Above the Fold: Supply Chain Logistics News (October 9, 2020)

13 years.

That is how long I served on our Little League board. I began when my oldest son, now a freshman in college, started playing T-ball. I coached his team, which at that age means I watched a bunch of kindergarteners run around the field chasing baseballs. I coached my son up to the AAA level, winning the division championship that year even though we had only won two games during the regular season (you can say we peaked at the right time). I then went back down to T-ball to coach my younger son and made it all the way to AAA with him too. He won a championship without me the following year in Majors.

I stayed on the Little League board after my boys aged out because, to put it simply, I love baseball. Little League is also a great way to build community with your neighbors. Whether we were freezing to death in those early April games or searching for shade on a hot June afternoon, we all stood or sat together, cheering and watching our kids swing, run, throw, and slide, game after game, season after season, year after year.  

My boys still love baseball, but they have moved on to new passions. My oldest is now a runner, my youngest is a swimmer.

Earlier this week, after 13 years, I stepped down from our Little League board. I still love baseball, but it’s time to move on too. However, I am not ready to get rid of my bucket of baseballs just yet. Years from now, if I am blessed with health and grandchildren, I will happily come out of retirement to swing, run, throw, and slide with them once again.


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

COVID-19 Puts Spotlight on Medical Supply Chain

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the general public is now more familiar with “supply chain management.” Prior to the pandemic, most people might not have known (or cared) how products ended up on store shelves or on their front steps in two days or less. But the disruptions caused by the pandemic, with shortages of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, and other items at supermarkets, and delivery times for e-commerce shipments pushed out by weeks in some cases, have educated many people about what makes supply chains work — and what makes them break down.

The U.S. medical supply chain in particular remains in the spotlight. As Juliet Linderman and Martha Mendoza report in AP News:

From the very moment the pandemic reached America’s shores, the country was unprepared. Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities didn’t have the masks and equipment needed to protect their workers. Some got sick and spread the virus. Some died.

Medical supply chains that span oceans and continents are the fragile lifelines between raw materials and manufacturers overseas, and health care workers on COVID-19 front lines in the U.S. As link after link broke, the system fell apart.

Now, as we get closer to vaccines getting approved, the industry faces new challenges. As Doug Cameron writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“If 50 million doses were available today, could we distribute them?” asked Glyn Hughes, head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, a trade group. “The answer is almost certainly ‘No’, for every jurisdiction.”

The air-cargo industry is making plans for delivering as many as 20 billion Covid-19 vaccination doses, even before regulators have approved any of the multiple treatments under development. Shippers say they are having to plan without knowing exactly how many vaccine doses they’ll have to ship, where they will be manufactured and how cold they have to be kept.

The Retail-CPG supply chain has traditionally dominated the supply chain headlines, with e-commerce usually part of the story. However, considering the events (and failures) of the past few months, and what’s at stake in the year ahead from a health and economic standpoint, the most important supply chain right now is the medical supply chain. Bringing together the best minds, resources, and technologies to get it right should be priority #1.

PINC Acquires RailcarRX

PINC (a Talking Logistics sponsor) keeps increasing its solution footprint via acquisitions. Last month, the company added TMS capabilities by acquiring the ShipperConnect and ShipXpress products from Wabtec Corporation. This week the company announced that it has acquired RailcarRx®, “a provider of a comprehensive suite of rail industry software solutions and services.” Here are some details from the press release:

RailcarRx software provides maintenance, repair, fleet and asset management insights that help railroads, railcar owners, repair shops and shippers operate more efficiently, monitor equipment health and improve safety. 

PINC’S expanding capabilities serve as a foundation for an SCE platform focused on comprehensive transportation management software solutions for shippers. The platform will prioritize offerings that serve the origin and termination points in the supply chain with a specific focus on rail, truck, and terminal yard management. Combining powerful execution functionalities such as electronic documentation, analytics, billing, rating and carrier management with real-time visibility, the platform is well-positioned to solve multiple transportation challenges in the supply chain industry.

Twenty years ago, when I first started researching the transportation management systems market, I sometimes referred to rail and parcel as “the forgotten modes of transportation” because virtually none of the leading TMS providers had any rail or parcel capabilities. If you used those modes, you had to deploy standalone applications or build your own. Today, due to the rapid growth of e-commerce, many TMS vendors have added parcel capabilities, either organically or via acquisition. Has the time come for rail to come out of the shadows too?

In other news, PINC announced the upcoming release of a research report we produced on The Impact Of Digital Yard Management on Enterprise Transportation Costs and Capacity. PINC’s CEO Matt Yearling and I will be sharing some key takeaways from the research in an upcoming webinar (Wednesday, October 28 at 3:00 pm ET). Register today to see the outcome of our research and join the conversation!

Dynamic Pricing: Convoy and Kuebix

Back in August, I wrote how transportation management systems have never been more popular, especially among other technology vendors and logistics service providers. The latest example is this week’s announcement from Kuebix (a Talking Logistics sponsor) and Convoy. Here are some excerpts from the press release:

Kuebix’s community of more than 24,000 shippers can leverage dynamic pricing and additional truckload coverage from Convoy’s nationwide carrier network. Kuebix users can now easily book backup and spot capacity from Convoy within Community Load Match, Kuebix’s load matching platform.

When a Kuebix user searches for a truckload spot rate in Community Load Match, a dynamic Convoy rate will appear that can be booked and managed in the Kuebix TMS. The addition of Convoy’s dynamic pricing further enhances Community Load Match’s current contract and spot rate capabilities. Community Load Match’s rapidly growing carrier community from Trimble customers’ network of 1.3 million commercial trucks offers access to contract rates to meet the demand of shippers and intermediaries with regular lanes. For small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) and shippers with occasional spot requirements, Community Load Match provides competitive spot rates when shippers and intermediaries don’t have the volume to set up contract rates. For carriers, Community Load Match’s spot opportunities help to reduce empty miles when balancing lanes and repositioning assets.

This is also another example of how technology is enabling new ways for shippers and carriers to approach transportation procurement

And with that, have a happy weekend!

Song of the Week: “The Greatest” by Kenny Rogers