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Convoy’s Innovation Lab seeks answers to shipping pain points

 Convoy has worked closely with shippers on various projects, including its Convoy Go program that gives owner-operators access to drop-and-hook freight through a universal trailer pool. It has now formalized those efforts in the Innovation Lab. ( Photo: Shutterstock ) Convoy has worked closely with shippers on various projects, including its Convoy Go program that gives owner-operators access to drop-and-hook freight through a universal trailer pool. It has now formalized those efforts in the Innovation Lab. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Solving big problems for the benefit of all. That is the ultimate goal of the Convoy Innovation Lab, formally announced this morning, May 2, 2019. The Lab is an incubator in which shippers gain access to Convoy engineers and data scientists that work with the shipper in solving a pain point.

“Every single team at Convoy is dedicated to innovation; this is ingrained in the Convoy DNA,” Lindsay Watt, head of product-shipper experience for Convoy, explained to FreightWaves. “The Innovation Lab is a way for us to take this commitment one step further and bring shippers deeper into the process. We have an internal team that is working full-time on big ideas for shipper innovation, and through the Lab we connect each shipper with the team of engineers, designers and data scientists best-suited to solve their problem.”

Since its founding in 2015, Convoy has worked with customers to solve problems. The formal introduction of the Innovation Lab simply extends those efforts and puts in motion a process for future collaboration between Convoy and its customers, the company said.

“Some of our biggest breakthroughs have been from deep partnerships with leading shippers and carriers. With the Convoy Innovation Lab we are accelerating innovation at Convoy and for the freight world at-large,“ Ziad Ismail, Convoy chief product officer, said. “We believe that significant improvements in freight are made by combining a comprehensive understanding of shipper problems with world-class technology.”

An example of a Convoy product that was born out of this process is Dynamic Backup. The solution inserts a guaranteed market rate into the routing guide that shippers can instantly book for their load. Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) came to Convoy with concerns that too many of its shipments were reaching the spot market, wasting time and money. Anheuser-Busch worked with Convoy to implement a solution, Dynamic Backup, which resulted in an additional 20 percent of Anheuser-Busch loads being covered before they hit the spot market.

Other Convoy products developed through these types of collaborations include its universal trailer pool program, Convoy Go; its 100 percent automated matching that matches shipments to trucks with zero human intervention; and its Shipper Platform 2.0, which provides shippers direct access to some of Convoy’s data and models to improve decision-making.

Watt said there are multiple benefits to the program for both Convoy and the shippers participating in the Innovation Lab.

“Over the past four years, we’ve learned that when we solve shipper problems, they allow us to serve more of their freight,” he said. “Convoy is committed to spending both time and money to deeply understand and solve more shipper problems, and we know that this will ultimately grow our freight marketplace.”

The shippers also get access to these innovative projects before competitors.

“Companies selected to join the Lab get exclusive access to unannounced projects, an outsized voice in our product development process, and direct access to our engineers, designers and data scientists to ensure that we build solutions that actually work for them,” Watt noted. “We don’t ‘graduate’ products out of the Lab until we get a green light from our shipper partners that the solution truly addresses their problems.”

With that said, getting into the program requires a problem that addresses a fundamental issue in freight and one where a Convoy solution can not only help solve it, but the solution is aligned with the shipper’s success, Watt said.

“It’s not about the size of the shipper but the size of the challenge and the impact solving it will have on shippers,” he said.

Shippers are sometimes so focused on their core business, which is not moving freight, that pain points can compound over time. Solving them, though, requires investment and time that is not worth the effort in some cases, yet ignoring them leads to added costs to move goods. That is where the Convoy Innovation Lab can play a role.

“As we work to deeply understand shipper problems, we have found that many problems companies think are specific to them occur across many companies and industries,” Watt said. “The Innovation Lab creates a community of shippers where we can quickly identify these patterns and, instead of creating one-off solutions, actually drill down to the root cause to create solutions that will be impactful for all Lab members and Convoy customers.”

Shippers accepted into the Innovation Lab are not required to contribute financially, but their time is paramount. Convoy provides all the engineering, data science and design resources with input from the shipper throughout the process to ensure the project will achieve its goal.

The end result, hopefully, is a successful product launch that reduces costs for shippers and brings more business Convoy’s way.

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and fleetowner.com. Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.

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