The Convergence Continues (3PL, TMS, RTV Trends)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ongoing convergence of 3PL and TMS business models. I also wrote about how transportation management systems (TMS) are becoming more popular than ever — not only among shippers, but also among other technology vendors and logistics service providers.

The convergence of business models continues, as a couple of news items from last week shows. 

First, Transplace (a Talking Logistics sponsor) announced “the strategic acquisition of LeanCor, a recognized leader in end-to-end supply chain solutions, training and consulting.” Here are some details from the press release:

Headquartered in Florence, Ky., and specializing in lean principles, LeanCor is a strategic supply chain partner that provides managed transportation services, supply chain consulting and corporate training programs to manufacturing-centric shippers. LeanCor’s proprietary consulting and logistics management processes help businesses better serve their customers by eliminating waste, decreasing costs and building cultures of continuous improvement.

Earlier this year, Transplace acquired a parcel TMS provider (ScanData) and a transportation collaboration networking company (Lanehub).

Simply put, the lines between technology companies, service providers, and consulting firms continue to blur.

What do you call a company like Transplace? Not a 3PL. The company refers to itself as “a technology and services company that hosts a proprietary logistics platform and provides engineering and execution services for global shippers.” 

C.H. Robinson doesn’t call itself a 3PL either. The company describes itself as “one of the world’s largest logistics platforms.”

Then why are we still using the term 3PL when the companies themselves no longer call themselves that?

Moving on to another type of convergence, last week Sixfold and Transporeon announced that they are “joining forces to build the world’s most powerful real-time visibility network.” Here are some details from the press release:

Our real-time visibility (RTV) technology will be integrated into Transporeon’s cloud-based execution platform, providing transport intelligence for more than 100,000 carriers and 1,200 shippers around the world.

Integrating our state-of-the-art RTV solution within Europe’s largest network of shippers and carriers will generate important scaling effects, enabling all of Transporeon’s customers to enjoy far greater transparency than any individual RTV solution could offer.

In terms of the platform itself, Transporeon will absorb all usage costs for real-time visibility (tracking and ETA calculation) until 31 August 2021. This will remove many of the upfront barriers that have previously hindered deployments. Furthermore, providing a single platform capability for seamless end-to-end execution of transport assignment, time slot management and real-time visibility will eliminate the need for costly and laborious integrations of standalone RTV solutions.

The convergence of real-time freight visibility with transportation management systems arguably began in August 2017 when Descartes acquired MacroPoint. A couple of years later, Transplace announced that it will “provide real-time visibility [via a partnership with Descartes MacroPoint] as a standard feature, without any extra transaction or integration fee, for all of its managed transportation services and Transportation Management System (TMS) customers.” Then a few weeks ago, E2open announced Visibility For All, which enables “all clients [to] add In-Transit Visibility to their current subscription for no additional cost.”

Now comes the merging of Sixfold and Transporeon, with usage costs for real-time visibility absorbed until next summer (or maybe forever, depending on competitive pressure).

Will real-time freight visibility ultimately become a feature of transportation management systems or remain a standalone application?

The alphabet soup of 3PL, TMS, and RTV will continue to get stirred in the weeks and months ahead.