Last week, for our Virtual Carrier Summit, titled Carrier & Broker Operations: Efficiency, Growth, Collaboration, we brought together close to a dozen supply chain leaders across the logistics industry at large, to talk about the future of business for brokers and carriers. Hailing from all across the country, they represented shippers, brokers, carriers, transportation management systems and more.

We had three tremendous panel discussions – focusing on growing your business with visibility, driving efficiency and agility, and the practicalities of getting up and running with visibility – but I want to take the opportunity here to focus on one of our panels with Nick Cook of FFE Transportation Services, Jeff Tucker of Tucker Company Worldwide, George Henry of USA Truck and Tim Higham of AscendTMS. The group gave us an outstanding cross-section of the carrier and broker community that was able to speak to just about all of the questions, concerns and observations raised by our 1,000+ attendees.

If there was one thing that was made abundantly clear, it’s that supply chain visibility is 100% foundational to our “new normal”. Shippers and brokers are looking for carriers that can provide them with the visibility they need. Carriers that can provide that will have an opportunity to build relationships with new carriers and brokers, while carriers that wait too long will find that they are late to the game and have lost valuable opportunities to the earlier adopters.

Let’s take a deeper look at how visibility is taking hold throughout the broader transportation ecosystem at large.

Data Begets Business

“None of these shippers want to be doing business with anybody who can’t connect with them in a digital fashion.”

            – Tim Higham, Founder/President, AscendTMS

“Visibility increases your odds significantly to get freight from us.”

           – Jeff Tucker, Owner, Tucker Company Worldwide

The first big takeaway from the summit was that data is not just the way of the future. It’s the way of the present. More and more, shippers are turning away from carriers that don’t meet their requirements for connectivity, and brokers are increasingly awarding freight opportunities to the drivers and owner-operators that won’t need a lot of time and resource investment to get up running with a visibility platform.

Even if this kind of connectivity isn’t a requirement as of this moment, it’s only a matter of time until that changes. No matter what size carrier you may be, you don’t want to be the company that gets left out in the cold when everyone else has moved their operations into the digital arena.

Data Makes You Better

“We’ve saved countless loads that would have delivered late and missed customer expectations if [FourKites] Recommendation Engine hadn’t flagged it.”

           – George Henry, SVP Logistics, USA Truck

“We were picking up 7,000 shipments per week. At any given time we’ll have 22,000 shipments in the system. You just can’t hire enough people to track that stuff internally.”

           – Nick Cook, VP/CIO,  FFE Transportation Services

Collecting better data across your operation doesn’t just help the shipper. As Jeff Tucker said during the summit, “Tracking enables carriers and brokers to have better, concrete information throughout their entire operation. You can keep better tabs on your assets for security purposes. And you can spot areas where you might be able to squeeze a little more efficiency out of your operation.” Anyone who chooses to fly blind in this day and age is missing out on valuable business opportunities.

Now, many carriers are still wary of giving their data to anyone who doesn’t have a need to know – and that’s exactly how it should be. More and more, your data is the lifeblood of your company. It should never be given away without a good reason. But the flip side is that this wariness shouldn’t be an excuse to avoid leveraging your data with a technology that both protects that information and can add real value to your business.

Data Isn’t Difficult

“One of the points that really drew me to FourKites that was different than others was the investment that the organization had made to onboard carriers. That process can be very difficult, and that proved to be a point of differentiation and really make things smoother.”

           – Terry Finnegan, Sr. Director Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Sysco

It’s a misconception that getting into this data business is expensive, time consuming or requires its own dedicated IT resources. During the summit, Tim Higham of AscendTMS spoke about how easy it is to get up and running with some of the technologies that are out there today.

You don’t need a full-time IT person to get connected with Ascend, or with FourKites for that matter. We know that resources like that are in short supply, especially among the owner-operator community, and we’ve built out large internal teams with the express purpose of helping our carrier partners get connected with our systems as quickly and painlessly as possible. In fact, our carrier operations team is one of our largest teams at FourKites, second only to Engineering in terms of staffing.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The moral of the story is this: It’s understandable for there to be some skepticism about new technologies, and that’s a healthy thing early on. But these are not new technologies anymore. Supply chain visibility is now the order of the day, and those who don’t hop onboard will be left behind.

The writing is already on the wall, as each of our guests attested during the summit. In a year or two, shippers won’t want to do business with anyone who can’t connect to them digitally. And if you can do that – if you can say that you can accept load tenders electronically and carry out business without relying on stacks of paper – you will see increased business coming through your front door. It’s that simple.

To view a recording of last week’s Virtual Carrier Summit, click here.

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