Digitalization has effectively smoothened most of the tedious tasks for humankind. Technology has also managed to influence the mover and shakers of the industry—Supply Chain and Logistics. It has become important for companies to adopt the technology and stay abreast with the trends, but it is equally vital to adapt to the rapidly changing tech advancements. For an industry that is responsible for moving $16.4 trillion of cargo every year globally, it cannot afford communication gaps and other errors. Several companies in the industry relied on EDI (Electronic Data Exchange) for the manual processes which were inefficient for the current market.
Having witnessed the same issues first-hand for nearly 20 years, Jett McCandless realized that the sector could transform with the use of the right technology. By replacing EDI with modern API technology, he could revolutionize the process and in turn save shippers, carriers, and logistics providers a significant amount of money and time. Jett combined his expertise with his passion for logistics and technology and launched project44 in 2014, which is now recognised by Gartner as a Leader in real-time transportation visibility in its 2021 Magic Quadrant.
project44 offers real-time transportation visibility solutions for carriers, logistics service providers, and shippers in a variety of industries, including consumer goods, retail, manufacturing, life sciences, and food and beverage. Currently, it is catering the services to 500 enterprise customers including Amazon, Starbucks, and Walmart, and partners with leaders like SAP, FedEx, and IBM. Jett and his team are looking forward to evolving the Advanced Visibility Platform™ by increasing multi-modal capabilities to the point of seamless interoperability. Moreover, they are going to explore unchartered capabilities of technology and find new innovative ways to utilize shipment data to create even more efficiencies. This includes improving warehouse and inventory management, revolutionizing customer service around the delivery experience, and optimizing the continually expanding e-commerce industry.
No matter the pace of growth, convincing people for an alternative advanced tech—which is also better than the old version—comes as a challenge for the provider. Initially, project44 countered several battles to convince the industry to reroute from EDI to APIs. Majority of these shippers or third-party logistics providers were unable to understand APIs while the others had already invested in EDI. Jett and his team relentlessly set out to convince these shippers about the potential of this new visibility platform called project44 and why it was worth rerouting to this new technology.
Soon, the idea of having access to real-time visibility became popular in the industry. Several companies deviated from the question “why do we need this?” to “we know we need this, when can we get started?”
This innovative tech by project44 has truly set it apart from its competitor in the same niche. What makes project44’s innovation truly unique is Jett’s “platform” vision. While the competitors are leveraging or acquiring other application companies and patching them together for a ‘closed system’, project44 creates an open system—shared network connectivity across carriers, TMS’s, telematics providers, IoT devices, condition monitoring sources, and more. All these factors have contributed to making project44 the largest supply chain data network in the world.
Another factor that highlighted the importance of real-time visibility over shipments were two major crises that took place simultaneously. In 2019, the advent of the COVID-19 virus was prominent and disrupted business operations by 2020. There were lockdowns on a global level causing an abrupt halt. But, e-commerce experienced a surge in demand. Consumer behavior has inclined more towards online shopping and even when the pandemic subsides there will still be upscaling demand. This will affect transportation—especially for the fast delivery driven suppliers like Amazon—with a continued rise in small packages and last-mile deliveries. As a result, there is going to be a spiked demand for expanded real-time transportation visibility, automation, and collaboration – by all B2B POs, to match the Amazon experience in their consumers’ lives.
Apart from the small package deliveries, the supply chains will need real-time visibility for the resilience of overall shipments in the end-to-end supply chain from factory to DC to retail shelves so they can address disruptions and manage lead time to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Jett put forth another example to explain this clearly, the Suez Canal incident. In 2021 while we were all pushing through the crisis to lift the economy ashore, ‘Ever Given’ got stuck on her route and blocked the Suez Canal. Though the ship has been sailed on its route now, there will be larger vessels waiting to be unloaded. All this contributes to cargo delays in Europe, the US, and Asia – later causing high friction inland. “It is going to be messy for some time,” Jett explains.
We live in a dynamic world where customer expectations are sky-high, and the landscape is continually changing. Supply Chains need visibility to manage this disruption. Though companies are failing to acknowledge this need now, in few years the need will be apparent and companies unprepared. Today, companies must have robust, real-time visibility over all their transportation moves. Soon with expansion overseas, these companies will require a more advanced solution that encompasses collaboration and automation into their visibility of all their processes and inventory. Thus, growing the real-time visibility transportation market, and project44 will be at the forefront with its advanced solutions.
Though real-time visibility enables supply chain managers to see the problem as it occurs, correcting that problem requires a swift response. This can be achieved through predictive analytics and offer necessary guidance to the supply chain executive to arrive at the correct response and solve the problem. Followed by prescriptive analytics, an AI tech working independently and making decisions without the involvement of humans in the process.
Jett anticipates that in coming years predictive and prescriptive analytics will dominate the industry. He further explains his speculation with an example, stating “Predictive analytics play a big role. If the port is slowing down, the supply chain manager can route their shipments through another port. If a trucker, on the other hand, has a record of excellent service, always meeting their delivery commitments, the supply chain manager can assign more loads to the high performing carrier.”
All this contributes to the evidence that analytics will no doubt enhance supply chain visibility data to provide insights for improving customer support and e-commerce. The amalgamation of real-time visibility and analytics will foster efficiency and transform the supply chain practices for the better. This has been project44’s mission all along. By integrating the advanced tech the team will further strengthen the solutions.
The team has been one of the strong pillars behind project44’s success. Even amid the harsh crisis of COVID-19 the team worked relentlessly to attain their goals and achieve amazing results. The set target could be achieved because of transparency. The past few months were not easy for any organization and employees were stressed about unexpected layoffs or furloughs. project44 ensured there was effective communication amongst the team. There were regular Zoom calls and meetings to have a sense of togetherness. Jett proudly asserts, “We are proud of our team members and the resilience and teamwork they have demonstrated during this time!”
Due to the team’s harmonized efforts, project44 could bear the tough tides of the pandemic. Now, the team is planning to expand its visibility solution to more countries around the world. Moreover, the team has outlined granular visibility of shipments to enable SKU level visibility for the shipper. Whereas, the shippers will also have access to dynamic appointment scheduling with the integration of time-slot booking functionality with more TMS providers.
For the year 2021, the goal is to keep working to expand the presence of project 44 while focusing on improving the functionality and ease of use of the platform. Jett and his team will be exploring AI and big data applications and automation of customer processes and workflows to enhance customer experience.
“The Supply Chain Industry is much more innovative and dynamic than it was 20 years ago. It is growing incredibly fast being driven by large investments in technology and big data. It’s also an incredibly diverse industry that is global and multicultural. If you want to have a career on the cutting edge of a global high-tech industry that has real-world impact, the supply chain industry could be for you.”