While there is often a lot of talk about things like the need for, or even potential, for more standardized processes, when it comes to keeping truck wheels rolling and staying on schedule to meet tight deadlines, there is much more than meets the eye required to take that from a concept to a reality.
That is why the recent establishment of the Scheduling Standards Consortium (SSC) by San Francisco-based Uber Freight, a subsidiary of the ubiquitous, ride-sharing service Uber, whose proprietary app matches trucking companies with loads to haul; Seattle-based digital freight network Convoy; and Lowell, Ark.-based trucking and intermodal services bellwether J.B. Hunt, whose key objective is to solve freight transportation scheduling challenges by establishing industry standards geared towards “simplifying scheduling, improving automation for businesses, and generating industry-wide efficiencies,” is very encouraging.
As previously reported by LM, the SSC explained that its founding members’ respective skillsets and services put an onus on the urgency currently needed to standardize how information is exchanged between facilities and transportation providers to be able to schedule shipments.
And the SSC noted that a key driver for its formation centers around how scheduling system and interface fragmentation represents what it called a “point of friction” among carriers, brokers, and shippers.
Top executives, for each SSC partner company, provided Newsroom Notes with details on its origins, plans, and goals.
“Our collaboration was actually quite organic, and it started with the problem we’re aiming to help solve,” explained Spencer Frazier, executive vice president of sales and marketing at J.B. Hunt. “Appointment scheduling can be a highly manual process, and our customers have been asking for a solution to improve the process. Data and technology have empowered us to make big progress toward an optimized supply chain. But we’re all currently working independently on different segments. Our three organizations knew working toward an industry standard was necessary to make it easier for users at all ends of the supply chain.”
And Bill Driegert, Uber Freight, co-founder and head of operations, observed that this standard will enable shippers and carriers to more seamlessly connect with each other’s systems, enabling efficient data sharing and greater efficiencies across the supply chain.
Once implemented, he said that this API standard will make setting and managing appointments easier, improve efficiency for drivers, shippers and receivers, and transform enhanced visibility into broad operational efficiencies.
“API standards will enable carriers, shippers, and technology partners to eliminate waste in process, save critical operational time, improve warehousing internal planning, and reduce missed pickups and deliveries through better information sharing, ease of integration, and by enabling use cases we have not yet even imagined,” added Driegert.
When asked why, to this point, there has been a lack of uniform standards to address the things the SSC is looking to solve, or fix, Convoy CEO and co-founder Dan Lewis made the case that technology innovation and adoption in the trucking sector is still in its early days.
What’s more, Lewis said that over the last decade, data capacity, processing power, and scale limitations were effectively removed through connectivity and cloud technology.
“Then, we had to get the trucks, warehouses, and transportation systems connected and online, which has been a big push in recent years,” he noted. “We’re now in a place where we can focus on industry collaboration and orchestrating scheduling to reduce delays and make it easier to combine jobs and reduce empty legs. To date, shippers, carriers, and brokers adopted technology platforms and scheduling APIs according to their business needs and resources, causing multiple solutions to appear over time. Our customers look to us to make these more efficient. Instead of letting this problem get worse, we recognize our positions in the industry – and therefore, our ability and responsibility—to optimize the networks to better orchestrate freight for everyone involved. It’s an industry challenge worth collaborating on. Everyone wins when we align on a single source of truth for scheduling data documentation and distribution.”
Uber Freight’s Driegert addressed what needs to happen in order to get widespread industry adoption to the SSC, which can often be a major obstacle to face.
“We know that many in our ecosystem are experiencing issues related to foundational problems this group aims to address,” he said. “As we begin to implement these standards and see the actual impact they have on scheduling efficiency, our hope is others will be eager to join, adopt the standards themselves and contribute. It’s, of course, going to take time and investment from contributors, but we’re excited to begin advocating for this collaboration because we believe in the impact it will have on the industry at large.”
Going forward, the SSC is focused on bringing other industry stakeholders, including brokers, 3PLs, TMS and WMS vendors, and others on board. And, from a timing perspective, it said that the SSC’s initial standards and documentation, which will focus on full truckload freight, will be made available to its members by the first quarter of next year.
That is a big next step to get things moving and, in turn, expand it to other modes, too, which would be welcome and encouraging news. The SSC is an initiative with a lot of promise and early momentum. Let’s hope its objectives get met, in the name of supply chain scheduling and predictability.
About the Author
Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman