Many of the trends underway before the pandemic have been accelerated by the pandemic. The shift to e-commerce, virtual working and learning, supply chain diversification and — in a big way — the digitalization of the freight business.
Eric Rempel, chief innovation at Redwood Logistics, discussed digitalization trends with FreightWaves Chief Strategy Officer J.T. Engstrom during the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME virtual event on Thursday.
“It’s almost like something we were preparing for, less the pandemic,” Rempel said of his own company’s experience.
“We’ve been watching the world shift and watching the world change. Apart from everyone staying safe, [the pandemic] has been good because it has proven our thesis, which is that with the right combination of people and technology, you can solve most problems.”
The central digitalization product at Rempel’s company is RedwoodConnect, a drag-and-drop platform that allows users to integrate third-party tools and systems.
“It lets our customers connect to any TMS [transport management system] or any WMS [warehouse management system] and to connect their enterprise system, their ERP [enterprise resource planning], operational management systems and order management systems quickly. Shippers can connect to their network of carriers. It also let us develop new features and functionality for our customers faster.
“It lets customers continue to leverage their legacy investments and get a lot of value out of them while supercharging them with some of the best new logistics apps in the business.
“If they get that quick go-to-market opportunity, they have a single place to manage it and the holistic solution they’ve been looking for,” he said, noting that it also allows customers to integrate new customers and acquisitions quickly.
The flexibility RedwoodConnect offers is more valuable than ever in the wake of the pandemic. Numerous commentators are pointing to accelerating changes in supply chains.
“When trying to deal with how supply chains are morphing and what’s going on right now, being able to drag and drop from one system to another and integrate a new trading partner without having to go back to IT has been a huge game changer,” said Rempel.
Internal benefits as well
RedwoodConnect is not just paying off for external customers. It’s also being used internally for the freight business of Redwood Logistics.
“There’s a lot of hype right now about ‘digital freight matching’ and we’ve been doing that for nearly 20 years,” said Rempel. “‘Digital freight brokerage’ is a newer term for what we used to call ‘automation’ over a decade ago.
“And like the rest of the industry, we are making huge investments in this. The key is: How do we aggressively work to digitize and automate a ton of our freight?
“What we’re doing is leveraging RedwoodConnect as a linchpin of how we weave together all the solutions in our brokerage. We’re weaving together the right blend of solutions, not only the ones we build ourselves at Redwood, but new tools out there in the market. There are a lot of new data providers and organization-building tools that are all built around the premise of the digital freight brokerage. We can embed them in our workflows where we see a solution that is the best fit.
“We’ve been using RedwoodConnect in new and innovative ways to do things that are really complex before — and we’re just knocking them out in record time.”