Tag Archives: innovation

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Flexport – moving beyond freight forwarding?

This article looking at Flexport now appeared recently under Cathy Morrow Roberson’s byline in The Loadstar.  We enjoy hearing about what Flexport is doing now.  But the idea that they are changing direction to become more like a 4PL is not the point. That’s where they were always going!!  The press and financial folks may have perceived them as a technology play.  But all along Ryan Petersen has intended to create a firm that actually helps customers manage their supply chains, by giving them visibility, a certain amount of in-depth analysis, and good service assistance in dealing among supply chain partners, temporary or permanent.  I don’t think the vision has changed; just the world’s view of it.

  via The Morrow-Roberson road test: Flexport – moving beyond freight forwarding  – The Loadstar

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The danger of a $2 trillion infrastructure promise

Shalini Vajjhala has written a good article about the issues with current ways of thinking about infrastructure planning and the money spent.

She points out the game-theoretic nature of decision making the way things work now.  Local and regional transportation planners and funders won’t go forward until they know they can get federal money.  That means the p[lanning doesn’t start till the grants are there.  This is a perfectly rational strategy.

I know of only a few places that have avoided this trap.  I happen to live in an area, Sonoma County California, that built SMARTT, a passenger rail line connecting Marin County and Santa Rosa airport,  with its own tax money. It got some federal money later; but it was a local initiative, led by people like Steve Birtlebough, who campaigned for over 20 years for this passenger rail line.

It also shows the fallacy of the Trump cancellation of funds for California’s high-speed train project.  The money had been committed long in advance, and planning went forward. But upon its cancellation, the project fell into disarray, and is unlikely to generate the political will and statewide tax funding to continue.

You can argue whether the high-speed train is useful, since it connects two places that are not in major population centers.  But every large project has people on both sides of its viability.  And changing the balance without careful thought about the strategic implications makes everyone less eager to get started.

screenshot-www.brookings.edu 2018-01-25 13-18-03-392  via The danger of a $2 trillion infrastructure promise

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Online port community system ‘game-changer’ for India’s shipping industry

, has written an interesting piece about a new port communication and collaboration system that is revolutionizing how Indian p[orts operate. It’s called PC51x, and it connects port users via secure messaging to exchange paperwork, financial info, and other messages.  In trials, it reduced cost and time for interaction drastically.

And it did NOT involve blockchain. In fact, it uses only technology developed years ago and tested severely by those years of practice.  It seems that for the user it operates like one of those doctor portals we have all become accustomed to in the US; annoying, but much faster and less annoying than waiting for her to call back (!@?^%$#!).  And capable of much faster integration if those communicating have a desire to make it better and faster.

They have announced a portal type interface.  This type of function is like what we used to call ‘middleware’, connecting systems with different data specifications and requirements, and letting them work out how to use the data.  It makes a lot of sense to me.

I think any port could copy this with a little hard nose bargaining with those it collaborates with.   Getting truckers on board might be more difficult without a good look at the systems they use every day.   But for many others it makes sense.

But should the port be the driver?  I think there is potential for 3PLs to usurp the role for their cargoes.  Then we’d have to link in their systems. Hard, but not impractical, and easier than forcing all their shippers to use the port’s message portal.  Everyone would benefit.  And more players such as banks and customs could participate as well.  Better that this should be driven by a lot of smaller players (if ports can be thought of as smaller) than by a national or global standards initiative, especially one from a single source.  Let it evolve, I say.

logo  via Online port community system a ‘game-changer’ for India’s shipping industry – The Loadstar