Supply chain software vendor project44 has added visibility over full-truckload shipments to its core freight connectivity solution for tracking less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments, and plans to cover rail, ocean, and air by 2018, the firm said today.
Chicago-based project44 provides customers such as transportation management system (TMS) vendors with a software product that automates the flow of data among shippers, carriers, and third party logistics providers (3PLs). The technology works by integrating application programming interfaces (APIs) into various software platforms, allowing them to exchange data faster and more reliably than when relying on third-party interfaces like email or formats like electronic data interchange (EDI).
By adding truckload visibility to its LTL coverage, project44 now allows customers to see a range of information from a single interface, such as multimodal data, end-point tracking, and real-time updates on estimated time of arrival (ETA), Jett McCandless, project44's CEO and founder, said in a phone interview. Mid-sized users might overlay the shipment tracking data onto a Google Maps interface so they can click on icons of individual trucks and see transactional updates, while enterprise-grade users can embed the data directly into their customer-experience interface and allow users to monitor delays and manage exceptions, McCandless said.
In an effort to reach a wider market, project44 plans to launch a third option within six to eight weeks, offering its own user interface for smaller customers that want to view their freight tracking data directly through a project44 window instead of through a Google Maps or TMS platform, McCandless said. After that, project44 plans to continue its growth by adding more freight modes, tracking shipments through intermodal and rail lanes by June and through ocean and air by December, he said.
The expansion takes time, because adding coverage for certain modes is a tougher technical challenge than for others, McCandless says. For example, providing visibility over full-truckload data was a greater challenge than building the original LTL model. Building APIs to connect to LTL carriers was fairly straightforward because that market is highly consolidated, with the 100 largest carriers accounting for 99 percent of all loads, and with most firms using advanced technology that can support features such as rate quotes, load tendering, and inventory visibility, he said.
In contrast, the full-truckload market relies on a more fragmented marketplace of carriers, with only the largest firms using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, while mid-sized carriers rely on electronic logging devices (ELDs) and the small owner/operators simply use cell phone global positioning systems (GPSes). That diversity of sources made it more difficult to consolidate freight tracking data into a single database for full truckload than for LTL, McCandless said.
"At the end of the day, our customers don't care how we get the data, just whether it's reliable," McCandless said. "We typically pull data every hour or less, while our competitors might get a status update once a day over email. That might look pretty on a map or in a demo, but it's not really helpful for running an operation."
Proejct44's plans for swift growth would continue the company's track since landing $10.5 million in venture capital funding in 2016 and inking integration deals with TMS providers such as McLeod Software Corp. and MercuryGate International Inc.