In 2021, tightened capacity, delayed deliveries and surging prices exposed the global supply chain inefficiencies that have harmed the industry for decades.
Consumers responded by ordering early and in bulk, making it even more difficult for companies to project, let alone fix, problems with their logistics networks.
To overcome these challenges, the FreightTech community took pages out of Silicon Valley’s forward-thinking book and began applying technology to these problems, building a strong framework of solutions that will likely guide logistics leadership in 2022 and years after.
Here is a recap of four of those trailblazing moments in FreightTech from 2021.
Baton’s relay solution brings more profit per truck
Final-mile logistics platform Baton has spent the last year proving to its customers and investors that its hub-and-spoke network of drop zones could add efficiencies and time by eliminating one of the most impactful causes of waste in logistics: dwell time.
Earlier this year, Baton partnered with asset-based company Andrus Transportation Service Inc. to help reduce the amount of dwell time its carriers were experiencing while operating around Los Angeles.
In a 30-day trial, Andrus drivers would pick up and drop off their cargo in Baton’s secured zones and instead of delivering to LA warehouses directly, Andrus would rely on Baton’s local network of drivers to shuttle the cargo to and from their final warehouse locations.
Prior to the trial, drivers had experienced an average of 3.2 hours of wait time per load. After 30 days, the trucking company saw a 30-minute reduction in dwell time per truck per day.
Andrus explained that every hour the company could gain back, it could increase revenue by $100 — and with over 300 registered trucks, the company could potentially see a $15,000 daily increase in revenue.
Baton recently announced it is now working with five of the top 10 carriers, including Werner, to bring them the same gains it brought Andrus. It also announced it had expanded its network to Phoenix after securing a $10.5 million series A in March.
Redwood’s introduction of LPaaS
During the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME event in May, Redwood Logistics CEO Mark Yeager announced the launch of its logistics platform as a service (LPaaS).
With LPaaS, shippers, carriers and logistics providers are able to create their own unique platform for the logistics services, including tools for multimodal brokerage, cross-border services, procurement, warehousing, fulfillment and analytics from providers like Oracle, MercuryGate, project44 and Blue Yonder.
Not only does LPaaS promise spend reduction on implementing new technologies, it makes it extremely easy for companies to justify an improvement in technology that will bring needed efficiencies to supply chains.
“Not all of the great ideas are coming from the large TMS providers or the larger 3PLs. There’s a lot of emerging concepts, ideas, technologies and datasets that are out there that can really help our shippers effectively manage their supply chain,” Yeager told FreightWaves. “What LPaaS does is it enables shippers to get beyond those limitations and really develop a highly customized solution that meets their needs in an affordable and scalable way.”
LPaaS was not the only “as-a-service” offering introduced, as various supply chain technology providers realized the need for a more agile offering of their solutions.
Many robotics technology firms began offering their solutions in robots-as-a-service models, enabling customers to invest in their offerings as they scale into larger operations. An emerging market trucks-as-a-service began to grow out of automotive manufacturers that are looking to grow their aftermarket in-cab technology suites.
Even carriers are jumping into the Silicon Valley model of doing business through capacity-as-a-service in which new trucking companies invest in different technologies to be agile to accommodate shippers’ needs in warehousing, final-mile services, and environmental, social and governance initiatives.
Uber Freight acquires Transplace
In July, FreightTech witnessed a game-changing deal as digital marketplace Uber Freight announced the acquisition of logistics provider Transplace for $2.25 billion.
The deal brought together two complementary businesses, a leading technology platform mostly performing transactional load matching and legacy logistics provider, to create one of the largest portfolios of managed transportation services in the United States.
“It’s transformative,” said Uber Freight co-founder and head of operations Bill Driegert of the deal. “As we have [both scaled], we have had very different focuses as organizations. [Uber Freight] have also been very focused on the carrier side and execution technology as they are much deeper on the shipper side and building out solutions as a 4PL. Bringing both organizations together creates a very unique stack of capabilities all the way from the shipper to the carrier.”
Watch now: Uber Freight has big goals following the Transplace acquisition
Not only did this transaction showcase how innovative M&A strategies can propel a company’s digital transformation, it showed the need for both technology and supply chain experts to work together for technology to bring real value to its investors.
This year saw a number of Silicon Valley veterans moving into available FreightTech executive positions as they saw the potential value their past experiences could bring to the table.
A few examples of these Silicon Valley moves from this year included WeWork’s former CFO Christian Lee joining Transfix, former vice president of Amazon Dorothy Li becoming CTO of Convoy and Amazon’s former director of product management Sam Daoud taking on a new role as Flowspace’s new Chief Product Officer.
“We want to build one of the biggest fulfillment networks in the country and to do that you need people who have both seen what that looks like and have done it themselves,” said Flowspace co-founder and CEO Ben Eachus of the new hire. “Sam’s experience building a successful e-commerce business from the ground in the Middle East and at Amazon is the reason we felt strongly about bringing Sam on to the team.”
Project44 becomes a unicorn
In looking back at 2021, one word should come to mind: visibility.
To the average consumer, visibility means: “Where is my package?” But to supply chain professionals, visibility is often the answer to the problems that make days less productive.
This year, real-time visibility provider project44 made transformative progress in gaining greater visibility into its customers supply chains but also worked to help share that data and insight with a number of industry players.
In March, the company acquired ocean freight visibility platform Ocean Insights, giving project44 data on 700 seaports, over 5,000 vessels and more than 5 million sailing schedule changes per day while providing its common customers — DB Schenker, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, Kuehne+Nagel, Lenovo and Mondi Group — one location to view their supply chain operations.
Even after receiving the Leader title in visibility by research and consulting company Gartner, project44 continued to expand its visibility network into truckload shipments in China and shortly after acquiring proprietary predictive tools and best-in-class data science at the San Francisco-based supply chain planning company ClearMetal.
In June, project44 closed on a $202 million series E led by Goldman Sachs and Emergence Capital, which valued the company at $1.2 billion. By then it was servicing over 550 enterprise customers, including Amazon, P&G, Starbucks, Unilever, Nestle, Cargill, Lenovo and the Bosch Group.
To get closer to the end consumer and strengthen its real-time analytics, project44 took that investment and in September acquired last-mile technology company Convey for $255 million, gaining insight on brands like Walmart, The Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, Ferguson and Ingram Micro.
This acquisition connects the company to a network of 113,000 carriers with 2.6 million assets and over 9 billion last-mile shipment events.
What’s next for project44? CEO Jett McCandless explained in the company’s vision video, project44’s goal is to move the supply chain industry from reactive to proactive.