project44’s Eric Fullerton on the common challenges hampering many visibility providers and how project44’s visibility and analytics capabilities can overcome them – and help supply chain professionals solve problems they may not have even thought of, yet.
In an era of burgeoning complexity in global supply chains, businesses find themselves in an escalating battle against time, distance, and uncertainty. Striving to perfect the customer experience, companies yearn for an intimate understanding of their goods’ precise movements around the world. The drive to become more agile, to adjust to fluctuations seamlessly, and to deliver on ever-increasing customer expectations has never been more critical.
According to a PwC survey, a staggering 73 per cent of customers would significantly reduce their spending with a company that breaches their trust, with 44 per cent stating they would cease buying from such a company altogether.
The harsh reality is that without a comprehensive, integrative system that unifies all elements of the supply chain, businesses will continue to wrestle with disconnected teams, incompatible transportation modes, disjointed systems, and unreliable data. This ongoing struggle risks customer attrition at a time when customer retention is paramount.
Fortunately, the advanced end-to-end supply chain visibility that has long been the industry’s Holy Grail is no longer a pipedream.
Every day, project44, the world’s leading visibility provider, empowers new businesses to modify production and distribution to counteract lengthening lead times, redirect shipments away from congested ports, and more effectively manage overall supply chain flows.
project44’s Movement platform is constantly evolving, bringing in new add-ons, products, and capabilities to give users not only best-in-class visibility of their supply chains, but ever-more sophisticated insights drawn from the reams of data project44 collects across the globe.
But what can visibility analytics do for you in optimising your supply chain?
To find out, MHD caught up with Eric Fullerton, Senior Director Product Marketing at project44.
HURDLES TO ACHIEVING TRUE VISIBILITY
In supply chain management, Eric identifies four key gaps that have profound impacts on functionality and efficacy.
First on Eric’s radar is ‘regionality’, an issue that plagues many of today’s supply chain visibility solution providers.
“They all originated somewhere, right? So, they tend to have a regional or modal focus,” Eric explains. Despite efforts by organizations to claim a global reach, the reality is often starkly different. A true global presence requires personnel, regional expertise, and the ability to deliver within the context of each region’s specific nuances. He points out that without an extensive global footprint, companies are inclined to operate within regional and modal biases, narrowing their effectiveness. The proof, he observes, is often in the paucity of physical presence in many of the regions they claim to cover.
Next, Eric turns his attention to the lack of ‘order visibility’. While many visibility solutions providers focus on tracking shipments or assets, a glaring gap exists when it comes to orders and inventory in motion.
Shippers today are increasingly thinking more in terms of inventory and purchase orders. “Many offerings today don’t have the ability to show you all of your orders, show you all of your SKUs,” he says. “But at this point, supply chain professionals are demanding to see shipments and orders and have the ability to associate them with one another. “The absence of such comprehensive visibility poses a significant challenge for efficient supply chain management.”
The third challenge Eric discusses is tied to the intermodal and multimodal aspect of supply chains. Integrating all different shipments, from truckload to rail to ocean, and providing an accurate, actionable multimodal ETA is a complex task.
“It’s a gap that many visibility offerings currently available struggle with,” Eric notes, attributing this partly to “modal bias”, where providers don’t offer the same quality of tracking and performance across all different modes. As a result, crucial elements such as ETA accuracy may falter, compromising overall management of the supply chain.
Lastly, Eric mentions “black boxes” in supply chain visibility – nodes such as terminals and yards – where visibility can often be lost. This, he emphasises, is a significant gap that many in the industry struggle to fill. “It’s crucial not only to think about connecting all the modes of transport, but also about tying together those different nodes along the journey.”
CLEARING THE HURDLES WITH VISIBILITY ANALYTICS
project44’s answer to the intricacies and gaps in supply chain visibility lies in a combination of its data-centric approach, a strong, integrated network, and innovative offerings, says Eric.
He highlights how project44’s platform – which includes terminal visibility, yard visibility, and intermodal capabilities, to ocean, truckload and air products, and more – are integral to bridging the identified gaps. The ability to provide both port-to-port and door-to-door versions, catering to specific use cases, offers a versatility that many visibility providers lack.
Eric underscores the value of directly integrating with carriers via API, a strategic choice that sets project44 apart. “We spend a lot of time and energy to with the largest and most significant carriers to have proprietary API integrations,” he says. “This effort is significant but pays dividends compared to the all-to-common screen scraping approach. The result is data that is more real time and more accurate – a requirement for successful modern supply chains.
Any remaining gaps are filled by Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) connections and mobile apps, thereby ensuring comprehensive coverage.
The true power behind project44’s approach, Eric believes, lies in its data story.
“Although we provide supply chain visibility, at our core, much of what we do is related to integration, data connectivity, and then normalizing that data in a way that is consumable for our customers,” he says.
Indeed, project44 is the “connective tissue” of supply chain, connecting and comprehending 10 billion supply chain data points per month, and tracking one billion shipments per year.
VISIBILITY ANALYTICS FOR PRE-EMPTIVE PLANNING
project44’s analytics are not just about keeping a watchful eye on supply chains; they also serve as an aid in pre-emptive planning.
The company provides regular data-based thought leadership Supply Chain Insights derived from the vast amount of information it gathers. These insights are made available on project44’s Movement platform, providing companies with crucial visibility into global events and trends that can impact their supply chains.
“We’re able to pull together these high-level trends based on global events,” Eric says. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, for instance, we were able to generate reports on how that affected the movement of goods throughout the supply chain across those regions, from ports to truckload volume. We could similarly report on the impact of labour disputes in the UK and dockworker strikes in the US.”
He cites another recent example where project44 responded to floods in Italy by analysing their impact on truckload tracking performance in the Emilia Romagna region, thereby offering their clients vital insights to help them navigate the crisis.
Moreover, project44’s Port Intel feature allows companies to monitor ports around the world and identify trends or events. This provides a real-time view into import and export dwell times and other trends – facilitating better pre-planning.
“Having this kind of information helps companies adjust their strategies based on trends and potentially avoid certain bottlenecks or delays,” Eric says.
EMPOWERING SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGERS
Eric closes our interview by pointing to how visibility analytics of the kind offered by project44 empower supply chain workers and managers to make better and more persuasive arguments when they feel leadership is imposing a bad decision from on-high.
“We’ve all had that experience where a boss with not enough knowledge nevertheless swoops in and tells you to do something that you know isn’t the right call,” Eric relates. “Our visibility analytics have helped supply chain managers to make their case to executives, to hold their ground – and to do so persuasively.
“For example, one of our clients – a major global athletic apparel brand – was dealing with significant congestion at the Port of Long Beach and other California ports. When executives questioned the wisdom of shipping goods into those congested ports, the supply chain team leveraged project44’s Port Intel data to demonstrate that their strategy was still the most expedient. Despite the congestion, the transportation flows and carrier contracts directed towards California resulted in faster delivery to the end destination than it would have been to reroute through New York or Charleston.
“Had the supply chain guys at this company not been able to make their case to the executives with the data to prove it, the executives would have compounded one obstacle with another unforced error. To me, that’s a great story about how visibility analytics empowers on-the ground decision making and leads to better outcomes.”
For more information on project44, click here.