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Technology helps close the trust gap within the supply chain

Shippers need to know the solutions they deploy will offer the levels of transparency and opportunity needed to optimize their operations

Hard to organize warehouse folks (Photo: Shutterstock)

Author Simon Popley, senior partner of leadership and coaching for Logistics Executive Group, wrote in 2018 about trust and the difficulty in achieving it within the supply chain.

“Understanding the nature of trust is important,” he wrote. “The problem with a word like ‘trust’ is that we all believe we understand it. ‘Trust,’ in at least that sense, is taken for granted. That makes it all the more critical to ensure all parties involved in any given supply chain activity or process are well aligned.”

Technology can be viewed as an equalizer, although it is rarely thought of in that way when shippers discuss their shipping needs, said Alyssa Myers, director of product management for freight brokerage at XPO.

Listen: XPO’s Alyssa Myers on What the Truck?!?

“Surprisingly, trust isn’t always the first word that a lot of people associate with technology,” she said. “When we talk about tech, we tend to focus on the features and what it does.”

Myers, speaking with Dooner and The Dude on a recent FreightWaves’ What the Truck?!? podcast, told the hosts that XPO believes technology like its XPO Connect solution helps build that trust.

“XPO is a partner to shippers first and foremost, so building capabilities that give our shippers that sense of trust – be it reliability on capacity, pricing or analytics – that’s really our North Star,” Myers said. 

XPO Connect utilizes machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation to find capacity and book loads, plan future moves to reduce empty miles and increase visibility and overall control of the supply chain through insight into engagement metrics and tracking tools.

Trusted tools

Using technology to build the trust necessary to efficiently move freight means offering tools that shippers can rely on. Myers noted that XPO Connect tracks shipment location, but it also notifies shippers if that freight is being impacted by weather or traffic congestion.  

Understanding the idea that one size doesn’t always fit all is another way to build strong relationships, according to Myers. “While we have a lot of amazing features available for shippers to take advantage of, we also offer customized transportation solutions to fit the unique needs of our shippers. No two shippers are alike – and we take pride in our ability to service their differences.”

The active hurricane season and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for shippers to be flexible, Myers said, and XPO Connect offers the opportunity to do that.

“The current market is a perfect example of why it’s important to be able to shift volume between spot and contract – and XPO Connect allows them to do this seamlessly,” she said.

Shippers can use XPO Connect to move both truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) freight and this has allowed shippers impacted by COVID-19 to “only pay for full truckload when they really need it.”

Contactless connections

XPO Connect allows shippers to build custom reports, view rates for all the major LTL carriers and select their desired carrier. But just as importantly, it has allowed shippers and the carriers that serve them to maintain operations safely.

“ I think the biggest change right now is social distancing and trying to make things as contactless as possible,” Myers said. “Because COVID’s really increased awareness around the need for a contactless experience, we’ve included new functionality in XPO Connect that allows shippers and carriers to access and download critical documents from anywhere, where historically those documents were passed off in person.”

XPO added a special COVID dashboard to the product that produces daily alerts issued by states, provinces, countries and even transportation infrastructure sources such as municipalities and airports, Myers noted.

Myers said XPO is prepared for 2021 and future additions to the XPO Connect platform will aid in navigating what could be another challenging year.

“If there’s one thing we can count on in 2021, it’s probably the fact that it will be another year of uncertainty,” she said. “We’re focused on adding features and service offerings that allow our shippers to deal with this uncertainty with a lot of confidence and flexibility.”

This  includes more proactive information on price changes and new options for managing carrier preferences, Myers noted.

All of the technological advancements are part of the broader effort to build trust.

“Shipment visibility and tracking is critical for earning the trust of our shippers,” Myers said. “We’re essentially the caretaker of their property as it moves across the country or even across the world.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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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].