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Pandemic-induced volatility driving more companies to seek visibility solutions

FourKites has seen triple-digit growth among intermodal, multimodal customers in search of accurate tracking data

FourKites said it has seen dramatic expansion of companies using its visibility products as shippers deal with uncertainty in the supply chain because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

When Canfor ships its wood pulp across the world, time is of the essence. It can’t be stored and is considered a perishable product, so if Canfor can’t get its product to the end customer in a timely manner, it jeopardizes the success of the customer’s business.

Visibility into the movement of this product is an example of why companies like Canfor have been clamoring for tracking and visibility technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption of supply chains has exacerbated that lack of visibility.

Canfor turned to FourKites for its end-to-end visibility solution, connecting Canfor’s truck, rail and ocean shipments to a new automated visibility system that integrates with its transportation management system.

“The automated reporting and tracking provides more accurate and real-time data, which allows Canfor to respond to customer inquiries quicker and with up-to-date information on their upcoming shipments that would have otherwise had to be manually tracked,” Bob Hayes, vice president of global supply chain for Canfor, said.

“We are witnessing an important new phase in real-time supply chain visibility as more companies leverage this indispensable technology to better manage complex global shipments end to end,” Mathew Elenjickal, FourKites founder and CEO, said. “The combination of physical tracking from origin to delivery, together with predictive ETAs and analytics, is proving a huge advantage during the most challenging year on record for supply chains.”

FourKites said it has seen a 200% increase in international load volumes tracked via its visibility platform in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019. Ocean load volumes tracked increased 149% and rail and intermodal grew 49%.

FourKites said it saw 140% growth in ocean customers and 138% growth in rail and intermodal customers over the same time period. Overall, the company has seen a 50% growth in customers in 2020, Elenjickal told FreightWaves.

In a statement, the company said it was not just onboarding of new customers that has triggered this growth, as existing customers continue to ramp up interest in visibility solutions. Eastman, a provider of specialty chemicals and additives, linked its over-the-road and rail shipments in South America, Europe and North America through the FourKites platform, providing it end-to-end global visibility of its shipments.

“FourKites impressed us with their willingness to develop and adapt to meet Eastman product quality expectations, and they have a well-articulated global visibility strategy across regions and modes,” Tom Morton, vice president of global supply chain at Eastman, said. “Their flexibility and willingness to collaborate made us feel confident in them as a key partner as Eastman drives to optimize every layer of the end-to-end supply chain.”

FourKites said that 2020 has seen an explosion of interest and adoption of visibility solutions, especially across multimodal, as it continues to invest in international and multimodal capabilities. Investments have included global expansion, capabilities to link rail, ocean and over-the-road shipments with more predictive and real-time estimated time of arrivals, and real-time vessel and railcar position data measured against transit times while factoring in speed, weather, port and terminal congestion.

Many customers, like Meijer, are looking at ways to increase visibility to optimize their operations at scale. The company worked with FourKites to develop a multimodal purchase order lifecycle tracking solution. It was formally unveiled in September at FourKites’ Visibility 2020 conference, which was held virtually for the first time.

“As part of this focus on optimization, we’re seeing accelerated adoption of FourKites across our customers’ teams,” Elenjickal told FreightWaves. “Typically our customers start their journey with us with their track-and-trace teams, and now we’re seeing them quickly expand use of FourKites to their customer service and sales teams to give those teams more flexibility and instant access to load updates and tracking data. This is something that our mature customers have already done.”

He added that the pandemic drove a lot of the interest in its visibility platform.

“We’ve seen a real jump in our new prospect pipeline, and we’ve signed some of our largest deals in company history over the course of the last eight months,” Elenjickal said. “Even within our existing customer base, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in adoption since the pandemic hit. Almost overnight, with our customers having gone remote, we saw the number of users increase over 400%. With the realities of remote work, it has become increasingly important for employees to have access to cloud-based applications, where they could easily access the real-time data.”

Elenjickal said FourKites’ investment in applications, user experience and workflows allowed it to quickly adapt to the work-from-home demands.

“Because of that, these new users were able to begin using the platform and leverage it right away — and we provided additional training as necessary — to perform their day-to-day responsibilities effectively and efficiently,” he said.

That was important for shippers moving essential goods, Elenjickal said. Food and beverage products saw a 26% spike in demand in February compared to February 2019, and that jumped to 48% in March. Retail shipment volumes increased 23% in September from their April lows, and less-than-truckload (up 42% in September compared to March) and parcel (37%) also saw huge jumps as the year rolled on.

“Around the holiday season, we predict that LTL/parcel shipments for retail and F&B will be 59% and 28% higher, respectively, than their pre-holiday growth of 58% and 45% in 2019,” Elenjickal said. “And, of course, pharmaceutical shipments are driving significant need for visibility, especially with the impending global vaccine distribution.”

On April 29, the company announced an interactive network congestion map that tracks cross-border freight movements in North America, Mexico and Europe. Earlier, it announced a scalable GPS solution called Partner Hub that creates tailor-made tools for brokers, carriers and shippers, with carriers retaining full control over their data and having the ability to share relevant data with the appropriate stakeholders.

June saw the launch of Dynamic ETA for LTL. Citing a data science breakthrough and the large volume of data from loads within its system, the FourKites solution provides real-time tracking of LTL shipments with narrow two-hour delivery windows.

In March, FourKites acquired TrackX’s Yard Management, Dock Management and Gate Control solutions, which led to the official launch of Dynamic Yard in July. It is a combination of TrackX’s yard management solution and FourKites’ technologies, offering a comprehensive, real-time visibility platform from the yard to the end customer.

In May, FourKites launched paperless document processing through its Advanced Mobile Package, which includes electronic proof-of-delivery and electronic bill-of-lading documentation so that transportation workers can process all applicable paperwork on their smartphones from start to finish.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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One Comment

  1. ThaGearjammer25/8

    Great for four kits another industry service provider with great margins and opportunity for profit. Unfortunately, these services suck. What’s the point? It gets there when it gets there? Visibility means the customer can complain and whine when the inevitable delay happen. It’s a complex system that is dependent on a lot of moving parts. A precious business. These services don’t make a difference. U pay for next day You expect it next day. This is more about the brokerage staff implementing technology that will their downfall. middle man be careful what you wish for.

    Data is to generate insights that make a quantifiable difference to customers, revenue, and profit. We pay for the shipping we expect. Do we need to know the product is in Louisville?

    Real time data.. used to be called a phone call that built a relationship. Now we’ve increased that cost so the desk jockey can be more productive?

Comments are closed.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand 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 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. You can reach him at [email protected]