A truism in the logistics world holds that big shippers chronically struggle with trucking capacity challenges, and Land O’Lakes is no exception. Last year, that struggle led the Minnesota-based dairy and agribusiness cooperative to investigate a promising-sounding program it had learned of through an industry group it belongs to.
That group was the Trading Partner Alliance (TPA), which was formed by the Consumer Brands Association and FMI (Food Marketing Institute), to address common industry supply chain issues. In a bid to alleviate the trucking capacity crunch, the TPA’s Supply Chain Executive Council had developed a program utilizing tech specialist FourKites’ Lane Connect platform to help members identify opportunities to share capacity with trading partners and reduce empty miles.
Land O’Lakes decided to give it a try. For its trial run, it partnered with another TPA member that the Lane Connect platform had identified as a possible match. Together, Land O’Lakes and its new partner, one of the country’s largest grocery distributors, worked out a deal whereby the distributor’s private fleet would pick up regional backhauls for Land O’Lakes between Ohio and Tennessee.
Introduced in 2019, Lane Connect analyzes historic lane patterns to eliminate empty miles in the supply chain for shippers, carriers, and brokers, according to FourKites. Users can evaluate their internal freight networks for opportunities to consolidate lanes into a single round trip, which can be a plus for shippers with different operating divisions working in siloes, the company says. They can also use the tool to identify opportunities to share capacity with other Lane Connect members with whom they have lanes in common.
“The logistics ecosystem is painfully aware of the inefficiencies caused by the under-utilization of existing assets and personnel,” said Mathew Elenjickal, FourKites’ founder and CEO, in a release. “The first step to solving this problem is to analyze freight-execution patterns and identify cost-saving opportunities to reduce empty miles. With Lane Connect, all parties in the logistics ecosystem can take advantage of the opportunities that are hiding in their own freight environment.”
As for how it’s all working out, the early results are decidedly positive. By using Lane Connect, Land O’Lakes realized cost savings of 20% to 25%, while its distributor partner reduced empty miles by 502 miles per trip between Ohio and Tennessee—a trip it makes on a twice-weekly basis. The initial collaboration was so successful that both companies are expanding Lane Connect to other lanes across the country.
“Lane Connect is giving us the invaluable ability to collaborate with other grocery manufacturers and food retailers who share common lanes,” said Yone Dewberry, chief supply chain officer for Land O’Lakes, in the release. “That translates into higher utilization and better cost management, and helps to ensure that we’re collaborating with carriers to keep trucks moving.”