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October 1 2018

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48 The Journal of Commerce | October 1 2018 Surface Transportation GOODS DISTRIBUTORS, POSITIONED between manufacturers and customers, wrestle with a number of cultural and technological hurdles to investing in and fully leveraging freight visibility solutions, speakers told attendees in September at project44's Transform 2018 Executive Tech Summit in Chicago. The tension from such roadblocks arises because customer expectations are growing quickly, even in business-to-business envi - ronments. "We sit in between the producers and our customers," said Dirk Martin, senior director of transportation planning at Univar, a global distributor of industrial and specialty chemi- cals. "Downtime for [a customer's] processing facility is hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions per hour. That's our motivation for visibility: customer service." Martin, whose company's freight spend- ing is around $200 million across modes, said his company's investment in freight visibility technology was enabled by his ability to tether it to the needs of another department. "We used a Trojan horse," he said. "We reached across to commercial, where we heard [what] customers wanted to hear in advance." With enhanced visibility, the commer- cial side could more proactively reschedule shipments or substitute another shipment if the first one was going to be delayed too long. "That was a huge win. I leveraged them. As a distributor, we're a service selling on time. I leveraged that in transportation to work with carriers to find them backhauls via visibility. So, it created a platform for more collaboration." Angelo Ventrone, vice president of Uline, a distributor of shipping, industrial, and pack - aging materials to North American businesses, made a similar observation. "We're selling service," he said. "We have seven fulfillment centers in the US, two in Canada, and two in Mexico, and 95 percent of our orders go next day. We rely on carriers to deliver our products to our customers. That's why these visibility tools help us." That demand translates into 12,000 less- than-truckload (LTL) shipments per day, with $300 million in freight spend. "We're growing like crazy. Without visibility tools, I don't know where we'd be with this capacity situation. We're telling carriers what's wrong in their net- work that they don't even know about." Unlike Martin's experience at Univar, Ventrone said it wasn't initially easy to get corporate backing for visibility investment. "We had to sell the idea that we were being too reactive," he said. "We'd go into carrier meetings with performance scorecards saying 96 percent. But that's not good enough for us — we want 100 percent. So, looking at visibility tools, we wanted to get to proactive All aboard? Distributors of goods face challenges to fully leverage freight visibility By Eric Johnson management of our shipments; to know when a delivery is late before it's late. Right now, we can see what happened last week. "The reason we can't see real-time is the carrier data are not there yet. You can have all the APIs [application programming interfac- es], but if the carrier is not there, it's not there. It's not over when we get it on the truck — that was hard to overcome." He said the investment in visibility has in- creased Uline's ability to quantify delays. "We can put into dollar terms when we are failing." As an example, Ventrone said Uline recently had trouble meeting delivery perfor- mance objectives in Denver, largely because of a lack of capacity in the city. About 30 percent of deliveries to customers in the Denver area weren't being delivered next day. "So, the carrier added a day to transit time — but that didn't solve the issue (because Uline guaran- tees next day delivery)." Uline began using project44 (which builds APIs to underpin its platform) for LTL visibility at the urging of two of its carriers. "What we're getting out of it, you'd think our customer calls would go up. But our percentage of calls as a percentage of orders has gone down since implementing, even though it looks painful because we can see what's happening." Martin said the culture inherent in his industry is an impediment. "Smaller chemical carriers are [technologically] behind. Many don't even do EDI — they do portals — so the challenge is getting them on board. My biggest challenge is keeping control over it and avoiding internal scope creep. Commer- cial wanted a customer portal that they could push out to the customer, but I had to pull them back, because the last thing you want is to push something out wrong." JOC email: twitter: @LogTechEric digital trucking platforms such as Con- voy, Trucker Path, and Uber Freight, is a good example. Central Oregon Truck knew it would benefit from using onboard cameras, including cameras facing driv- ers, to help manage risk and prevent accidents. But it also knew the key to success was in demonstrating that benefit to drivers, both "journeymen" pros and younger drivers. When the Redmond, Oregon-based company decided to install cameras throughout its fleet a little more than a year ago, "it was as much a learning point for my team here [in the driver safety and services department] as for the guys and gals on the road," Aimone said. The carrier has seen a rapid return on investment. "Another carrier hit one of our trucks recently and tried to deny it. I just sent them the video," Aimone said. Those videos also protect Central Oregon Truck against false liability claims, protecting drivers wrongly blamed for accidents. Aimone believes the growing acceptance of onboard cameras, and electronic logging, which the carrier has had for years, means more truck drivers see technology as a boon rather than a burden. But that needs to made clear to them from the first day of driver orientation. Drivers are fine with "following a process," he said, "they just want to know why the process is the way it is. These things are not meant from a per - spective of being Big Brother." JOC email: twitter: @willbcassidy

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