Transparency and visibility are the future of freight forwarding

Following on from yesterday’s summary post about Ti’s Future of Logistics conference held at the Intercontinental Hotel in London this week, Wednesday’s morning innovation showcase session consisted of presentations from participants from companies Xeneta, Freightos, and Bringg, all of which provide a technology based platform to the shipping market.

The purpose of the presentations was for each participant to explain their tech offering to audience members, and to then answer questions from panellists, as well as from the session moderator Ken Lyon, Founder and MD of Virtual Partners.

Starting the session was Thomas Sørbø, CBDO and Co-Founder of Xeneta. However, before I go into detail about how Xeneta does what it does, and why the service that Freightos provides is useful, or what the main advantages of Bringg are, I’ll address one point that was raised by panellist Ruth Waring, MD of Labyrinth Logistics Consulting Ltd. in the Q&A session after all of the presentations were over. Her question, posed to everyone that had just presented, was essentially “what does your company do?” asked purely for clarification purposes.

With that key question in mind, I’ll try and do my best to explain, thus giving some useful context to the implications of how each company’s technology could be utilised within the shipping industry:

Xeneta

So, Xeneta and Thomas’ presentation then – Xeneta provides a real-time database of contracted ocean freight rates. Basically, a sort of ‘Compare The Market’ for freight shippers. The company provides an online market intelligence platform through which users can make these rates comparisons.

According to Thomas, Xeneta’s main customer group is freight forwarders, “since they are the ones with a true incentive for a transparent market”. He added that there is basically no transparency at all in the ocean freight forwarding market, and that there has been very little by way of innovation in how companies obtain freight rates since the fax machine. Due to the fact that there is no standardised way of dealing with rates across the industry and that everything is done either in Excel, or through shipping companies’ own clunky in-house rates systems, Xeneta is able to offer a solution by aiming to provide some level of standardisation.

The platform is built on B2B crowd sourcing, and, as stated by Thomas, Xeneta is “the largest intelligence company in the shipping industry”, covering 60,000 intercontinental routes. Another advantage of Xeneta is the fact that it is a neutral entity within the industry, as it is not a shipping company itself, more a vessel through which shippers can obtain rates data.

Freightos

Next to present was Ruthie Amaru, VP Product at Freightos. Freightos is a web-based service, which automates freight sales by providing a platform that connects logistics vendors online, allowing them to buy and sell freight services. It is basically an in-house IT system for freight forwarders, which helps to increase rate visibility and generally speeds everything up as far as sending and receiving quotations goes. The company is looking at improving transparency across the shipping industry in order to “bring world trade to a new place”.

One key point made by Ruthie was that the hardware involved in the shipping process doesn’t really require further innovation – ships, planes, trucks, trains, and containers are good as they are. However, it is data that can be used differently, and the way in which companies implement data and technology solutions can affect the utilisation of hardware and assets within a supply chain.

Similar to Xeneta, one of Freightos’ selling points was the fact that it replaces incredibly slow and out-dated Excel and PDF management techniques.

Bringg

Raanan Cohen, CEO at Bringg, made the third and final presentation of the session. Bringg is a browser/app based platform through which companies are able to manage on-demand and last mile deliveries. Essentially, Bringg is a bit like Uber, only for parcel delivery as opposed to hailing taxis. The platform features live maps, alerts and notifications.

Raanan stressed the fact that Bringg does not conduct any actual delivery itself, but instead provides the platform through which enterprises and 3PLs are able to manage deliveries. Simply put, it is the operating system through which shippers are able to provide increased visibility to their customers.

The session was concluded aptly by Raanan, who stated that a new layer of technology is reorganising company assets, and using Uber as an example, that “real ‘Uber-like’ transparency comes from real time visibility.”

And this was really the issue that was hammered home throughout all of the presentations, the matter of utilising data and technology in order to increase visibility and transparency within the shipping side of supply chain operations. To the point where by the end of the session, the words ‘visibility’ and ‘transparency’ started to sound strange because they had been used so many times (semantic satiation is the term for that phenomenon for those interested).

So, just as the session had changed how my brain was processing those words and how they sounded to me, each of the companies that presented aims to change how rates and quotations are processed and how freight management in general is viewed by the industry. This is ultimately the direction in which things are heading, with logistics companies turning to technology innovators to help bring about operational improvements.

It was mentioned throughout the session that carriers and forwarders are not particularly keen on complete transparency in rates. However, start-ups such as Xeneta, Freightos and Bringg are likely to eventually ‘commoditise’, or perhaps more accurately ‘harmonise’ the prices of port-to-port transport. This wasn’t taken further, but the next question that follows is how do carriers and forwarders adjust to this?

To read more of the findings from each of the sessions of the conference, see our Twitter for updates, and sign up to our free Logistics Briefing service here. Ti’s Head of Research Lilith Nagorski has already published her analysis from the E-retail, Smart Transport and Last Mile Delivery session on day 1, and Analyst Alex Le Roy has published his findings from The Power of Disruptive Technology session also from day 1. Sign up to Ti’s Logistics Briefing to receive articles on:

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