• DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.751
    -0.063
    -3.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    2.041
    0.007
    0.3%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.928
    0.007
    0.8%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.459
    -0.043
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    0.984
    0.022
    2.3%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.110
    0.019
    1.7%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.155
    0.009
    0.4%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.634
    -0.013
    -0.8%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.466
    -0.005
    -0.3%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.194
    -0.017
    -1.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.569
    0.015
    1%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,394.010
    -295.340
    -3%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.540
    -0.110
    -1.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,375.560
    -302.450
    -3.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
  • DATVF.ATLPHL
    1.751
    -0.063
    -3.5%
  • DATVF.CHIATL
    2.041
    0.007
    0.3%
  • DATVF.DALLAX
    0.928
    0.007
    0.8%
  • DATVF.LAXDAL
    1.459
    -0.043
    -2.9%
  • DATVF.SEALAX
    0.984
    0.022
    2.3%
  • DATVF.PHLCHI
    1.110
    0.019
    1.7%
  • DATVF.LAXSEA
    2.155
    0.009
    0.4%
  • DATVF.VEU
    1.634
    -0.013
    -0.8%
  • DATVF.VNU
    1.466
    -0.005
    -0.3%
  • DATVF.VSU
    1.194
    -0.017
    -1.4%
  • DATVF.VWU
    1.569
    0.015
    1%
  • ITVI.USA
    9,394.010
    -295.340
    -3%
  • OTRI.USA
    7.540
    -0.110
    -1.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    9,375.560
    -302.450
    -3.1%
  • TLT.USA
    2.730
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    156.000
    -2.000
    -1.3%
American ShipperWarehouse

On Second Thought: Filling the transportation industry’s innovators vacuum

   Five years ago in this space, I put forth a tantalizing question; “Who will be the Transportation Industry’s next Steve Jobs?” Jobs had recently passed away and our industry had a vacuum as innovators like Don Schneider, Malcom McLean, Phil Yeager and J.B. Hunt had also passed. As I look back on the 2011 piece that I wrote, I now realize that I was too focused on the assets. I am pleased to report that there has been a new crop of innovative leaders that have emerged—but they are far more digital than physical. Not everyone in this new generation of leaders will succeed, but they are changing the way we think, innovate and create value. They and others like them will become the transformational generation of our industry. 
   The world has seen a major shift away from asset-based innovation to the sharing economy enabled by the digital age. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and countless social networking apps have caused all of us to think about new ways that our businesses can be disrupted. Five-years ago digital platforms lacked the speed and ubiquity necessary to revolutionize our industry. So we remained focused on assets. Today, however, we are seeing a shift in thinking driven by faster, better and cheaper technology, and the emergence of a bold new generation of leaders who don’t see our industry as a bunch of knuckle-dragging cavemen. They see our industry as ripe for the digital revolution with customers who are eager to embrace it—they see it as the next frontier. 
   Coyote Logistics (acquired by UPS in 2015) in many ways led the charge. Jeff Silver founded the company and is a rare, charismatic leader who combines insights garnered from the industry with a keen eye for technology and a willingness to invest in scale. In less than a decade, he built a culture of success and service that was enabled by a rock-star group of technologists who went straight to the cloud and mobile at a point in time when neither was a sure bet.  
   Cory Margand founded SimpliShip after living through the daily frustration of outdated global logistics processes throughout his career in the footwear industry. His frustration peaked one day while trying to secure spot rates for an ocean freight move from China to Los Angeles. It had been a week of constant emails and phone calls while trying to get a decent rate, when it dawned on him that there has to be a better way. Soon after, Margand founded SimpliShip, a cloud-based marketplace that connects shippers and freight forwarders through a simple-to-use platform. Margand told me, “Shippers deserve an experience like kayak.com or Expedia where they can quickly and easily award shipments based on price, service and user-community feedback.” With this application of technology, SimpliShip has taken a process that could take weeks and cut it down to a matter of hours, and began disrupting an industry. 
   Convoy is “reinventing the trucking industry with an on-demand service for arranging regional and local shipments.” The company’ co-founder, Dan Lewis, has been able to attract capital from some of the best names in the business, given the size of the market and pragmatic approach that they appear to be taking. Lewis worked in delivery in Seattle while growing up, but learned how to disrupt industries while working for companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft.  
   Digital disruption is not just limited to transportation. It can be found in all areas of the supply chain. Even the staid warehousing industry is seeing potential disruptors. Karl Siebrecht is looking to re-imagine the way businesses see warehouses with his company, Flexe. His company’s goal is to connect partially or empty warehouse space with companies in need of short-term inventory storage; much like Airbnb connects unused guest rooms to travelers in need of accommodations. So now a company looking to test out a new market or dealing with an unexpected inventory spike can react without having to commit to long-term leases for warehouse space. 
   The opportunities for creating disruptive technology that create efficiencies in warehousing seem endless and Packsize is a great example. Founder Hanko Kiessner saw a better way and created the on-demand packaging system that produces custom-fit boxes, allowing products to be shipped in the smallest box possible while eliminating waste and reducing costs. Prior to Packsize, most companies’ solution to deal with oversized boxes was to fill empty space with expensive and environmentally unfriendly dunnage.
   Startups fail at an amazingly high rate. Whether they are successful or not, the visionaries and the bold leaders, like those mentioned here, will teach us all. They teach us that business models need to constantly be re-thought and that there are innovators among us. For those who are successful, the rewards will be rich. Some of them will be considered the “Steve Jobs” of this industry. Their contributions will reshape the future of the supply chain and those who work in it. Given the reach and interconnectedness of the supply chain, their impact will touch the daily lives of every human on the planet.

  Tom Nightingale is a longtime freight transportation and logistics specialist. He can be reached by email at nightingale.tom@gmail.com.

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