Transfix’s Drew McElroy says technology can help shippers ensure product is visible en route to final destination during special events
As nearly 200 million people settle in on Sunday night to watch the New England Patriots and Philadelphia battle for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, few will think about how their assortment of wings, and pizza and beer made it into their living rooms. But, as the saying goes, Trucking Moves America.
The National Retail Federation says that Americans will spend $15.3 billion on the Super Bowl this year, up 8.5% from 2017 and an average of $81.17 per person based in an estimated 188.5 million viewers.
“Whether throwing their own party, heading to a friend’s house or gathering at their favorite bar or restaurant, consumers are ready to spend on the big game,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Super Bowl shoppers will find retailers well-stocked on decorations, apparel, food and all other necessities to cheer on their favorite team.”
The survey found that 82% of people asked will purchase food and beverage while 11% will purchase team apparel. Another 8% will buy a television, taking advantage of huge sales offered by many retailers in the week before the big game.
With all this purchasing, those goods need to get to their destinations – and they need to get there on time.
Drew McElroy, co-founder & CEO of Transfix, says that major events such as the Super Bowl have a small effect on the supply chain – but it can be a profound one if something goes wrong in getting those goods to the stores in time.
“The great fear for a shipper is they can never move the product,” he tells FreightWaves. “So, any kind of increased pressure [worsens that].”
The confluence of recent events in the industry – the introduction of ELDs, the lack of drivers, and tightening capacity and rising rates – have created an anxiety among shippers in general, and big events and their time-sensitive nature only adds to that. Imagine being the shipper that has to move the winning team’s apparel to stores in the days following the Super Bowl and there is a problem in your supply chain that slows that process down.
“The most extreme swings I’ve heard of come from the flower business, the spikes around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” McElroy says in discussion volume spikes. “The Super Bowl can be viewed in a similar sort of lens, but in one order of magnitude less.”
The reality is, he adds, that shippers for an event like the Super Bowl can prepare differently so there is not necessarily a large spike in volumes in the days ahead of the event.
“Different companies are thinking about the Super Bowl in different ways,” McElroy says, before illustrating his point. Take Coca-Cola, for instance. Beverages have longer shelf lives so they can be moved to retailers days and even weeks in advance. But, he says, a company such as Tyson can’t move truckloads of wings too far in advance, so Tyson has a shorter window in which to get its product to retailers for sales. Miss a or see a shipment arrive late to a location, and it’s likely a loss sale for the retailer and Tyson.
“The more time-sensitive an crazy the world is out there, the more technology can help,” McElroy says. “As a general rule, if you are a supply chain that is taking advantage of real-time visibility,” you benefit.
Visibility and real-time notifications are critical, he notes, allowing fleets and shippers to work to reallocate labor or resources immediately.
“The most important delivery to a retailer is not the inbound freight to the distribution center, it’s building that load from the distribution center to the store,” McElroy advises. “If you screw up that delivery on Super Bowl Sunday, it becomes a matter of losing revenue and market share. That is one place where Super Bowl delivery becomes very acute.”
Transparency through technology can help a fleet quickly reroute a load if needed, or worse case, send another truck to get the load delivered in case of a breakdown. Without that visibility, that might be a lost load, and on Super Bowl Sunday, that is a big deal.
The key, McElroy says, is to develop relations.
“It’s the human part, the non-science part, that’s the art,” he observes. “You have to work with the right partners to execute the right strategy. The Super Bowl is big, but’s its just one day out of 365 that you have to supply the suppliers with the right information.”
McElroy says to build relationships with good brokerages so that “when things spike, especially when asset-based carrier partners don’t have the trucks available,” you can take advantage of the situation.
So, while the Super Bowl may be a big deal for most, for shippers and carriers, it’s another day. No different than any of the rest, but no less important either. Because America is counting on you.
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