This Week in Logistics News (April 30 – May 4, 2018)

I heard this trivia question on the radio this morning when I drove my son to school:

This product was invented in Pittsburgh, PA fifty years ago and it consists of seven parts working together. According to a 2007 report, one of these products is sold every 17 seconds in the U.S. – or around 550 million every year. What is it?

I share the answer below. In the meantime, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

Growing Hype for Hyperloop

I first wrote about Hyperloop almost five years ago shortly after Elon Musk introduced his vision for a fifth mode of transportation (see Hyperloop and the Quest for a New Transportation Mode). Here’s what I wrote at the time:

I will give Elon Musk the benefit of the doubt that he can build a Hyperloop, but probably for a whole lot more than the $6 billion he currently estimates. The bigger question for me is, do we really need it? Is this another example of us going after the “next new shiny thing” versus investing to improve what we currently have?

While some progress has been made over the past few years in testing the technology, Hyperloop is still a lab experiment. That said, last October Richard Branson’s Virgin Group invested in Hyperloop One, a startup focused on developing this new transportation mode. And this week, the rebranded Virgin Hyperloop One and DP World introduced DP World Cargospeed, “an international brand for hyperloop-enabled cargo systems to support the fast, sustainable and efficient delivery of palletized cargo.” Check out the video below that illustrates their vision for the future of on-demand freight transportation:

And here’s an excerpt from the press release:

“The global growth of e-commerce is driving a dramatic shift in both consumer and business behavior,” [said Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder and Virgin Hyperloop One Chairman]. “On-demand deliveries are a novelty today. Tomorrow it will be the expectation. DP World Cargospeed systems powered by Virgin Hyperloop One will enable ultra-fast, on-demand deliveries of high-priority goods and will revolutionize logistics, support growth, and create thriving economic regions.”

Traveling at top speeds of 1000 km/h DP World Cargospeed systems, enabled by Virgin Hyperloop One technology, will transport high-priority, time-sensitive goods including fresh food, medical supplies, electronics, and more. It will expand freight transportation capacity by connecting with existing modes of road, rail, port and air transport.

When you think about the huge capital investments that would be required to make this vision a reality, along with the technical hurdles that still need to be overcome and the challenges of connecting Hyperloop with other modes of transportation to truly create an integrated transportation system, it’s easy to quickly dismiss this as a pipe dream (pun intended).

Then again, you can argue that in order to meet the supply chain and logistics challenges of tomorrow, defined by a growing demand for faster and cheaper deliveries of smaller orders, we have to transform and modernize the way we transport goods around the world. More than a century ago, visionaries and entrepreneurs, while traveling on horseback through unpaved dirt trails, looked out and saw the need to build railroads and highways to make commerce more efficient. Today’s visionaries and entrepreneurs, while stuck in traffic on the interstate, see a similar opportunity.

Stay tuned, the future is arriving.

Real-Time Visibility Evolves to Freight Capacity Matching

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago in Smarter Approaches to Freight Matching, real-time visibility solutions are evolving to enable more efficient freight matching.

Last September, for example, Trucker Tools launched its Smart Capacity freight matching platform. Then this past March at its user conference, Descartes shared details about its capacity matching solution leveraging the MacroPoint platform. And now this week, FourKites unveiled Predictive Capacity Management, “a platform that automatically predicts the availability of private and dedicated fleet trucks and dynamically matches them to shipper demand.”

Here are some details from the press release:

FourKites PCM will enable shippers and carriers to optimize the efficiency of every mile by reducing empty space on trailers, producing cost efficiencies for shippers and carriers and enabling customers to receive products sooner. This predictive technology will use FourKites’ largest network of real-time tracking data to factor in the precise location of shipments in transit, where those shipments are heading, and when those shipments are estimated to arrive. A cutting-edge data science algorithm will populate matches in real-time between trailers with capacity and shipments awaiting transport. Shippers using FourKites PCM will have the option to accept or reject matches, in accordance with automation rules they establish.

While the Trucker Tools and Descartes solutions are primarily focused on helping brokers find capacity more efficiently, the FourKites solution appears to be aimed more at shippers and their carriers (I haven’t seen a demo of the solution yet). The bottom line is that all of these solutions are emerging today because finding capacity is incredibly challenging in today’s market, and these real-time freight visibility solutions and networks now have the scale and capabilities to make it a reality.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Answer to trivia question: The Big Mac, comprised of “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.”

Song of the Week: “Pink Lemonade” by James Bay