Chicago-based FourKites, a provider of real-time tracking and visibility solutions across transportation modes and digital platforms, said today it has introduced a new offering that it says is the first product that offers shippers with real-time visibility across their network and also for freight that they do not manage.
Entitled FourKites Network Visibility, company officials said that this product providers shippers with real-time status updates on both vendor-managed inbound and customer-pickup outbound freight, coupled with managed freight they already track with FourKites. This ability, said the company, provides shippers with full supply chains visibility that, in turn, allows shippers to enhance warehouse operations, reduce yard congestion, and also augment carrier and driver productivity.
In an interview, Matt Elenjickal, CEO and Founder of FourKites, provided a comprehensive overview of the FourKites Network Visibility offering.
Logistics Management (LM): What drove the need for FourKites to roll out this Network Visibility offering?
Matt Elenjickal: The modern supply chain is incredibly complex, and growing more so by the day: Thousands of orders and loads; hundreds of plants, DCs, warehouses and stores to manage; scores of carriers; and the list goes on. Every link in your supply chain depends on your ability to see and control the millions of moving parts within your operations. As our customer base has grown exponentially, we recognized that our customers were shipping into each other without recognizing it because, up until this point, there has been nothing but black holes and uncertainty when it comes to inbound loads that are managed by external vendors. This level of uncertainty has a huge impact on dock and facility operations, inventory management and resource utilization and customer satisfaction. With FourKites as the common platform for so many of the world’s largest shippers, we saw an enormous opportunity to allow them to collaborate in a way they’d never been able to before.
In response to these growing market pressures, we built a turnkey solution that can provide immediate value from Day 1. Network Visibility is the first true network that lets shippers see every load that matters to them, for both managed and unmanaged freight. It about connecting supply chain partners to allow for more seamless communication and comprehensive visibility – both essential components of mature supply chains.
LM: What are the main/primary shipper i.e. customer benefits of it?
Elenjickal: Improving end customer satisfaction through collaboration and transparency; prevent stockouts, production bottlenecks and inventory shortages; reducing congestion at loading dock and reduce dwell; and better utilization of staff time at dock and warehouse.
LM: How does this offering specifically normalize tracking and location data, mask sensitive information and enable shippers to request and control visibility from each other through a single discovery dashboard, as outlined by the company?
Elenjickal: This is one of the toughest problems in logistics, and it’s growing every day: Global companies are creating and using more data than ever, but even though their supply chains are integrated, their data live in silos with radically different structures.
Even if two companies use the same software for purchasing, transportation management, and visibility, their data will look very different. This makes it difficult for them to connect and collaborate with each other, and it places a hard ceiling on the value of most visibility providers to the world’s largest supply chains.
Network Visibility lifts that ceiling by leveraging the core strength that made FourKites the global leader in the visibility space: our commitment to working with every leading ERP, TMS, and dispatch system, and the deep and broad exposure to their data differences—and those of their customers—which our neutrality has given us.
We started with payer and facility records: two of the hardest parts of a hard problem. Our customers use these on our core platform every day to sort their loads by the customers they’re serving, and the places they’re going. We’ve solved half of this problem already by learning how to talk to the different source systems, which our customers use.
The other half—matching different names for the same business or the same place—demands human control, but would take thousands of hours to do by hand. So we recommend matches based on how confident we are, based on years of observing these freight flows from different angles, that there’s a relevant connection to draw. Then, we let our customers choose which connections they want to make with each other using a simple, standardized request process: it’s easy to use, customize, and control.
Over time, each match helps us get even better at making relevant recommendations to each customer. Since this is built on top of our existing integrations, not only can we keep Network Visibility in sync with each system as they change over time—we can do it without asking our customers to budget IT staff time for a new project or implementation.
LM: How does this enable shippers to have real-time visibility to freight they do not manage? Is that through public data/information?
Elenjickal: While we do integrate public data on weather, traffic, and other factors into our core tracking solution, Network Visibility is a fundamentally private solution, built around private information that is unique to each customer. It answers their call for a common language and a secure, neutral space where they can integrate with each other on a platform they already use.
Every load is relevant to at least one supplier and at least one receiver, but today, only one of those companies is tendering and tracking it. Network Visibility lets our customers choose whether to be discovered, find their partners on our network, and set the terms of sharing visibility with each other without compromising their control over their own data, or forcing them to make expensive choices about how these data are structured.