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Visibility is a hot topic in Europe these days. I’ve heard it come up at nearly every conference I’ve attended over the past few months: BVL International in Berlin, CSCMP EDGE in Milan, Solutrans in Lyon, our own international summit in Munich… The list goes on. All around the continent, shippers are in the market for visibility.
There are various reasons for this. Like many other regions, Europe is in the midst of an ongoing driver shortage, and shippers want to better allocate staff and other resources where they are most needed. Sustainability is also top of mind among major shippers both within the supply chain and elsewhere throughout the organization. Add to that the generalized confusion around how, exactly, Brexit will impact European supply chains, and it’s clear to see why shippers are investing in efficiency, reliability and, necessarily, visibility.
The key to success with any visibility program is carriers.
Carriers are critical partners in the success of any visibility initiative. FourKites understands that we must approach carriers differently in Europe than we have with North American shippers. We often let the customer set the table for their carriers in terms of expectations, deadlines and rewards, while we execute the heavy lifting of getting each carrier integrated and tracking. In Europe, however, there are considerable barriers to this approach, which we’ve been working to overcome as we expand our reach in the region. Here are a few of the biggest obstacles we’ve encountered, and how we’ve been able to work around them.
European trucking makes up more than 70% of the content’s total transportation sector, and estimates only have it continuing to grow. It’s also highly decentralized, making it what the JOC has called “the continent’s most fragmented and savagely competitive transport sector.” In this way, the market is not so different from what we’ve encountered in the United States, where achieving carrier buy-in among a multitude of different organizations can be a challenging proposition at best.
In the US, however, there’s one official language to contend with. In Europe, you have 24. True, 90% of the continent speaks English, but the reality is that the finer points of every conversation vary from country to country, and the only way you’re going to pick up on them is by having someone on the ground who speaks the language. Since my office in Amsterdam got off the ground earlier this year, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the speed and efficiency with which we are able to onboard carriers throughout the whole of Europe, just by virtue of being able to send someone in person to get everyone on the same page.
One thing that truckers have in common around the world is a desire to protect their privacy, autonomy and independence. In the EU, however, that concern is once again brought into ever sharper focus by the addition of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). If you’re going to get carriers on your side in Europe, possibly more than anywhere else on the planet, you need to convince them that you’ve got their privacy concerns close at heart.
Here, too, it all comes down to relationships. GDPR compliance may seem like a box to check for any company that has dealings in Europe, but for people here it’s an everyday reality. And there’s a big difference between a page on a US-based company’s website that says, “We respect your privacy,” and someone standing in their office with a business card saying, “Let’s talk about all the ways we can help you better serve your customer, without sacrificing your privacy along the way.”
It may seem obvious, but giving carriers access to and control over their data at a macro level also goes a long way toward building a positive relationship that will serve both parties well over time. We’ve built tools that let carriers control who can see the locations of their trucks, when they can see it, and gives them the ability to turn off the data entirely if they wish. Meanwhile, they get the opportunity to view, analyze and act upon the exact same data the shipper sees – all filtered through and enhanced by the various capabilities of our platform.
It all boils down to equal partnership, no matter what type of company you are. When our carrier partners speak up about an enhancement they’d like to see, we listen. And if it’s within the scope of our capabilities to make that enhancement a reality, we do. It’s the same way we treat our shipper and 3PL customers, and we believe it’s a big reason why our platform – and network – continues to grow and thrive. We value the needs, knowledge and advice of constituents from all sectors of the supply chain, because as a highly interconnected ecosystem, the success of each individual is integral to the success of the whole.
Supply chain visibility is still a nascent industry around the world, and we are working to help that industry grow for everyone through not only better technology, but better education as well. Just last week, we launched our new continuous Learning Program, which is accredited by CSCMP and is the only such education platform dedicated to supply chain visibility.
Why are we doing this? Because, as they say, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Shippers and carriers alike stand to reap the benefits of better visibility. Just look at what Coca-Cola was able to achieve through leveraging visibility software and other high-tech initiatives: a 5 million crate reduction in safety stock! That’s a lot of plastic, and we want to help all of our users achieve results like that, and more.
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European shippers are demanding better visibility. Carriers are scrambling to fill that need and provide their customers with more data into their loads in transit by creating their own apps, installing ELDs and taking other steps to improve the quality of their location data. FourKites expedites that process by providing a ready-made solution that’s tried, tested and constantly evolving. We listen to carriers and adopt their suggestions into our platform. We give carriers ownership over their data. And we help educate the rapidly growing community of supply chain visibility constituents worldwide. We do all of this with the goal of eventually making the question of “Where’s my truck?” a thing of the past, no matter what language you speak.