LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Known more for its search engine than any other product, Google is making inroads into the supply chain sector with its Google Cloud platform.
Founded two years ago, Google Cloud is quickly bringing major transportation providers across modes onto its platform, and it has made strides to bring its technology expertise into the last mile as well.
On Monday, Google Cloud and XPO (NYSE: XPO) announced a multiyear collaboration to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics to further innovate the movement of goods through the supply chain.
“XPO is always looking for ways to innovate the ways goods move across the globe. Implementing the most cutting-edge technology is the best way for us to ensure that we achieve this goal,” said Yoav Amiel, senior vice president of technology at XPO. “By working with Google Cloud’s AI/ML and data analytics capabilities, we can operate the fastest, most efficient supply chains possible.”
As part of the partnership, XPO is expecting to move closer to reaching its sustainability goals by moving freight in a more efficient way. With Google Cloud, XPO ensures for every application moved from a self-managed data center or collocation facility to the public cloud, the net operational emissions from running that application will be zero. Google Cloud matches 100% of electricity that powers cloud workloads with renewable energy.
Hans Thalbauer, managing director of Global Supply Chain, Logistics & Transportation at Google Cloud, told FreightWaves the transportation services at the company are part of a “highly differentiated services” offering to the industry. Clients span trucking, rail, air and maritime.
Google Cloud is leveraging the Google Maps platform and partnering with other technology providers such as project44, Blume Global and SAP to create digital twins of supply chains for businesses, helping them assess their operations and freight movements.
“It’s a broad network and ecosystem to make technology easy to use and adopt,” Thalbauer said at the Gartner Supply Chain Symposium/XPO 2022 conference at Walt Disney World’s Dolphin Resort.
The digital twin replicates the company’s supply chain, taking both public and private data sets to generate information. “We enable companies to create this visibility in a control tower format,” he noted.
In March, Google Cloud announced two last-mile-related products: Last Mile Fleet Solution from its Google Maps Platform and Cloud Fleet Routing API from Google Cloud to help fleet operators optimize their delivery performance. The former solution is currently in public preview for select companies, while the latter will become available in Q2.
The first Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) offering, Last Mile Fleet Solution, focuses on delivery execution. Powered by hyperlocal insights from Google Maps, the solution enables simplified address entry to improve accurate address capture, shipment tracking and up-to-date arrival times for customers and detailed delivery locations for drivers.
Last Mile Fleet Solutions is embedded with turn-by-turn navigation that integrates into a driver’s existing workflows, ensuring that deliveries are completed without a hitch, all within the Google Maps interface. The solution also offers a full-day view of tasks with improved routing and traffic data, allowing drivers to adjust their routes as needed.
For fleet operators, the platform provides real-time fleet visualization through insights such as shipment status, route progress, and real-time and predictive traffic. The solution even allows operators to generate their own insights for better performance.
The other half of Google’s product rollout, Cloud Fleet Routing API from Google Cloud, aims to provide a scalable platform through which fleet operators can manage and optimize routes. The solution enables efficient allocation of packages to delivery vans and sequencing of delivery tasks through a native integration with Google Maps, and it allows customers to specify constraints like time windows, package weights and vehicle capacities.
Thalbauer said the solutions benefit from the Google Maps platform but provide more efficiency across the board. In India, he said, one company that implemented the Cloud Fleet Routing API cut the number of delivery vans it needed by 40% thanks to better asset usage.
Last Mile Fleet also includes an address check verification, which can be beneficial to shippers, especially smaller shippers in the e-commerce space. The checker verifies the inputted delivery address and alerts users when that address may not be correct. It can also offer a possible alternative address.
Thalbauer also said emailed information with delivery links can be used for smaller carriers that may not have robust technology platforms.