As FourKites prepares for its annual Visibility 2020 conference, founder and CEO Matt Elenjickal says the company has successfully navigated the disruption that has been 2020.
“For us, there was an initial shock for one or two months in the March/April time frame, because our customers were demanding different things,” he told FreightWaves. “Once they started getting back to normal [and] working remotely, we were able to get back to innovation and pushing the boundaries for our customers.”
2020 has been a very busy year for FourKites with acquisitions and a series of product launches and enhancements, some of which came out of discussions at Visibility 2019. For now, though, the immediate focus is on providing the best experience the company can for Visibility 2020 attendees. FourKites hired a production company to help put on this year’s event, which takes place next Thursday — and will be virtual for the first time.
“This is a place where customers can come … and have a very honest conference about what is working [and what is not],” Elenjickal said. “We wanted to keep it personal. We’re trying to create the same feeling in a virtual way this time.”
Among the companies presenting at Visibility 2020 are Meijer, Eastman Chemical, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Kimberly-Clark, 3M, Bayer, Gap and Dow. Participants can register for the Sept. 10 event by clicking here.
Elenjickal will deliver a keynote address to kick things off. Sessions will include a look at real-time transportation visibility; running lean operations with purchase order visibility; achieving end-to-end visibility across air, ocean and rail; change management lessons; and organizational structure and internal alignment. 3M’s Kaitlyn Joyce will join FourKites’ Rashmi Vadnagare for a discussion on how 3M is handling supply chain visibility during the COVID-19 crisis.
Additional sessions will include lessons on how to improve customer experience on a global scale and taking customer communication to the next level. FourKites will also provide customers a look into its product road map and a deeper dive into its Dynamic Yard solution.
The conference is an important part of building the FourKites community, Elenjickal noted, and as such the company prefers to let the customers have as much input as possible. He hopes Visibility 2020 provides “the same experience, same personal touch [with] customers doing the talking and giving FourKites feedback on how they want to see FourKites proceed and progress.”
The company has over 800 registered to attend already and anticipates 1,000 attendees on the day of the event. Naomi Newman, senior director of marketing and corporate communications, said that despite the virtual nature of the event, “our customers will still be able to have those engaging … conversations.”
Surviving and thriving during COVID-19
Elenjickal said FourKites was fortunate when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in that it didn’t see a significant impact to its business. In fact, thanks in part to a $50 million Series C funding round in 2019, FourKites was able to avoid layoffs and continue to innovate and invest in technology solutions for its customers.
“We had the money in the bank to execute on our initiatives, even if the market was going to be bad for the next two or three years,” Elenjickal said. “Tied to that is we didn’t have to do any layoffs so we were able to keep morale high.”
The CEO also noted that many of FourKites’ customers are Fortune 500 companies that are solid growth companies — many of which operate in retail and essential goods.
“Yes, they might have had a shock for a short term, but these companies are not going anywhere,” Elenjickal said. “So, the makeup of our customer base has really helped a lot.”
Equally important, he said, is the constant innovation coming from FourKites. June saw the launch of Dynamic ETA for LTL. Citing a data science breakthrough and the large volume of data from loads within its system, the FourKites solution provides real-time tracking of LTL shipments with narrow two-hour delivery windows.
In March, FourKites acquired TrackX’s Yard Management, Dock Management and Gate Control solutions, which led to the official launch of Dynamic Yard in July. It is a combination of TrackX’s yard management solution and FourKites’ technologies, offering a comprehensive, real-time visibility platform from the yard to the end customer.
“We’ve really taken products that are out there and enhanced them by injecting real-time tracking,” Elenjickal said. “You saw that with [TrackX’s yard management].”
In May, FourKites launched paperless document processing through its Advanced Mobile Package, which includes electronic proof-of-delivery (ePOD) and electronic bill-of-lading (eBOL) documentation so that transportation workers can process all applicable paperwork on their smartphones from start to finish.
On April 29, the company announced an interactive network congestion map that tracks cross-border freight movements in North America, Mexico and Europe. Earlier, it announced a scalable GPS solution called Partner Hub that creates tailor-made tools for brokers, carriers and shippers, with carriers retaining full control over their data and having the ability to share relevant data with the appropriate stakeholders.
Additional innovation and maybe even acquisitions are possible, Elenjickal said.
“We are looking at other things [in the] broader supply chain,” he said. “The thesis for us is, what are those areas of the supply chain [with] massive inefficiencies? Can we make a difference?”
As FourKites has grown into a global company, it’s become important to remain connected with customers. As it has done with the Visibility Conference, FourKites will present a virtual conference for its European customers. The European Carrier & Broker Operations Virtual Summit will take place on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. Central European Summer Time.
“The customers are looking for a global solution,” Elenjickal said. “They are not looking for one solution for one [geography]; they are looking for us to expand globally.”
Supply chain leaders from Dow Chemical, Ecolab, Fretlink and PKS Gdansk-Oliwa SA will participate. The summit will focus on supply chain visibility information, and leading shippers will explain their decision-making process so carriers can better take advantage of opportunities. Carriers and brokers will share best practices on using technology to improve efficiency and performance, and information on using visibility technology for the most benefit will permeate the conference.
Registration for the conference is now ongoing at https://pages.fourkites.com/european-carrier-summit.html.