This Week in Logistics News (October 15-19, 2018)

How cold does it have to get inside your house before you accept reality and turn on the heat?

Is wearing a jacket and hat while watching the Red Sox game in your family room a visual cue that the time has come?

If you leave the milk container out on the kitchen counter overnight and it’s still cold in the morning, is that permission enough to change the thermostat settings?

Every year we have this debate at our house. My wife prefers to keep the house on the cooler side, while I prefer not shivering while eating breakfast (even while dressed in sweats).

One of the benefits of my wife being away last week was that we skipped the debate this year. I made an executive decision and turned on the heat. I watched the Red Sox last night win their way to the World Series in comfort. Of course, chances are that this spring, while I’m away at a conference, my wife will get her payback and turn the A/C on without any debate either.

And with that, here’s the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

Uber Powerloop: Trailer Pool for the Masses

Using trailer pools, where carriers can pick up pre-loaded trailers and keep on moving, is not new. But because it requires carriers to supply shippers with extra trailers, only the largest carriers have been able to implement such programs with shippers.

Back in May, Convoy announced “a Power-only and Universal Trailer Pool solution, which is available to thousands of small carriers who use the Convoy app.” Here are some details from the announcement:

With Convoy’s new program, small carriers are able to bring in their power unit and haul Convoy’s pre-loaded trailers. This gives them access to billions of dollars in new shipments and saves time waiting — so carriers can start earning more. Convoy’s Universal Trailer Pool creates a seamless “grab and go” system, where carriers simply bring their power unit, pick up a pre-loaded trailer, and hit the road.

This week, Uber Freight announced a similar solution called Powerloop. As reported by CCJ:

Powerloop at its core is a trailer leasing program, in which trailers are rented to participating carriers at $25 per day. But in effect it creates what the company bills as a trailer pooling program, allowing fleets access to pre-loaded trailers in the Powerloop network. The primary goal, the company says, is to cut detention time at shippers and receivers. Instead of waiting to load and unload a dedicated trailer, Powerloop envisions an expedient drop and hook system. The system will initially be focused only on intrastate loads in Texas, but the company plans to expand beyond Texas in the coming months, says Max Pike, strategy lead at Uber Freight.

Anheuser-Busch is one of Uber’s first customers. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

On-demand rentable trailers could cut the time carriers spend at a shipping site by 25%, said Ties Soeters, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of logistics procurement in North America. The brewer has already arranged for about 250 trailers of beverages to be hauled off using Powerloop as part of a trial, he said. About 30% of Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. volume is live-loaded, or done while a big rig truck is waiting, said Mr. Soeters.

In today’s capacity-constrained market, keeping power units and drivers moving with loaded trailers — instead of being detained at a dock waiting to load or unload — is the main objective for carriers of all sizes. These new services by Convoy and Uber Freight level the playing field for small carriers and enables shippers to implement a drop trailer program with a much broader cross section of carriers. The devil is in the details in getting these services to work, but assuming they gain traction, it wouldn’t surprise me if other big players in the industry, including in the spot freight market, introduce similar programs in the near future.

BluJay Solutions Acquires ERA System: Customs in the Networked Cloud

I’m a week late on this news, but BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced that it has acquired ERA System, “a leading provider of customs solutions to the Italian market.” ERA System was founded six years ago and is “dedicated to helping our customers navigate the Italian import/export market […] Our advanced solutions are built on a modern architecture and are being used by over 250 customers throughout Italy.”

“The global, multi-country customs platform is becoming a reality. We are fortunate to have a dynamic and dedicated team like ERA join us in this journey,” said Doug Braun, CEO, BluJay Solutions, in the press release.

Over the past few years, BluJay and other leaders in the industry have been acquiring smaller providers in the customs compliance space. It’s the perfect network solution. Instead of implementing or deploying 10, 30, or 50 different customs compliance solutions — because despite harmonization efforts, each country has its unique customs processes and requirements — companies can just connect once with a network provider and have the ability to execute customs filings for different countries via a single platform.

The most surprising thing about this announcement is that there are still small solution providers in this market to acquire. I had assumed all of them had been fully rolled up by now.

project44 and GateHouse Logistics: Expanding the Visibility Network

project44 (a Talking Logistics sponsor) and GateHouse Logistics announced that they have entered “into an exclusive, multinational agreement which will provide secure and authorized access to the largest visibility network across North America and Europe.” Here are some details from the press release:

With this partnership, customers of project44 and GateHouse Logistics now have immediate and actionable access to a network of 175,000 multimodal carriers – comprised of 90,000 capacity providers in North America and 85,000 in Europe. Implementation processes have also been expedited to ensure fast and frictionless onboarding for all customers and rapid time-to-value.

“Visibility is the number one supply chain initiative. We’ve seen a record number of North American and European companies investing in real-time visibility platforms to be used either stand-alone or with a TMS, CRM, WMS or ERP,” said project44 founder and CEO Jett McCandless. “This partnership accelerates the speed at which manufacturers, retailers, ecommerce providers, distributors, freight forwarders, and 3PLs can successfully realize the benefits of end-to-end visibility by working with a single visibility provider for all shipments regardless of geographic location.”

As demand for real-time freight visibility solutions continues to grow, there’s growing activity by solution providers to outmaneuver each other, with a focus on growing the scale and scope of their networks and solution offerings. This partnership is a win for both companies, as it provides p44 with access to a large connected network of carriers in Europe and the same for GateHouse Logistics in North America. It’s also a win for customers as it provides them with a broader visibility network via a single connection.

This is a fast-changing market and the endgame is still not clear to me, but I expect to see more partnerships and acquisitions in the months ahead, with perhaps other network-based supply chain solution providers (such as BluJay Solutions, E2open, Elemica, Amber Road) taking out their checkbooks and bringing these freight visibility solutions directly onto their platforms.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Hard Times” by Paramore