“We know where all the problems are because we’ve lived them for years,” says project44 president Tommy Barnes.
The we is Chicago-based, three-year-old startup project44, Barnes, and the company’s founder and CEO Jett McCandless. The problems are inefficiencies in the global supply chain and transportation space as a result of outdated technologies. And the years are over 40 - the number of combined years of experience Barnes and McCandless have in the domain, global supply chain, and transportation industries.
To solve these problems, the company’s goal since day one has been focused on the automation, optimization, and visibility of the logistics and transportation industry by replacing legacy technologies with project44’s “one-to-many” network to facilitate and simplify all quote-to-invoice freight connectivity for LTL, full truckload, volume LTL/partial truckload, and intermodal freight transactions.
With project44, retailers, e-commerce companies, suppliers, manufacturers, 3PLs and brokers are able to communicate critical transportation data, such as tracking or quoting shipments, with the rest of their supply chain in an automated, real-time way. And by better understanding and connecting the transportation network, project44 can help companies function more effectively and accelerate revenue, increasing internal productivity and reducing costs.
“Too many times today, companies want to throw trucks and buildings and people and other capital at problems,” says Barnes. “They don’t ever think about how to efficiently use and communicate information that will help them ultimately be more effective. And we know the only way to effectively compete in our world is to have the right level of communication and automation.”
Through its offerings of standardized, secure web service application programming interfaces (APIs), project44 is modernizing how the world transports goods by enabling third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and shippers to connect with carriers in real-time. The technology works by integrating the APIs into various software platforms, allowing a faster and more reliable exchange of data as opposed to using outdated formats such as email, SMC3, EDI, manual processes, FTP, spreadsheets, and even telephones.
It’s what project44 calls the automation of the “quote-to-invoice” lifecycle of a shipment.
These key automation elements of the entire freight shipment process can include any component of transportation data from rating, transit time, executing, visibility, and ETA, to delivery and invoicing, as well as predictability around events in a shipment.
“Now, with legacy technology, each one of those steps in between either don’t exist or don’t have any technology, so there could be a manual spreadsheet or they could use a phone or a fax or they could use EDI,” explains Barnes. “So all of those elements of automation, we’re doing that with API.”
APIs are the connectivity mechanism at the heart of today’s applications and are the fastest, most seamless way to transmit data on-demand. For project44 users, that means bringing together valuable load and rate information in seconds.
For example, truckload shippers and 3PLs often miss out on volume LTL opportunities because they are labor-intensive and time-consuming due to an entirely manual process that lacks visibility. project44 offerings focus on enabling a real-time and fully automated volume LTL quoting and tendering that significantly lowers the time required to quote shipments to a few seconds.
“So, let’s just say a shipper or 3PL, let’s just say that company used 20 different capacity providers. Instead of that company going one by one, API by API, to every capacity provider,” Barnes says, “they could use our one API and connect to all of those companies. It gives them speed to market and flexibility versus in the old days, so to speak, you had to connect to every one of the connections, each time to each group.”
Businesses like TransInsight, CaseStack, BlueGrace, and WorldWide Express are utilizing project44 to increase efficiency and productivity through lowering costs, getting products to market faster, reducing inventory, avoiding supply chain errors, meeting tight delivery windows with real-time supply chain connectivity and quickly adapting to changing requirements.
And for e-commerce companies, project44 provides automation and visibility to manage inbound inventory, expanding e-commerce capabilities with freight connectivity and even linking customers’ online shopping carts with a company’s own inventory, drop ship vendors, and transportation capacity.
“If you look at the industry there’s a lot of waste as it relates to really bad communication, and bad use of information, and anything around information at the core is really broken,” says Barnes. “We’ve seen the inefficiencies manifest themselves. Our model is to implement things much faster.”
Named for the Interstate highway that first allowed drivers to bypass the old Route 66 between St. Louis and Oklahoma City, project44 is based on a monthly subscription model that is dependent on a company’s unique volume of API transactions. The startup currently has 49 employees and expects to double that number within 12 months, with revenue growth to match.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have a great customer base, and we’ve really been able to change the market we’re working in, which was our initial goal,” says Barnes.
In an April interview with DC Velocity, McCandless said project44 plans to continue its growth by adding more freight modes, intermodal, and rail (which it rolled out this summer and will fully launch this fall), as well as ocean and air by 2018.
Barnes adds that currently the company’s focus has been enhancement of its core LTL and volume LTL automation APIs and securing visibility data from all modes including intermodal operating systems and rail car sensors. He also says project44 will quickly move into the European and Asian spaces in the coming years as well.
“We see the platform being a large global network that’s going to run many, many organizations and help them to perform at an optimal level,” says Barnes. “It’s a game of speed and a game of quality and that’s why the quality of our product is first and foremost to us and the type of data that we have is best in class. That’s why we’re passionate to change and get better every single day because we understand that value is an hourly deal not a daily or weekly deal.”