Redwood Logistics and FreightWaves partner at collegiate supply chain data analytics competition

Redwood Logistics and FreightWaves partner at collegiate supply chain data analytics competition (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Redwood Logistics and FreightWaves are jointly collaborating with the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern University’s Transportation Center, to conduct the second Annual Supply Chain Data Analytics Competition. To be held in March and April this year, the competition is designed to give students the opportunity to work on real-industry applications by analyzing large-scale data sets from both Redwood and FreightWaves.

According to Mike Hewitt, Loyola’s Director of graduate programs in Supply Chain Management, “Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business started this Supply Chain Data Analytics competition in 2019 to give students in Chicago-area universities the opportunity to compete to solve real-world supply chain problems. The purpose is not just to give participating student teams the opportunity to hone their analytical techniques, but to understand how the insights derived via those techniques can and should be communicated to stakeholders.”

Alex Yeager, the director of Redwood Ventures at Redwood Logistics, explained, “We are looking at this competition from a shipper perspective. We are taking the litany of data sources available on the market and trying to distill that into an easy-to-understand takeaway or game plan for shippers – not necessarily to predict the market, but for them to be flexible and understand how rates are going to trend in the future to plan their supply chains.”

Yeager mentioned that the competition is an excellent way for Redwood to join hands with FreightWaves in community outreach and to work with universities from a data standpoint. The competition has been kept fairly open-ended for the students to focus on what they feel will end up making the most impact to Shippers, based on the data sets they get their hands on. 

“I think fresh eyes looking at our data sets is one reason we’re doing this. In the transportation industry, there’s a tendency to get stuck doing things the way they’ve always been done. At Redwood, we feel strongly that collaboration is important to bringing our customers the best solutions.  So, getting new perspectives on how to help our shippers is great,” said Yeager. “We also want to continue to interact and build relationships with these universities. For us, it’s as much about fostering community collaboration as any concrete takeaways.”

The data sets provided to the students have a great deal of variety. Data on truckload revenue is a starting point to help students gauge the true cost for shippers to move something from point A to point B. Yeager explained that Redwood is looking to drive broader market coverage in the competition to widen shipper appeal, rather than getting too deep into actual lane-to-lane city pricing. 

Data on intermodal volume and associated spot rates are also provided, along with truckload volume, inbound and outbound rejection rates. “Teams are provided important macro factors like fuel rates, imports and exports, and industrial production. We are excited to have FreightWaves providing actual freight futures for lane-to-lane pricing across seven lanes that it has pioneered,” said Yeager. 

Based on the data sets, students will be asked to come up with insights on average rate per mile, truckload moves and volatility across specific lanes. These insights are intended to help shippers have some predictability within their network. 

“The goal is to see if the students can predict price and potential volatility on how shippers will pay stakeholders in their supply chains. The questions they’re answering are usually around factors that affect the end cost for shippers,” said Yeager. “Among other important decisions, shippers have a mixture of both spot freight and contract freight. We want students to analyze that split based on their take on the market trends, and the data sets provided.”

About a dozen student teams will be participating at the event, which will be whittled down to three teams. Those teams will compete in the finals on April 7. The finals will be judged by a panel of shippers and other stakeholders in the supply chain community. At the end of this event, the first, second, and third place teams will be announced, with winners receiving cash prizes.