During the Jump Start 2021 virtual supply chain conference, Priya Rajagopalan, chief product officer at FourKites, will discuss using logistics technology to solve supply chain pain points. Joining her to discuss these solutions is Russ Felker, chief technology officer at GlobalTranz. The topic is an apt selection, as this year’s conference is 100-percent remote; even with the change in venue, the agenda is still packed with logistics thought leaders discussing important transportation technology trends and developments.
Rajagopalan recently took some time to speak with SMC³ about logistics technology solutions and how FourKites has operated during the coronavirus pandemic.
How has FourKites stayed connected with its customers during the pandemic? Is the use of innovative technology in the supply chain arena more important than ever?
Yes, we’ve seen the need for visibility over all areas of the supply chain grow even faster than usual in the midst of this pandemic, as companies increasingly move their employees to work from home, leaving them unable to access many of the tools and workflows that they would normally rely on when on-site.
FourKites has continued to work closely with customers in nearly every industry to help address the unique pain points of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, within weeks of the outbreak in the US, FourKites built a live network congestion map that tracks cross-border freight movements across North America, Mexico and Europe; port delays at over 230 ports globally; and interstate transit metrics. This dashboard is publicly available and free of charge, providing visibility into delays that allow companies around the world to optimize and adjust their supply chain operations in real time.
Another initiative we took on was activating a COVID-specific channel within our online shipper community, allowing customers to collaborate and share advice on managing their supply chains during this crisis, as well as offer individualized crisis management training. Naturally, this also allows us to closely gauge our customers’ needs and challenges during this difficult time, and ensures that our tools deliver the necessary value to help them succeed.
Will remote working/the greater use of technology tools become the new normal in the supply chain, or is this embrace of technology just a temporary solution until the pandemic subsides?
Many of the changes I described above were designed with the pandemic in mind, but the need for them will continue long after the pandemic subsides. For example, the need for paperless document transfer caused us to fast-track the development of our e-documentation capabilities. This functionality helps to maximize both the efficiency and safety of our frontline workers. We have also introduced enhanced instant messaging capabilities that allow streamlined communication across internal teams regardless of their physical location. These enhancements may have been accelerated due to COVID-19, but I certainly believe they will soon become the norm in supply chains around the world.
During Jump Start, you’re speaking about turning to technology to solve trucking issues. Broadly, how can technology help supply chain stakeholders confront unforeseen challenges?
We always say that you can’t fix what you can’t see. In many ways, the proliferation of available data in logistics as a whole is leading to many positive changes for the trucking industry, in particular. From temperature-tracking systems capable of monitoring and alerting based on the temperature tolerance of sensitive goods to route optimization tools that eliminate out-of-route miles and improve driver safety, we’re seeing new innovations in this industry almost every day. The paperless document processing I described above is another great example.
There are many ways in which supply chain visibility platforms can help supply chain stakeholders confront challenges. From optimizing labor planning to maximizing OTIF compliance, reducing safety stock to minimizing dwell time and detention costs, the benefits of real-time visibility are far-reaching and span the end-to-end supply chain. Of course, the ability to remain agile through unforeseen circumstances — global pandemics, natural disasters, bottlenecks and more — is top of mind for all companies these days.
Agility can be achieved by identifying disruptions and responding with quick and effective decisions. Real-time and predictive supply chain visibility data is foundational here, enabling supply chain stakeholders to understand where a product is at any point in its journey. In the event of a crisis, partners can leverage their visibility platform and instantly know which of their orders and shipments may be impacted, as well as which resources exist for contingency planning and recovery.
Why is the industry slow to adopt new technology? It seems like supply chain digitization has been a trending topic for a decade.
The supply chain industry is unlike many other businesses in that it doesn’t have the luxury of shutting down to retool and reequip. As soon as it does, that’s when shelves go empty, manufacturing ceases and the global economy grinds to a halt. Any digital transformation that this industry undergoes, therefore, has to take a backseat to getting goods where they’re going on time, in full and with as little disruption as possible.
Additionally, supply chains have historically been built around siloed workflows and semi-autonomous business units. This has led to redundancy and inefficiency, which technology is able to help with by streamlining operations, centralizing data, and allowing for collaboration with their supply chain stakeholders from other organizations.
To hear more from Priya Rajagopalan and other freight transportation industry experts, sign up for the three-day virtual supply chain conference. Registration for Jump Start 2021 is complimentary!