Changing technology can quickly put a transportation company on its back foot. However, by continually making investments in technology, a company can adapt to the times. That’s where today’s business leaders can differentiate themselves and bring new solutions to their customers.
Electronic data interchange (EDI) is one of those key solutions. EDI is a well-established technology that hundreds of thousands of businesses – and many in transportation – use every day. One drawback of EDI is that it is a one-way communication tool. Confirmation does not occur until a return message is sent. It also tends to transmit data in batches. Because of this, delays can occur, and that can slow decision-making.
Today, technology offerings like XPO Connect require faster communications and near real-time data transfer. XPO Connect is XPO Logistics’ (NYSE: XPO) multimodal technology platform for both shippers and carriers. It allows shippers to quickly receive rates, create orders and manage shipments. Its secret is the real-time visibility into freight status.
Hear Yoav Amiel talk about XPO Connect on What The Truck?!?
The platform continues to evolve since its debut in 2018. It’s now used by more than 60,000 carriers globally, along with thousands of shippers.
“We are receiving great feedback from our shippers on the product, and we are constantly adding functionality to address their evolving needs,” Yoav Amiel, vice president of freight brokerage technology for XPO, recently told Dooner and the Dude on an episode of FreightWaves’ popular podcast What The Truck?!? “One of the product updates we’ve added in the last year is the use of APIs.”
API, or application programming interface, allows for the disparate systems to “talk” to each other. This enables real-time data transfer, digital transactions and an openness to other systems that EDI does not provide.
“We realized that some shippers prefer to use their own systems, and they don’t have the time to log into a separate website to get rates or manually create orders,” Amiel said. “Our API technology seamlessly and securely gives access to real-time rates, and these rates are pushed directly to the shippers’ preferred platform.”
API Friends, a community site comprised of people that use APIs, said that business product strategy is becoming a key component of API integrations. They note that API program success is increasingly being mapped to business objectives based on meaningful key performance indicators. In XPO’s case, the company has leveraged its free APIs to improve XPO Connect and lower the barrier for shippers looking to move the technology needle forward without a new technology investment.
With APIs, we can still give shippers access to the benefits of XPO Connect while leveraging their own systems. One of our early adopters of the API was Kraft Heinz and they have been really pleased with the added flexibility the API platform brings.”
Yoav Amiel, vice president of freight brokerage technology for XPO
“With APIs, we can still give shippers access to the benefits of XPO Connect while leveraging their own systems,” Amiel said. “One of our early adopters of the API was Kraft Heinz and they have been really pleased with the added flexibility the API platform brings.”
According to Amiel, the volume of API quotes provided to shippers through the XPO Connect platform has grown an average of 80% month-over-month in the past four months.
While not speaking to transportation specifically, API Friends said more businesses are using APIs to “capture reuse, patterns and catch hiccups before those consuming their services see any issues.”
This is true in transportation, especially when it comes to identifying the best rates and shipment visibility.
“The important thing to understand is the API allows the shipper faster access to a market rate,” Amiel said, “which can also help them adjust to volatile markets like we’ve seen during the pandemic. Or they can use this as an alternative strategy during peak time.”
The API uses a “live feed of data” to communicate information such as real-time rate quotes.
“When these shippers, through API, receive a rate they like and want to place an order, they can use their existing EDI connection with XPO. An API gives them confidence that they’re paying market rates,” Amiel said.
Using a hybrid approach – EDI connected with API – allows shippers to maintain their comfort level with existing technology while still benefiting from the advantages an API connection provides. In fact, according to Amiel, XPO is able to easily connect its API to any transportation management system (TMS) a shipper may be using, without the shipper needing to provide the necessary technical expertise.
“If a shipper is using a subscription-based TMS system, an API integration may still be possible. We just need to work with their TMS provider to create the proper connection. We currently have such a connection with OTM cloud and more TMS integrations are on the way,” he said.
Use of APIs allows shippers to automate processes, interact with real-time data and improve decision-making and the speed at which decisions are made.
The API in XPO Connect ensures shippers have access to the capacity available within XPO’s network as well as take advantage of the available automation and artificial intelligence that is core to the platform. The platform allows users 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.
That type of data extraction and speed is only possible through an API connection.
Amiel said XPO is working on additional API connectivity options including the ability for shippers to retrieve invoices and documents. A software development kit (SDK) that will allow customers to set up their own API connectivity with minimal effort is also in the works.