BNEF 2020: Crucial Conversations on Supply Chain Sustainability

Last week, thought leaders and executives across multiple global industries met in San Francisco to attend Bloomberg’s BNEF Summit. Billed as “where automotive, energy and technology converge,” the BNEF Summit is aimed at finding ways to utilize technology to create a more efficient, ecologically sustainable future for business.

As a massive industry with a large global footprint and promising emerging technologies, logistics was a frequent topic of conversation at the summit. project44 Founder and CEO Jett McCandless had the opportunity to join a panel with Kendra Phillips, CTO and VP, New Products at Ryder, and Ziad Ismail, Chief Product Officer at Convoy.

The panel, “Digitizing Fleets and Freight: Connected, Smart and Consolidated?”, covered the ways supply chain technology is developing and how it can facilitate new levels of efficiency and sustainability. Below are the key points of the discussion.

As Technology Advances, Supply Chain Efficiency Grows

There have always been initiatives to reduce issues like empty miles, fuel use, and delivery times while increasing safety and efficiency, but up until recently, legacy technology and manual processes have limited our ability to achieve these initiatives. That’s all changing thanks to recent advancements in technology.

The ELD mandate, which went into full effect in December of 2019, requires all trucks in the United States to carry onboard devices that capture data around fuel consumption, miles driven, idle time, and more. Other onboard sensors, while not mandatory, are now far less expensive and easier to implement to fleets. The result is a wealth of new data and insight provided by every truck on the road in real-time.

One of the outcomes of this new data availability is the entrance of new software providers to the logistics market. These companies, like project44, leverage the supply chain data captured by ELDs and other devices and use it to provide advanced visibility into the supply chain.

Our Advanced Visibility Platform™, for example, applies analytics and machine learning to data allowing our customers to make smarter business decisions and become more operationally efficient. They reduce empty miles and fuel consumption while increasing their ability to provide customers with a modern delivery experience.

Customer Pain Points Drive Digitization, Automation, and Decarbonization

The Delivery Economy describes the reality that consumer expectations around delivery are more demanding now than ever before. People expect fast, inexpensive delivery and they expect real-time updates about where their shipments are and when they’ll arrive. These expectations are just as true for B2B shipping as B2C.

The data needed to address this pain point is readily available, but providing it to users in a way that it can be effectively leveraged is another story. One of the major roadblocks to visibility has historically been data silos, but using a platform approach, we are able to connect these disparate data feeds to the organizations and systems that need it.

“For shippers that have lots of different facilities, it’s difficult for them to get visibility… until platforms like [project44] provided more consistent visibility,” explains Ziad Ismail.

Of course, visibility isn’t the only major initiative for modernizing supply chains. Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important topic and the logistics industry has been historically inefficient. According to Ismail, trucks are driving empty 35% of the time, and issue that Convoy takes very seriously and has worked to correct.

“The proudest moment, probably of my career, was when we were able to figure out how to batch shipments together,” Ismail said. “We reduced the number of empty miles by 45%!”

That is a massive environmental impact. It affects the entire world outside of logistics, and it was made possible by technology. By reducing these empty miles, the industry becomes significantly decarbonized. For these results to be realized and increase over time, however, there must be collaboration across the entire logistics ecosystem.

Strategic Technology Partnerships Yield the Best Results

Advancing industry technology is crucial, but it cannot be done alone. Companies must work together in order for visibility technology to work efficiently. That requires organizational buy-in, and to create buy-in it helps to talk results.

Ismail sees this new age of technology as an opportunity to change the zero-sum game nature of the supply chain and provide value to shippers and brokers alike. “What drives the underlying cost for a shipper is the cost of moving trucks around, and trucks are being moved around very, very inefficiently,” he explains. “The thing we see shippers getting really excited about is—with data, with machine learning, with algorithms—we can actually reduce the underlying cost structure of the industry and kind of move past this zero-sum game we’ve been stuck in for a while.”

But not every company needs to develop its own technology. Sometimes being a proactive participant while sticking to your core functions is better for the supply chain ecosystem as a whole. This is the philosophy at Ryder.

“Ryder is not a tech company and we don’t want to be a tech company,” explains Phillips. Part of her job as CTO and VP, New Products is to identify technologies and strategic partners that address the issues they and their customers are facing. They leverage technology that they’ve proven works, has value, and solves these issues.

That’s where project44’s Advanced Visibility Platform comes into play—connecting shippers, carriers, logistics service providers, and more. Connecting companies like Convoy and Ryder. “Being the connective tissue and visibility layer was the early goal for us,” said McCandless. “Now that customers have seen the deep value of inventory and truck location, they want more real-time insights.”

With a focus on efficiency, sustainability, and driving customer value, and with the help of advancements in technology and forward-thinking companies like Convoy and Ryder, the future is bright for logistics.

You can watch the full panel here.