Cloud-based technology and online freight platforms are becoming a routine part of the airfreight and forwarding world – but not everyone is eager to get on board, as evidenced by a few traditional forwarders that have made little progress with online freight booking platforms. But as supply chains become more agile and near-sourcing becomes more prevalent, the old way of doing things might not be viable for much longer.
While established forwarders cling to proprietary data, shippers are learning that transparency empowers them, and saves time and money. To help ease lagging forwarders into this new era, Seattle-based Globatom is developing a platform that breaks down the walls between all players in the supply chain, using machine learning to eliminate slow connections, routes and redundancies. Globatom is part of a new breed of technology companies entering the forwarding business – companies that track, quantify and link all the components of the import/export process into one simple, transparent environment.
Air Cargo World recently sat down to talk with Globatom’s Dan Acosta, co-founder and CEO, and Ken Lee, COO, about how their new platform can avoid bureaucracy by rerouting, cutting red tape, consolidating payments and giving shippers the same experience that we take for granted when we book a hotel online.
Q: How can machine learning streamline supply chains?
Dan Acosta: We analyze every transaction that runs through our system, as well as historical data on vessels and airplane movements. We have sensors that can sit on containers and pallets and capture everything from temperature to location, humidity, light and shock. We capture all data that flows through our network via Bluetooth on a truck, or through mobile networks. We’re generating a ton of data and using machine learning and predictive analytics to ask what variables we need to focus on. Tanker routing for example: If I’m shipping from Ningbo in China to Philadelphia, the usual route that my forwarder uses is through Seattle, and then via truck across the Midwest. But by looking at historical data, and data from maritime companies, we might find that Vancouver is a much better option, and changing ports can cut ten days out of the process. That’s what machine learning can do.
Ken Lee: We’ve had discussions with the revenue teams from carriers such as Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, and other commercial carriers, and their objective is to optimize the cargo revenue based on the capacity that they have in their belly-holds, but we realized that you can’t always optimize it within your network, and the customers that work with you. How do you tap into the customers that you don’t do business with? How do you communicate that in a scalable fashion? Using cargo sales agents within each regional hub, how many phone calls can you make? Whereas you can leverage technology to scale that in a way that reaches more customers with a platform like Globatom. It’s like hotwire.com – it’s an occupancy rate. If you can fill your plane up to 80 percent, you’re making money.
Q: How do you get reluctant forwarders to try your product?
Acosta: We’re not here to disrupt. If a shipper already has a freight forwarder or customs broker that they are working with, that they trust with their business and product, we will work to connect them to the interface. We work with the existing infrastructure. We understand that people are going to fight against bringing in new IT, because companies often have invested millions of dollars in their IT systems, and they aren’t going to give it up just because there is something better. So, we use the power of visualization and technology to sit on top of what they already have and extract that data – make it interconnected, have that visual component. We don’t want to say, “You should use us over the other system.” Instead we say, “Use us and well connect the system you already have.”
Lee: The concept of taking a neutral approach with all these players, and filling the gaps where they don’t have visibility, has been our biggest selling point.
Q: How about predictability? How does Globatom prepare for peak-season demand?
Lee: We’re still working on that, but what we do know is that freight forwarders and shippers tend to overbook the allotments on cargo planes. It’s never certain whether demand is going to match supply, so we’re focusing on that excess space. If I book 50 tonnes on a plane, there’s no guarantee that I’ll fill all that capacity. As a forwarder or shipper, how do I unload that overbooked capacity?