ZMI ALPHA:Online logistics platforms and truckers forming alliances in a ‘tech arms race’

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ZMI ALPHA:Online logistics platforms and truckers forming alliances in a ‘tech arms race’

© Ded Mityay

Logistics providers and truckers are pushing each other in a ‘technological arms race’ to offer better integrated functionality – or they are joining hands to do so.

Last month, logistics platform provider Redwood Logistics forged a strategic alliance with supply chain platform firm Blue Yonder.

Integrating the latter’s price discovery service into its own platform, Redwood was ready to launch a rating API offering, which gives its clientele instant truckload rates, booking functionality and guaranteed capacity.

Blue Yonder’s Luminate Platform takes data from internal and external sources to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to help users make smarter supply chain decisions. According to Redwood, the new functionality has an average response time of 1.5 seconds and achieves an average spot rate reduction of 10%.

On the highly fragmented US trucking scene, Blue Yonder is one of the platforms with larger reach, claiming a high single-digit share of the market. This makes it a highly strategic partner for Redwood, but not the only one. Talks with other players in this arena are in the works, said Michael Reed, Redwood’s chief product officer.

“Redwood has always thought of itself as an open ecosystem; we work with any other partner and, sometimes, we even work with competitors,” he said.

On the trucker-facing side, in December the company formed a partnership with SmartHop, a tech firm that uses artificial intelligence to deliver load recommendations, as well as digital booking, performance tracking and back office to small trucking firms.

Interest in the rating API is strong, said Mr Reed. “A lot of end users don’t want to log-in to multiple sites, make phone calls or send e-mails to poll spot rates,” he said, claiming interest has grown exponentially – “We anticipate over 500% growth within this segment for 2021.”

The pandemic has been a tailwind in the need to have more flexible networks with tools that enable people to make adjustments on the fly, he added.

And other logistics providers are coming to the same conclusion. Last month, trucking and logistics firm JB Hunt announced a partnership with Google, which aims to improve matching capability between shippers and truckers on its 360 platform, which is used for quoting, booking and manage shipments.

Together they intend to develop machine-learning tools that should give shippers a more accurate view of supply and demand days in advance, while helping carriers estimate costs, such as fuel.

Google’s cloud AI platform and other tools will be integrated with transport functions to achieve better supply chain visibility, while the tech giant’s data cloud will be leveraged to improve workflow systems and provide predictive analytics to shippers. In addition, the partners plan a new framework for data management, supply chain visibility and predictive modelling.

Redwood is also putting a lot of focus on artificial intelligence.

“Over time it’s only going to accelerate more rapidly. That intersection of technology and logistics is continually evolving and becoming more complicated,” Mr Reed said, adding that this dynamic was a major reason why Redwood was developing a ‘logistics platform as a service’ model that connects customers to a variety of tools and services streamlined to RedwoodConnect, a proprietary ‘supply chain integration platform as a service’.

“I think historically you’ve looked at certain indicators how many carrier reps you had as a broker, now we’re talking how many data scientists do you have,” he said. “Modern technology will only continue to drive new behaviours and new ways of thinking about it – so, to some extent, it is a tech arms race.”

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