This Week in Logistics News (November 26-30, 2018)

Now that Thanksgiving is past us, the mad dash to the end of the year is on.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the supply chain and logistics realm, with lots of news related to global trade and technology. As I write this, news is coming out of Bueno Aires that the new Nafta agreement (USMCA) has been signed by trade officials from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

So without delay, here are my thoughts about this breaking news and the other headlines that caught my attention this week:

New Nafta Agreement (USMCA) Signed, But Congress Has to Approve

The big news this morning is the signing of the new Nafta agreement — called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — by trade ministers for the U.S., Mexico, and Canada in Bueno Aires (as the G-20 summit begins there). Here are some details from the Wall Street Journal:

The USMCA still requires ratification in all three countries. The pact is expected to pass easily in both Canada and Mexico, but faces a more difficult path in the U.S. Congress, especially as the opposition Democrats take control of the House in January.

The USMCA requires a greater portion of cars—75%, up from 62.5% under Nafta—be made in North America to qualify for tariff-free trade. The new deal also requires that 40% to 45% of automotive content be made by workers earning at least $16 per hour, a new provision aimed at shifting production from Mexico back to the U.S. and Canada. U.S. officials say Mexican pledges in the deal to boost the power of its labor unions will have a similar effect.

The pact also weakens protections for multinationals investing in other countries, a change Trump officials say will discourage outsourcing. It sets de facto quotas on Mexican and Canadian auto exports to the U.S. It requires the countries to conduct regular reviews of the USMCA, including a prospect for termination.

Whether it’s Nafta (I mean, USMCA), the escalating tariffs with China, or Brexit, the big challenge companies have faced with global trade management is dealing with uncertainty, which makes supply chain planning very difficult. The news today dials down the uncertainty a bit with regards to trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada — but uncertainty remains, because as the WSJ article mentions, Congress still has to ratify the agreement, and with Democrats now controlling the House and the overall toxic political environment here, who knows what will happen in the months ahead.

For related commentary, check out our recent posts and Talking Logistics episodes related to Nafta and the global trade environment, featuring experts from Transplace and C.H. Robinson.

BluJay Solutions Enhances Global Trade Network

BluJay Solutions (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced this week the release of BluJay Global Trade Network version 19.0.0., which delivers “expanded multimodal capabilities, new integrations, and additional countries and languages to help companies efficiently manage trade and the movement of goods around the world.” Here are some highlights from the press release:

Transportation Management — Version 19.0.0 expands air, ocean, and rail mode capabilities with the addition of air rating, dimensional weight capture, automatic creation of drayage legs, and improved rail reporting and visibility including turnover and reload. Automated mode determination for Parcel/LTL shipments allows shippers to select the “best” option between LTL and Parcel, considering cost or service, or a combination of the two. Integration with 10-4 carrier tracking system provides real-time location of freight, arrivals, departures, and geofencing. Language support for Bahasa Indonesian, a standardized dialect of Malay, was also added.

MobileSTAR — Providing real-time tracking and last-mile routing across the supply chain, MobileSTAR can help deliver an enhanced customer experience. With the update comes an easy-to-use studio tool for customers to change and assemble their own configurations for how they want the application to behave. In response to customer requests, BluJay has added the ability to use OCR to capture data. Proximity notifications have also been added; where previously an “in transit” status was available from depot to stops, now drivers can publish proximity and estimated arrival time notifications to the receiver at each stop along a route for more accurate customer planning.

Enhancements were also made to its Yard Management, Customs Management, Parcel, Message Broker, and Control Tower capabilities.

More than two years ago, I wrote how investments in Supply Chain Operating Networks (SCON) were on the rise. Why? For various reasons, but most importantly, because many companies are starting to recognize that for business processes involving many external trading partners, network-based solutions are the best platform.

In related news this week, Descartes Systems Group (a Talking Logistics sponsor and another network-based solution provider), announced record revenues and income from operations for its fiscal 2019 third quarter. “Logistics is a multi-party, multi-process problem, and it’s becoming increasingly complex with today’s dynamic global trade landscape,” said Edward J. Ryan, Descartes’ CEO in the press release. “We believe that customers are looking for one place to collaborate with their supply chain and manage the lifecycle of shipments. We believe that place is our Global Logistics Network (GLN), which continues to gain momentum as we add participants, solutions and content for key constituents in the supply chain, including shippers, carriers, logistics intermediaries and government agencies.”

And in recent weeks, we’ve seen E2open acquire Cloud Logistics and INTTRA to expand its network capabilities, and Elemica make enhancements to its network solutions too.

(And a little late to the game, perhaps, but even Gartner is now paying attention, coming out last week with its dots in a quadrant report for this segment of the market.)

In short, there’s a lot happening with Supply Chain Operating Networks, with a lot more to come in 2019.

project44 and J.B. Hunt Collaborate to Deliver Visibility

Speaking of the power of a network, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. announced this week that “it will integrate the [project44] advanced visibility platform into J.B. Hunt 360 to provide customers with real-time, seamless access to shipment information regardless of carrier, eliminating the need for multiple carrier data integrations.” Here are some additional details from the press release:

“The challenges our customers are facing today require greater visibility into their transportation network,” said Shelley Simpson, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of J.B. Hunt. “By integrating project44 technology within J.B. Hunt 360, customers can view and manage multi-carrier freight from a single platform, helping them streamline operations and meet their supply chain goals.”

project44 is among the world’s leading advanced visibility platforms for shippers and third-party logistics firms. To ensure fast and frictionless onboarding for J.B. Hunt’s growing customer base, project44 has prebuilt connections to thousands of global multimodal carriers and ELD/telematics devices. This one-to-many model delivers access to high-quality data in real time and provides users with deep insights.

Real-time freight visibility has been one of the hottest segments of the market the past couple of years, but enabling it requires more than an app or software application — you need a connectivity network, in this case of carriers and transportation assets, that provides the data. Historically, shippers and logistics service providers have had to build and manage thousands of carrier connections themselves, which is an ongoing challenge (labor-intensive and costly too). The rise of network-based freight visibility and connectivity providers like p44 (a Talking Logistics sponsor) and others are greatly simplifying the process, enabling shippers and LSPs to focus their time and energy on the insights derived from the data instead of figuring out how to get the data.

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” by The Smashing Pumpkins