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Given the overwhelming variability and uncertainty in today’s climate, especially over the last couple weeks, a number of food and beverage customers have reached out to us – both shippers and carriers – to see how we can help get their deliveries to where they need to go. FourKites’ CEO Matt Elenjickal has made it clear that we as a company stand behind the protests and the global movement for equality. At the same time, the turmoil that has consumed some of the nation’s most densely populated cities has led to delivery disruptions and store closures, resulting in additional stress on our already strained supply chains. 

In light of these requests, we’ve been working around the clock to find new ways for our platform to identify and respond to these dynamic challenges – be they mass gatherings, street closures due to restaurant reopenings, festivals, natural disasters, construction, worker strikes, or other events that cause disruption in and around retail and other dropoff locations. We’ve also been working to ensure that our users have the knowledge they need to leverage our existing tools to ensure that the food they are shipping into major cities is making it there with a minimum of delay, disruption and spoilage. 

Here are some immediate tips that supply chain leaders can action in their continued efforts to keep our supply chains running in an increasingly tumultuous time.  

Tip 1: Keep Tabs on Trouble Areas

More than anything, it’s important to first identify the areas where supply chain disruptions are more likely to occur, due to road closures, congestion, mass gatherings or events. There are a few ways you can go about doing this in the FourKites platform. 

First, our Executive Dashboard can give you a snapshot of the number of loads that have road hazards along their planned route, such as road closure, lane closure, congestion and more. Once you’ve identified at-risk loads, you can then view their current locations at once in the map, allowing you to better monitor their progress to their final delivery.

In addition to the Executive Dashboard, detailed information on the real-time status of ports of entry, border crossings and more can be found via FourKites’ Network Congestion Map. This tool also shows observed wait times and volume trends down to the city level, and is fully integrated with our CarrierLink mobile tracking application, allowing drivers and carriers to better navigate long wait times while on the go.

Tip 2: Closely Monitor High-Risk Loads

At any time during periods of mass gathering, there will be multiple loads that may need to be rescheduled due to road closures. Accurately predicting where these may occur, however, can be incredibly challenging, especially in the face of rapidly evolving information. This is where machine learning-enabled tools like FourKites’ Recommendation Engine can make a big difference; by leveraging our vast database of real-time transportation data to proactively identify loads that will not make it to their destination according to plan, customers can proactively manage their shipments with prescriptive recommendations for arrivals, departures and appointment reschedules.

Meanwhile, individual loads can now be marked with “Emergency” priority status, giving internal transportation management teams the ability to separate the signal from the noise and keep track of their most critical or at-risk loads. This can be done both directly within the FourKites user interface or using API commands. 

Finally, adding tags to your loads allows you to easily find high-priority loads, such as those that will be crossing cities or areas with ongoing protests. Tags can be customized in FourKites for any situation, product or SKU. Flagging these loads also gives you a historical record of how these situations have impacted your supply chain, allowing you to analyze and better prepare for the future.

Tip 3: Emphasize & Improve Communication

FourKites is, in many ways, a communication tool. It helps all interested parties stay on the same page about their shipments in transit by providing accurate, real-time information on the status of those shipments, coupled with the tools and forums that enable productive discussion among all stakeholders. In times like this, accurate, effective communication has never been more critical. 

One way to maintain open lines of communication is by utilizing FourKites’ Custom Zones feature to create geofences around major cities where protests or other events are taking place. This allows you and your partners to receive alerts when a load enters, exits or stops in those areas. Notifications can be sent via email, or you can choose to receive alerts directly in the FourKites UI. FourKites’ secure messaging and encrypted URL features can be used quickly and securely to send updated load information to everyone who needs to know.

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In many ways, the supply chain challenges we face today are not unlike those we’ve faced – and have overcome – in the past. Natural disasters, union strikes, major events and other periods of civil unrest have posed similar disruptions to those we’ve seen over the past several weeks. Having a foundation of real-time data is the critical factor that will empower you to thrive throughout any variability that comes your way by capturing up-to-date information, responding to exceptions as they occur and communicating critical information to all affected parties. 

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