Thoughts from our latest webinar with FreightWaves and General Mills

It’s not just shippers that stand to benefit from greater visibility and access to data across their supply chains.

Last week, I sat down with FreightWaves‘ Mary Anne Hensley and Joel Stamp, Manager, Transportation Business Partner Engagement and Capabilities at General Mills, to tackle that topic head-on. Together, we discussed some of the ways that carriers, too, stand to benefit from big data.

Here are some of the major takeaways from the session:

  • General Mills’ strategy for using FourKites will include “allowing late loads to be deprioritized from appointments at the dock, while also prioritizing early and on-time loads. We’ll be reducing not only detention costs but also dwell time for drivers who arrived early.”
  • Thanks, in part, to pressure from shippers reacting to high 2018 transportation costs, carriers are becoming more engaged in learning from their data and eliminating waste in their transit calculations. More accurate ETA calculations mean smaller buffers in the schedule and increased overall capacity. Less buffer = more drive time = more money.
  • The belief that tracking data can be detrimental to a carrier’s business is largely a misconception. Visibility can help carriers work more closely with shippers, and can also help improve service levels through collaboration.

With almost 400 attendees on the line, it was hard to get to everyone’s questions during the webinar. But we had some good ones, and I wanted to take a few minutes to address those here.

Is supply chain visibility a must-have?
This is one of the biggest trends we’ve seen developing over the past several years: The shift from supply chain visibility platforms as tools for tech-savvy early adopters, to mainstream adoption of those platforms by the masses. This shift has been driven by the growing necessity for accurate data from every point along the end-to-end supply chain. And this isn’t only the case for shippers. We’re seeing carriers both large and small getting more and more engaged in seeing the value in their data. Understanding transit times and machine learning-powered ETAs – which go far beyond the capabilities of Google Maps – is absolutely critical to staying competitive in today’s digital landscape.

In layman’s terms, where do you see the market headed for the smaller truckload carriers operating 5-75 trucks, and how they can embrace this type of technology to stay competitive?
One thing that I’ve noticed from working with carriers is that they often have a reduced voice because of the fragmented nature of the industry. Greater availability of data throughout the supply chain allows even small-volume carriers to have a seat at the table like never before.

Carriers need to adopt lean thinking and data-driven decision-making. The two should be synonymous. Shippers have been doing this for years, and it’s time for carriers to follow suit. If you don’t have the data, you can’t see trouble when it’s right there on your doorstep. Fortunately, for small carriers that can’t employ a full-time data person, FourKites can help fill the gap.

How does FourKites calculate its DynamicETA? Do you take into account speed restrictions for trucks?
I mentioned in the webinar how copying and pasting a Google Maps ETA is no longer sufficient for carriers to be able to provide good customer service. Google is great, but it’s designed for consumers, not for the logistics industry. FourKites was one of the first companies in the logistics space to start going beyond those Google Maps ETAs several years ago, when we started feeding data such as truck-specific routing information, HAZMAT restrictions, hours of service and much more directly into our platform. This allows us to calculate the most accurate ETAs specifically for the logistics space, which is a major competitive advantage – especially for smaller carriers whose competitors are still providing their customers with simple (and not totally accurate) Google Maps arrival times.

Is FourKites reliant on carriers for all data elements, or do you employ other sources to improve accuracy and timeliness?
FourKites is the largest network of supply chain data in the world. While the data that powers our platform certainly begins with carriers and shippers, it goes way deeper than that. FourKites utilizes data from hundreds of telematics providers, route-specific data points and much more to deliver highly accurate load-specific ETAs. All told, we’re combing through over 150,000 data points for every single load, and we’re tracking over 600,000 loads every day.

Does FourKites have the ability to interface directly into shipper TMSs to update arrival and departure statuses, or do you rely on carrier EDI or manual time stamp data management?
Yes! FourKites offers a suite of integrations that can be used to feed data from FourKites back into a TMS.

How long has the CarrierLink app been available?
FourKites’ CarrierLink app has been available since we started in 2014. Back in a time when the norm for supply chain tracking was cell tower triangulation and an always-on, opt-in model, which could be very invasive to driver privacy, we were encouraging CarrierLink use for both drivers who were concerned about privacy, and carriers who wanted better-quality tracking data for their loads. Back then, CarrierLink relied on native GPS tracking, rather than highly-variable cell-tower triangulation, and it granted drivers full control over when they were being tracked via a simple flip of a switch.

Over the course of the last few years, we’ve rolled out several big initiatives designed to make CarrierLink even better for carriers and drivers, such as the ability to handle paperwork digitally, streamlined facility check-in/check-out, Facility Profiles, which allow drivers to rate and read about various facilities (including parking information) and truck-specific turn-by-turn directions.

Do you have any new projects coming up that are specifically designed to benefit carriers?
While I don’t want to give anything away, we do have quite a few things in the works that will make it easier for carriers and drivers to do their jobs well. Some of our most recent releases in this area have been Facility Manager, Lane Connect, a new partnership with Truckers Against Trafficking, and a number of updates to our CarrierLink app.

. . . . . .

Better Collaboration Through Technology
The best way to optimize today’s supply chains is through clear communication and data transparency – among all stakeholders. Carriers need to learn how shippers make decisions, and shippers need to learn how carriers make decisions. That’s what FourKites is here to facilitate, both with our platform and through our growing community of shippers, carriers and 3PLs. By working together, we can redefine the industry and improve operations across the board.

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