommend all ECTA members to anticipate the digital SQAS 2025 revision whereby, already today, the SQAS 2022 pre-assessment document contains several digitalization questions.