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I joined FourKites six months ago as the VP of Network Enablement, kicking off the newest phase of my 17-year career in the supply chain industry. Having seen many angles of the supply chain over the course of my career, there’s one thing I know to be true: Every supply chain – regardless of industry, region or complexity – is vulnerable to unexpected disruptions that can derail operations. 

Supply chain leaders do their best to set up a predictable supply chain by rigorously forecasting demand and supply while utilizing continuous improvement programs such as Lean Six Sigma. But those measures only go so far in an unpredictable world. A traffic jam results in a late arrival by three hours, a product recall sends a sudden influx of inventory back to the warehouse, or a violent storm makes it impossible to ship product on schedule. 

Small errors can have an outsized impact; I’ve seen vendors and customers mistakenly record different appointment times for a shipment, derailing planned warehouse operations and negatively impacting customer service before a shipment even leaves the vendor. These risks of disruptions are countered by heavily investing in excess safety stock and labor. If you could remove one day of safety stock, what would be the financial benefit to your organization?

I joined FourKites because I believe in the power of real-time visibility to mitigate issues that arise at origin and in transit. When you can see these issues unfold in real time, you’re able to quickly adjust and implement a recovery plan to minimize disruption. Traditionally, real-time visibility platforms have been used only for the purpose of tracking managed freight (inbound collect and outbound prepaid), which can account for less than half of the freight coming into a large company’s network. But how do you achieve true visibility across your managed, prepaid inbound and customer pickup (CPU) outbound freight? The answer is simple: Leverage a common technology platform across your entire freight network. 

Network Effects

“Network effects” is a term that was coined when the original telephone networks took off more than a century ago. The basic idea is that a single telephone is completely worthless. Add a second and suddenly you have something useful. Keep adding phones and people, and the value of a telephone network multiplies. The same is true for supply chain visibility. As more companies implement supply chain visibility, the benefits for participating companies exponentially increase. Visibility has become the essential foundation to enable collaboration across a horizontal supply chain.

In my new role at FourKites, I’m excited to help every FourKites customer harness the benefits of belonging to the largest global supply chain network of shippers, carriers, brokers and 3PLs. Below are three areas of focus for myself and the Network Enablement team in 2020:

Facilitate connections between members of the FourKites network

As our network has expanded over the past six years, many of our customers have discovered that their suppliers and customers are also in the FourKites network, and they’re eager to share load-tracking information to increase visibility upstream and downstream. This is why we built Network Visibility, which makes it easy to share tracking information with partners on the FourKites network. On average, FourKites customers already have 17 vendors or customers on the platform with which they can start sharing – and we’re just getting started! 

Grow the FourKites network

As I mentioned earlier, the power of network effects lies in numbers; more members translates to more value! Most companies have thousands of vendors in their ecosystem, and some vendors are more crucial to operations than others. What if you need visibility into a vendor that isn’t already in the FourKites network? To address that, we carved out a path to joining the FourKites network without being a FourKites customer. With Network Visibility, FourKites will onboard your vendors into the network and automate tracking, so you can have visibility into every shipment coming into your warehouse.

Establish collaboration as the new norm in supply chain management

This sort of radical visibility can occasionally be met with some hesitation; nobody wants their mistakes or delays on display. But the benefits of network-wide visibility are far reaching, and lift up the entire ecosystem. Companies can identify potential disruptions early, and implement recovery plans with plenty of time to spare. They can reduce fines and dwell times at the dock with better appointment scheduling and labor planning. And companies can reward vendors who commit to transparency and visibility with more business and better payment terms. It’s inevitable that this sort of collaboration will become the new standard in our industry.

To learn more about Network Visibility and the unprecedented efficiency it can bring to your operations, please reach out to [email protected] and receive a free evaluation of your network.

Interested in other ways to tap into the FourKites network? Check out the FourKites Community, and opt in to Lane Connect to share capacity with other shippers in the FourKites network.

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