The idea of “supply chain visibility” has been around for about as long as supply chains themselves. Real-time supply chain visibility, on the other hand, has been a conversation within the industry for less than a decade – and Matt Elenjickal has been setting the agenda since the very beginning.
FourKites’ founder and CEO has been a pioneering force behind the idea that companies should know where their goods are at all times – from the moment they get loaded onto a truck to the second they reach their final delivery. He was one of the earliest movers in actually building the technology needed to make it happen, and in 2014, Matt founded FourKites to start executing his dream of real-time visibility for the global transportation industry as a whole. Since then, he’s steered the company through six years of constant growth, numerous successful funding rounds and a steady diversification of FourKites’ core products and services – most recently with its announcement of Dynamic Yard, the industry’s first yard management platform that provides real-time visibility for both in-transit and in-yard freight.
Through the years, Matt’s insights and ideas have shined a beacon of light on an industry in seemingly constant flux. From pioneering a new generation of supply chain sustainability to rethinking the universal headache of appointment scheduling, Matt’s expertise has helped hundreds of thousands of logistics professionals extract maximum value out of their supply chains in both good times and bad.
Due to that enterprising spirit, Matt was recently named to DC Velocity’s list of 2020 Rainmakers – an esteemed list of supply chain professionals whose primary motivation is to advance the field of logistics. Each of the ten leaders selected for the list was chosen from among candidates nominated by members of the DC Velocity community – including readers, board members, thought leaders and even previous years’ winners. Alongside Matt on the list are industry luminaries including Target’s Kevin Condon, Gartner’s Michelle Meyer and American Logistics Aid Network Founder Mark Richards. Each was chosen for their tireless efforts in advancing the field of logistics and supply chain management.
Below is Matt’s interview with DC Velocity Editorial Director David Maloney.
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Q: What’s your proudest professional achievement, and why?
A: This is my first startup, and what we are all really proud of as a company is the creation of a new software category. Visibility is not a new thing – it has been around for ages. But real-time visibility only began in 2014. I feel really fortunate to have been able to drive that conversation forward.
Q: What drew you to the field of logistics?
A: It was by accident! My first job out of school was at [consulting and software company] i2 Technologies, which hired me and gave me training in supply chain. While I was sitting on the bench waiting for an assignment, an opportunity to work on a transportation-related project with Anheuser-Busch came along. So they gave me transportation management system (TMS) training for a week and said to me “Now, go make it happen.”
We worked 24/7 and the project was successful, so after that, I was “the transportation guy,” which led to projects with Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Ikea, and others. Looking back, that was the best thing that could have happened; it opened my eyes to the lack of real-time visibility.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your career?
A: I’d say there have been three. One was the rise of real-time visibility as the market was going through a lot of changes, like the government’s ELD mandate and Amazon reshaping the business-to-consumer (B2C) experience. Business-to-business (B2B) companies were also craving real-time visibility—in their case, as a way to avoid the fines and penalties imposed by the Walmarts of the world. Companies wanted to get more lean and boost their on-time performance, because the transportation operating environment was becoming more and more stringent.
Then there was the rise of the digital freight brokers, like Convoy and Uber Freight. Who would have thought they’d be giving C.H. Robinson a run for its money?
I would also point to the rise of collaboration, as people became more willing to share data that in supply chain and logistics, had previously existed only in silos.
Q: What hasn’t changed?
A: Consolidation in the carrier community hasn’t happened; fragmentation still exists. Some 90% of trucking companies have 20 or fewer trucks, and they’re still dispatching with a whiteboard or Post-it Note.
And in the freight industry recessions of 2008 and 2018, we saw that when rates are good, trucking companies go buy more equipment, and when rates drop, they go bankrupt. There hasn’t been a solution to reduce the cyclicality of the industry.
Q: What advice would you give someone just starting a career in supply chain management?
A: Supply chain is fascinating. If you’re not in it, you tend to assume that supply chain is a well-oiled machine. But even now, there are Fortune 200 or Fortune 50 companies that don’t know where their trucks are! Even with all the advances we’ve made, there’s lots of room for improvement. So there are a lot of opportunities. If you’re intellectually curious, you can definitely make a mark.
Q: What are some of the truisms that should be forgotten? In other words, what rules do companies need to break?
A: Supply chain is a network game; it’s not just “my supply chain”. A company can’t say I want to make “my supply chain” the best, because if their ecosystem is not on par and if they’re not collaborating with suppliers and partners, it’s not going to happen.