Walmart has announced a partnership with Platform Science to equip the retailer’s private truck fleet of 12,000 drivers with telematics tablet devices.
The Platform Science technology will host Walmart’s driver workflow application, called NTransit, to bring its customers, warehouses and stores real-time visibility into its freight operations. The partnership sprang out of Walmart’s close relationship with Plug and Play Tech Center, an accelerator firm that connects corporate partners with FreightTech startups that can provide companies with endless supply chain innovation.
With support from Walmart and the Walton Family Foundation, Plug and Play in 2019 opened a supply chain and logistics accelerator program in northwest Arkansas to help corporations, like Walmart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt, apply new technologies to their global supply chains.
From that endeavor, the teams at Walmart and Platform Science fostered a relationship, and the retailer became invested in testing the telematics technology in its private fleet. The teams had met just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic at the accelerator’s event.
Scott Donahue, Walmart’s vice president of supply chain product, said the new integrated technology features many purposeful objectives — provide drivers with a world-class tech experience, give operations teams real-time visibility into products’ whereabouts and support better telematics integration with NTransit and any future technologies the company decides to implement in the future.
“Beyond what technology Walmart is creating, now they are able to pick from or test other best-in-class solutions from our market and continue to focus on that differentiating value to its drivers and customers,” said Platform Science co-founder and CTO Jake Fields. “There are solutions for maximizing drivers’ time on the road, weight station applications and navigation technologies. On top of that, Walmart has a long roadmap of their own additional enhancements they are going to be able to bring to the market. Having the flexibility to plug and play these different solutions is super-important.”
Walmart’s focus is its proprietary technology NTransit, a driver-workflow app integrated into the retailer’s planning, routing and dispatching software that gives drivers an easy-to-understand interface to work off of every day.
“[NTransit] makes sense for us to build,” said Donahue. “Although there will be solutions that other companies have more expertise in building, and it doesn’t make sense for us to dedicate resources to build them ourselves, like weight station applications.”
In regard to future efficiencies that can evolve from this partnership, both Fields and Donahue are enthusiastic about Walmart’s carrier and supplier network creating a unique blend of technologies that would inevitably integrate into each other’s supply chain networks.
“The telematics infrastructure that Jake and his team are providing can soon come to us directly from the OEM as we order new tractors. We won’t have to worry about retrofitting it,” said Donahue of the telematics integration that, even without being offered pre-installed into the tractors, only took a few months to work into Walmart’s fleet of 12,000 drivers.
For Donahue, an important part of the partnership is customer response at the end of the day.
“The more streamlined shipping experience ultimately has benefited the customer,” said Donahue. “Our drivers have less friction, our freight gets to our stores faster and unloaded easier, which means product gets onto the store shelves quicker. Ultimately, that is all good for the customer.”