The SMC³Jump Start 2023 Conference Closes with More Keen Industry Observation and Intelligent Analysis
Authored by SMC³ on February 3, 2023
Sessions focused on software advances, cross-border transportation, and innovation for dispatching, planning, and P&D optimization
The SMC3 Jump Start 2023 drew to a close on day three of the premier supply chain event, highlighting some of the technology that is propelling the industry forward and examining the new realities and new relationships for cross-border transportation. The half day of conference sessions featured a Jump Start Leadership Series—In the Fast Lane with McLeod Software’s founder and president Tom McLeod—and two panel discussions with transportation industry experts.
How Technology Is Moving the Industry Forward
McCleod noted he founded McLeod Software 37 years ago, growing the business to 1,200 active customers and 650 employees today. “We want to be the place trucking companies come when they want to take their operation to the next level,” he said.
McLeod’s session focused on new and emerging technologies that are transforming the trucking industry. While artificial intelligence and business process automation were some of the buzz-worthy topics at Jump Start 23, he said he’s not hearing a lot about using API or data science to inform recommendations to sales and customer service people.
“Directing your sales force on which customers to call on can be one the highest payoff activities from decision support,” said McLeod. “Getting the right information to the right people on a timely basis can allow them to make better decisions.”
McLeod Software is also looking at rate trends and spot rates for the truckload sector, forecasting where rates are going one to two weeks out to help customers improve margins and reduce costs. “If you’re not really taking advantage of this information, you’re leaving money on the table,” McLeod said.
Smarter pricing for LTL carriers was also a focus, with McLeod emphasizing the need for frequent and timely information. “With the data size that’s available, you can examine the line density and pricing on a much more regular basis and come up with better pricing recommendations.”
Robotic process automation (RPA) is also an emerging technology for the industry, helping automate many of the manual, mundane tasks and predefined workflows that are exception-based. “The automation and RPA that’s available today can be very powerful,” McLeod said.
Moving Freight in Mexico and Canada
The panel on cross-border transportation provided insight on the transportation landscapes with Mexico and Canada and what’s on the horizon. The panel featured Olga Salinas, Senior Vice President of Business Development at Redwood, Mexico, and Candace Sider, Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs at Livingston International Inc.
Salinas tackled the topic of nearshoring to and from Mexico. She noted the rise in nearshoring that has many advantages for large organizations—reduced lead times, speed to market, and the ability to react faster to disruptions from the pandemic.
“We talk every week about the investment going into Mexico, but there are definitely going to be challenges to be able to support that type of influx of investment in the country,” Salinas said. “Human capital will be a challenge for the country. They’re going to have to work to get that workforce set up and ready to take it on.”
Current low production levels and lack of raw materials is impeding nearshoring to Mexico, but Salinas predicted the market will flip right by the end of Q2 or Q3. “The investment going into Mexico, particularly the expansion of current facilities, will increase demand again,” she said.
“In Canada, there’s a significant shortage of drivers, despite the numbers being boosted through immigration,” Sider said. Cargo moves to the U.S. and Canadian border, but some immigrant drivers don’t have the proper credentials to proceed into the U.S.
“So, the carrier has to have another driver arrive at the border and switch them out,” Sider said. “There’s a lot of cost and impact when that happens.”
Sider also addressed rising concern about cybersecurity in Canada, which she noted is a critical factor that will persist for the next decade. “When there is a cyber event, oftentimes you see a backlog at the border where a driver is held for days and doesn’t move across the border. “Then, the drivers run out of hours and must come off the road,” she said.
The Heart and Soul of LTL
The final session of the conference tackled technology that’s akin to pressing the easy button for dispatching, planning, and P&D optimization. The three-member panel consisted of Bill Ward, Jr., President of Ward Transport; Avi Geller, CEO of Maven; and Scott Sullivan, CIO/CFO of PITT OHIO.
At the heart of the discussion was a technology tool introduced by Maven that takes accurate, real-time data and applies advanced algorithms to it to produce data and solutions for route-planning, dispatcher delivery checks, assigning pickups, and dock supervision.
“We make sure things get loaded correctly and then make all the adjustments in real time as they happen to make the right decisions,” said Geller. “All the mundane, repetitive work that takes hours is now automated away.”
Sullivan, an LTL user of Maven’s technology, said the tool allows the dispatcher and driver to be smarter and autonomous in doing their jobs. “Through the technology, we’re able to gather information and pass it down. The key here is making sure the inputs are correct to flow through the whole system,” said Sullivan. “If you get the input correct, it can be an easy button, but there’s still a lot of work that has to occur to make that happen.”
LTL panelist Ward, another user of the Maven technology, agreed with Sullivan that there’s no easy button. Instead, he referred to the Maven tool as an easier button. “I would add there’s a very important feedback loop that occurs between the planner, dispatcher, and driver, and having a platform that facilitates that communication process is essential,” said Ward.
Ward also noted the Maven tool helps his company capture the total cost to serve a customer. “This benefits the shipping public because we can understand our cost better through the data that we collect on a daily basis with Maven in terms of detention time and things like that—so we’re able to offer a better price,” he said.
Sullivan concurred. “Once you start capturing this data electronically, you feed it into your costing system. So, you’re then able to take it to the next level of account profitability,” he added.
“Being able to capture real-time data helps the carrier, the shipper, and the customer,” added Ward.
The three-day SMC3 Jump Start 2023 supply chain conference facilitates meaningful knowledge transfer and collaboration between logistics and transportation professionals from carriers, shippers, logistics service providers, and technology verticals. To learn more about SMC³ supply chain conferences, visit http://www.smc3.com/supply-chain-education.htm.