Borderlands: project44 promotes freight visibility in the USMCA era; Mexico auto industry prepares for coronavirus

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: project44 promotes freight visibility in USMCA era; Amazon leases 1 million-square-foot warehouse at DFW International Airport ; Mexico auto industry preparing for coronavirus impact; Port Houston container volume spikes in January.

project44 promotes freight visibility in USMCA era

Now that the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement has been approved in the U.S., freight-tech industry officials said key partnerships and gaining transparency across the complete value chain are more important than ever.

Tommy Barnes, head of global network partnerships at project44, said in an interview with FreightWaves that the company “allows carriers to have tremendous speed to market and kind of high-fidelity data and predictive business intelligence to make decisions they want to make on behalf of their particular clients.”

Chicago-based project44, a visibility solutions provider, is connected to thousands of carriers worldwide, providing coverage for all electronic logging devices (ELDs) and telematics devices across all transportation modes.

Project44 introduced a new feature for its platform called “collaborative visibility” at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago in November. Image: FreightWaves

project44 also recently earned the No. 2 spot on FreightWaves’ FreightTech25 list for 2019.

Barnes said when regulatory changes occur in any country or industry, there is always the possibility it could affect visibility and supply chain transparency.

“The global transport space is like a bouncing ball. There are a lot of changes that occur in the regulatory space and the economic space,” Barnes said. “So if product is coming from a port or a rail yard or if it’s from a supplier location, you have to stitch visibility across multiple constituents. The key is to be flexible and nimble.”

To that end, project44 continues to expand its ecosystem of partners to help retailers, manufacturers and distributors gain predictive and actionable supply chain insights globally.

In the last few months, the company has announced integrations with the SAP Logistics Business Network, IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite and more.

Barnes said project44’s goal is to provide end-to-end visibility for clients in any country — even countries such as Mexico, which has been known to frustrate carriers and third-party logistics providers.

“We operate in over 50 countries, including Mexico, and really it’s not that different,” Barnes said. “Obviously they have ports and port operating systems, rail and road applications. There’s also a telematics environment present in Mexico today as well.”

Barnes said project44’s major goal is to “stitch” ports, rail yards and telematics together — regardless of what country they are in.

“If it comes through a port, then moves via road through Mexico, through a transload to the U.S., what a customer wants is that stitch layer visibility that says, ‘Here’s the truth.’ It’s high fidelity, it tells me exactly how to manage my inventory, my finished product, and gives me the view of truth so I can manage my network more efficiently,” Barnes said.

Amazon leases 1 million-square-foot warehouse at DFW International Airport

Amazon, the Seattle-based digital commerce giant, is leasing the 1 million-square-foot DFW Commerce Center building near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, according to filings with the state of Texas.

Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) has not made an official announcement, but the transaction follows several moves to significantly increase Amazon’s distribution presence in north Texas.

Amazon signed a 10-year lease at the Eastpoint Distribution Center in Dallas, according to a release from Dalfen Industrial. The 419,626-square-feet center is located in east Dallas directly across from the Union Pacific intermodal yard. Amazon began occupying the entire facility Sept. 1.

The Dallas Morning News recently reported that Amazon will occupy a 465,450-square-foot facility at Hunt Southwest’s Interstate Crossing development in Fort Worth.

Mexico auto industry preparing for coronavirus impact

The coronavirus in China has not yet affected the import of auto parts for Mexico’s automotive industry, according to several of the country’s top industry officials.

Alberto Bustamante González, director of foreign trade for Mexico’s National Auto Parts Industry Association (INA), said the coronavirus has not caused any shortages of auto parts or disrupted the supply chain yet.

González’s comments came during a joint press conference in Mexico City with the INA, officials from the Mexican Association of Automobile Dealers, the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA) and the research firm IHS Markit.

To date, “imports of components and auto parts, mostly electronics, from China have not stopped,” González said, adding the industry is ready to replace up to 80% of those Chinese imports with parts from Canada and the United States.

Guido Vildozo of IHS Markit said if Chinese auto plants cease operations for an indefinite amount of time, the effects would be felt across North America within 15 days, affecting supply chains around the world.

The Chinese government has publicly recommended that companies cease or postpone operations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among workers.

Mexico imported about $8 billion in Chinese auto parts during 2019, representing 14.5% of total imports made by the Mexican automotive sector, according to the officials.

More than 1,500 auto parts manufacturing companies operate in Mexico, including 19% in the state of Coahuila, 14%, in the state of Chihuahua and 9% in each Guanajuato and Nuevo León, according to the Mexican Association of the Automotive Industry.

The other 49% of auto parts manufacturers and research centers are spread out across Mexico in Querétaro, Guadalajara, Toluca, Mexico City, Puebla, San Luis Potosí and Ciudad Juárez.

Port Houston container volume spikes in January

Container activity at Port Houston was up 25% in January compared to the same period a year ago, marking a significant increase to begin the new year.

A total of 268,773 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) moved across Port Houston’s docks in January, compared to 214,952 TEUs in January 2019.

The increase in container units comes after a record-setting year in 2019, when Port Houston saw an increase of 11% for the year. It was the 18th consecutive year of container growth at Port Houston.

“Expansion of the Houston Ship Channel and investments in our landside marine terminals are our top priorities,” Roger Guenther, the port’s executive director, said in a release. “Our commitment to performing at the highest level possible at all times ensures we always deliver value to our regional exporters and importers.”

Port Houston is the biggest container port in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, handling nearly 70% of the containers moving through the gulf.