The pandemic accelerated the need for digital transformation across the supply chain. Perhaps no more so than in transportation, trucking and its intersection with facilities — the interaction between drivers, facility staff and the ubiquitous paper that accompanies this interplay. Overnight, the traditional face-to-face communication and passing of physical paper between both parties was interrogated and defined as a risk to eliminate.
The industry’s response? Contactless e-bills of lading became the clarion call to eliminate this physical interaction between facility staff and drivers. While the right solution to the problem, contactless eBOL has yet to gain holistic adoption. The reason? Carriers and driver telematic-focused organizations, those without a heritage steeped in the nuance of warehousing and yard operations, were the loudest trumpeters. These providers took an idealized view of the problem at hand, as the success of their solutions hinged on a consistent workflow across every facility, industry adoption of a digital standard and a homogenous level of driver technology and tech savvy — an assumption that ultimately proved too large to overcome.
What’s next for contactless eBOL? Is there another option? A solution that can release contactless eBOL from its present purgatory? Perhaps one that elegantly meets the differing needs of every facility across an entire distribution network. One that provides the ability for carriers and drivers who need a physical copy of paperwork to leave with a physical copy while still imparting an entirely digital experience for the carriers, partners and end customers ready for that leap. A solution that does not require drivers to snap pictures of shipping documentation with their phones. One with the breadth of deployment options necessary to prevent massive change management and process upheaval from delaying network wide deployment and ROI realization. One with the appropriate amount of operational flexibility to solve all the challenges and exceptions associated with driver and facility staff interaction.
In a recent episode of Supply Chain Spotlight, FreightWaves President George Abernathy interviewed the president and CEO of MacGregor Partners, Jason Ziegler. Ziegler believes MacGregor’s unique eBOL and driver orchestration solution, M.Folio, is just that. Given his organization’s focus on warehousing and the yard, unlike a lot of his competitors, Ziegler understands the nuance necessary to ensure broad eBOL operational acceptance and how to incrementally shift the industry from the inveterate paper and face-to-face interaction to driver orchestration coupled with digital documentation — all without the binary edict of an all-or-nothing solution.
“We recognized very quickly, ultimately before the pandemic, that the key to all of this is building a bridge,” said Ziegler. “How do we create a solution that allows the shipper and receiver to maximize their value going completely digital while still providing that glide path, if you will, for the rest of the network? Some drivers are very tech savvy and have great telematics. Some come in not necessarily tech savvy and have a cracked flip phone. You can’t expect them to be scanning QR codes and going fully digital. So our solution hinges on the idea that flexibility is the key to adoption and how we get this thing to go.”
M.Folio, which has deployment options ranging from self-service indoor/outdoor kiosks with the ability to print or ingest paperwork to entirely in-cab check-in and check-out options, as well as a bring-your-own-device model, provides a more efficient way for drivers to progress through a facility from arrival to departure. M.Folio leverages robotic processing automation and machine learning to manage exceptions like early/late arrival through appointment validation, communication with execution systems to automate dock door optimization routines or even proactively notifying a driver if his or her load is not ready. Since everyone wins when drivers spend more time on the road moving freight, the goal of the solution is to turn drivers quickly and minimize how often they have to leave their trucks. For the warehouse, beyond becoming a shipper of choice, one major value of M.Folio and eBOL is visibility and the efficiency the visibility unlocks.
“As soon as you get these documents digitized, you put them in a portal and can provide access to your partners, carriers and customers,” Ziegler said. “We then eliminate the back-office admin staff work: filing, printing, moving, storing paperwork. In addition to that, by moving to a self-service model where drivers are empowered to progress through the workflow at their own pace, we are able to reduce facility staff interaction time with drivers by upwards of 75%, ultimately giving these clerks back, depending on how many drivers and the volume of facility, 25% of their day.”
When Abernathy asked Ziegler to peer into the crystal ball and share his vision for the digital yard of the future, Ziegler said that M.Folio will act as a platform to connect systems, data and workflows between parties, opening the door to cross-company workflow automation around claims, documentation and visibility, thus ensuring shippers and receivers are better prepared for the next massive disruption, the unique exception of tomorrow and a more digital future, including autonomous vehicles.
Ziegler also said MacGregor Partners could potentially contribute significant value to real-time transportation visibility platforms like FourKites or project44, which track trucks moving from point A to point B.
“We can begin to buttress and support that data with information about what’s going on at location A. Is the shipment ready to go? Is it not? What’s happening to the driver? Is he still waiting? How do we feed that data up to give the shippers and receivers an even better real-time view of their transportation and predictive and proactive alerts saying, ‘Hey, if this guy in location A is unable to get going in 30 minutes, we’re going to have a problem with him arriving at location B,’ because we know the time and all the traffic patterns.”
Since Ziegler founded MacGregor Partners in 2012, M.Folio has seen significant growth. He said that in the next couple of years, the company should double in size, from roughly 105 employees to the neighborhood of 200, pushing its value to the $50 million mark, as it continues to pioneer the digital yard of the future.