Northwest Arkansas was the place for industry pros talking supply chain technology, as FreightWaves held its premier event, The Future of Supply Chain earlier this summer. Over two days, OneRail Founder & CEO Bill Catania participated in a roundtable discussion and co-presented in a Rapid-Fire Demo of the OneRail last mile solution with OneRail Solutions Engineering VP Barr Wilborn.
Hosted by Ironspring Ventures Managing Partner Ty Findley, the roundtable, titled “The Next Chapter for the Last Mile,” featured Catania and FRONTDoor Collective Chief Strategy Officer Penny Register-Shaw.
The universal themes throughout the discussion were democratization, sustainability, interoperability and collaboration. Read on to see how the panelists tackled these topics.
What is the next chapter for last mile delivery?
“For many years, the shipper has been the focus, but our company is really taking a focus on also creating an equally good customer experience,” Register-Shaw said. “We know that in the small parcel space, which is the sweet spot for FRONTDoor Collective, if someone has a poor delivery experience, they are very unlikely to order again, so we want to be an extension of the brand and replicate all your hard work — on the road, and at the front door.”
“What we see as the next chapter and where we’re hyper-focused right now is putting inventory closer to the customer, which begins with the right transportation decision to meet the specific delivery promise,” Catania said. “Our job is perpetually to provide more reliability in that decision, so the customer gets what they want when they want it; to provide more selection, so our customers can fulfill more at a lower cost and more reliably; and to do all of that, so our shippers save money, both on OPEX and on hard costs.”
Register-Shaw added, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the safety component. With more vehicles on the road, we must be hyper-focused on speed, visibility and all the things that make it safe to be on the road.”
Findley then set supply chain against the current economic landscape, citing the Bank of America trucking analyst who recently indicated we’re near freight recession levels. He also mentioned both that diesel prices are at an all-time high and Amazon having taken their biggest earnings call hit since 2015, to the point of pulling back from investing in some of their fulfillment centers.
With your businesses, what are some concrete examples of a clear ROI you’ve seen come to bear?
Register-Shaw answered that question with a company mantra on democratization: “The last mile should work for everyone,” she said. “FRONTDoor Collective is focusing on creating efficiencies, innovations and optimization along all metrics — pulling the data together to one dashboard, so you don’t have to go to another system to make your critical decisions.”
And then there’s sustainability, she continued. “We want to be an all-electric fleet, and we set a goal for this time next year. We are deploying cargo vans that are electric, e-bikes and even walking deliveries in dense metro areas, to reduce the impact on the environment. We are also focused on recycling the materials that the packaging comes in.”
Catania said that at OneRail, the greatest element of control is which decisions the platform can make.
“Our platform is architected to reduce miles, even eliminate miles, and find the most cost-efficient way to deliver something,” he said. “We have customers who have challenged us to match to an electric vehicle and to carbon-efficient vehicles, and we have. Our product roadmap takes the approach that if we can do that, couldn’t we also power a customer experience that lets the customer know that if they wait one to two days, they can have a more carbon-efficient delivery?”
What is the trickle-down effect of these factors, as you define how your solutions are going to help with some of these situations?
“We take a very deliberate solutions engineering approach at OneRail: Before we agree to work with a customer, we go through a deliberate solutions engineering process that identifies hard costs, soft costs and also what I call white space sales — asking where can we give you new capabilities that you never had before, so you can gain competitive advantage?” Catania said.
Baked in to that discovery phase is a logistician’s approach that includes time studies, Catania said. “Consider how much time you are spending today on a manual entry to input a delivery into a delivery interface. When we add up the sum of all that time, as well as the sum of the phone calls that go away because we provide exception management for every delivery, our platform has eliminated 90 percent of the manual exceptions calls, so there’s ROI from that deliberate value engineering approach.”
For Register-Shaw, the answers lie in the company’s core values.
“One of our North Stars at the FRONTDoor Collective is that we must add value, not margin on margin – so we’re very transparent with our price that we offer to the middle mile, to the 3PL, to the people who are connecting into our network of providers,” she said. “We also do not want to build a network that has to be audited to death, because the surcharges are so complicated. Those considerations make us very competitive. We are a tech company for our partners, but not to the shippers, so while we don’t really think in terms of ROI the way you do, when our price gets factored in, those are the north stars that we try to stay true to as we offer it in the market.”
What are the roadblocks we need to eliminate to get to that last mile delivery future state to drive value?
“The next generation is about collaboration — about knowledge and data-sharing and how we can work together to build a better supply chain and a better experience,” Register-Shaw said. “A rising tide must carry all boats in this arena for the next decades to come; there can’t be just one winner.”
Catania said he couldn’t agree more. “It’s about interoperability. For supply chain to be totally effective and to achieve the scale goals everyone has, there must be interoperability and data-sharing. The reason we built OneRail was to democratize the last mile, taking an API-first approach because the fluidity of the data has to be there.
“It simply can’t continue to be manual,” Catania continued. “Maybe I’m a little biased, but we believe that interoperability is the key to success. We will never under any circumstance tell a shipper that we will not integrate with a competitor — we would integrate with our biggest competitor if that’s what it took to achieve the results that our shipper was trying to achieve.”
“Yes, it’s not about a race to the bottom,” Register-Shaw agreed. “It’s also about balancing that with improved service.”
“Democratization. Sustainability. Interoperability. Collaboration. This is a call to action, and hopefully we take that ethos forward as we define the next chapter of last mile.”
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