COVID-19 illustrates how actionable data is vital for shippers

For U.S. companies that import from China, worry set in when the COVID-19 outbreak began to impact manufacturing. The anxiety spread to the broader shipping community on March 12, when President Donald Trump cancelled all commercial flights to and from Europe, and again when international borders closed for non-essential travel from the Canadian border on March 18 and the Mexican border on March 21.

Many shippers find it difficult to sort through the rhetoric of press conferences and news alerts and determine the actual impact of rapidly changing information, said Mollie Bailey, vice president of international services at Transplace, premier provider of logistics services and transportation technology based in Frisco, Texas. During black swan events like the coronavirus pandemic, it pays to connect with experts who understand your business, commodities and trade lanes so they can filter the pertinent information from the mass of other miscellaneous alerts that comes their way to something actionable for your business.

“Transplace’s customers expect us to dig in and do the research that matters most to their business, and we deliver,” Bailey said. “As an example, we quickly determined that cargo was not going to be materially impacted [by the U.S. and Canadian border closure]. Despite a great deal of misinformation proliferated at the time, the action was just limiting individual crossings and non-U.S citizens. That said, while not completely shut down, we did anticipate and proactively address some delays due to confusion around the new instructions.”

To that end, Transplace is publishing COVID-19 Market Updates, which closely monitor news of government actions around the globe and what the Transplace shippers experience in their network. The report also provides relevant data on a shipper’s KPIs to benchmark and compare expectations within industries. With over $9 billion of North American freight under management, Transplace has an expansive logistics network that is an invaluable resource of insight for shippers dealing with the impact of COVID-19. 

Logistics technology supporting critical response to COVID-19

Transplace’s technology advancements, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, real-time visibility, and predictive risk analytics coupled with real-time and historic data provide the logistics intelligence for optimized supply chains and crucial, on-time shipments.

As capacity tightens in some places and loosens in others, shippers are demanding rapid response and connection to carriers to quickly adjust to shifting needs and opportunities. Transplace is keeping in close contact with customers to offer solutions for shippers and carriers during this global healthcare crisis, including:

  • Certain shippers need increased tech calls and hourly updates. Transplace’s control tower offers visibility directly to customers. The control tower proactively tracks shipments and offers real-time visibility. Using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, the control tower manages exception issues. The risk prediction models identify possible shipment disruptions sooner, allowing shippers to mitigate risks.
  • Transplace is seeing larger volume truckloads, modal shifts and adjustments of less-than-truckload (LTL) to partial and full truckloads. Transplace’s Freight Allocation Module optimizes transportation by allowing shippers to auction freight with approved carrier partners. 
  • Transplace’s Dynamic Continuous Moves (DCM) pools freight from shippers and capacity from carriers and third-party logistics providers. DCM allows Transplace to create capacity, drive down costs for shippers, and improve asset utilization for carriers.  
  • Another solution, TransMATCH, consolidates freight through collaboration with multiple shippers and increases delivery frequency to targeted customers without raising costs. The collaborative shipping tools allow greater efficiencies for LTL and multiple stops. The asset-based solution allows shipments to keep moving.
  • Transplace’s recent Lanehub acquisition offers access to a collaboration network of over 150 shippers, 250 carriers, 180,000 lanes, and over $23 billion in truckload spend. The software focuses on matching recurring freight lanes on a consistent basis, in an effort to reduce transportation cost, increase fleet revenue, and improve overall carrier service and performance. 

Real-time visibility of logistics and supply chain networks and automated, advanced technology is critical for organizations to make informed business decisions and flex to rapidly changing circumstances.

“It pays for a third-party to provide overall visibility to your network and data, equally monitoring, alerting, and continually updating when global situations like COVID-19 occur,” Bailey said. “The data is absolutely essential in qualifying and verifying what we anticipated might happen and constantly updating as the situation unfolds. Experience also plays a key role.”

Export customers have also been negatively impacted, as carriers began canceling sailings to Chinese ports, Bailey said – which affected the rotation of vessels to U.S. ports as well. Those big double loops were no longer available when U.S. companies were trying to ship products to South Korea or Japan, for example. As a result, Transplace worked closely with customers to look for alternate routes immediately.

“We have a chemical customer that ships out of the port of Houston. Houston was impacted by a lesser amount of sailings due to the blank sailings, and also was impacted by equipment shortages. We pulled equipment from Dallas and trucked it to Houston, in order for customers to load. Then the product either sailed from Houston or railed from Houston to LA because there was additional capacity out of LA.”

Bailey concluded, “We cannot predict how long the market conditions may last and what direction they will change. But what we can do is be prepared with actionable data and the tools necessary to leverage it.”