Rich Pirrotta, Chief Revenue Officer
Every automobile has an average of 30,000 individual parts, with each part either manufactured in-house by an OEM or outsourced to a third-party provider.
As these component parts are largely scattered across the globe, automotive supply chain managers are required to work with thousands of manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers to streamline parts manufacturing and distribution. A delay in even one segment of the supply chain can derail the smooth production of vehicles, cause inventory shortages, and lead to revenue loss and the eventual shutting down of assembly lines.
Clearly, automobile companies cannot afford the slightest of delays, especially while considering that the biggest car manufacturers strictly operate under a “just-in-time inventory” methodology. In this time-strapped setting, automotive firms need a logistics and supply chain network they can rely upon.
Over the past few years, several logistics solution providers have cropped up. However, according to Rich Pirrotta—a line executive and management consultant with broad, cross-organizational experience in sales, operations, turnaround situations, and finance,— the existing industry wide solutions are simply not enough to alleviate the supply chain predicaments faced by OEMs, automotive suppliers, and other complex enterprises. This is where FreightVerify, a cloud-based company focused on transportation visibility, is in a class by itself. “We are not just a technology company rolling out software. We have actual, deep-rooted expertise in the manufacturing domain,” says Pirrotta, the chief revenue officer of the Michigan-based company.
FreightVerify’s domain expertise is strong. Christine Krathwohl, VP of Global Business Development of FreightVerify, is credited for building the largest automotive global logistics network—with $9Bn of freight under management— during her career at General Motors. For a quarter of a century, Christine has managed global supply chain strategies for not only OEMs, such as General Motors and Ford, but for Visteon, a giant in the automotive supplier space. When Christine brought her outstanding supply chain expertise to FreightVerify in late 2018, the company had already established itself as a trusted ally of the world’s top automotive manufacturers and suppliers. With Christine onboard, FreightVerify has continued to develop specific value propositions that serve the complex enterprise.
At the core of FreightVerify’s offerings is a shipper-centric platform that provides predictive, real-time transportation visibility at every step of the supply chain.
Single Pane to Track Multiple Service Providers
When FreightVerify was launched in 2014, the Founder Lorne Darnell observed that despite the inf lux of IoT and other technologies in supply chains, there remained a major visibility gap with regard to shippers tracking their in-transit freight. FreightVerify assessed that shippers lacked access to real-time data since their providers, truck carriers, and ocean carriers tended to share event-based information only when required. In many cases, shippers didn’t receive information at all and ran into severe operational issues. “And even when shippers did have access to real-time freight information, they were obligated to work through fragmented systems and multiple service providers to access a network view of their supply chain. It was not very efficient, and not the way to make good use of a logistic team’s resources.” recalls Pirrotta.
To dig deeper into supply chain issues ailing the automotive sector, FreightVerify leveraged an in-house, minimal viable product (MVP) model before gradually refining its f lagship platform. During the process, FreightVerify discovered that automotive supply chain managers had significant visibility issues due to the large amount of carrier modes (rail, truck, ocean, air) they had to track, not to mention in real-time. As a result, FreightVerify transitioned from just truck/direct truck mode into less-than-truckload-shipping (LTL) and eventually began tapping into logistics networks of rail, ocean, and air. Pirrotta recounts, “Within that grouping of modes, we worked in a shipper-centric manner, adding carriers that moved products for our shippers in those specific modes. This helped us attain an end-to-end view of all nested segments in a single shipment view on our platform.” With the technology team intentionally designing the user interface to support end-to-end visibility, FreightVerify could drill down into each trip segment—ocean, rail or truck— and look at specific details of the shipments from a real-time perspective.
Today, FreightVerify’s robust supply chain platform acquires data from dozens of sources in the transportation ecosystem—service providers and supply chain networks—to present shippers with real-time freight information in a single interface. Importantly, this information does not need to come from the shipper to enable the FreightVerify platform to deliver. “With a shipper’s sponsorship, we onboard their service providers to our platform, rather than depend on a shipper’s operating plan as the only source of supply chain data. In this manner, if a shipper requires visibility to track 100 different truck carriers, 5 ocean carriers, the 7 Class 1 rail carriers in North America, and 10 LTL carriers, the real-time shipment and visibility information is available in one place: the FreightVerify platform,” states Pirrotta, before adding that the integrated display of multiple carriers allows complex enterprises to quickly gather and normalize data and perform analysis and execution of insights that lead to significant cost savings and efficiencies.
Due to our domain expertise in the automotive sector where part number is critical to the logistics network, our technology team has done the heavy lifting to track shipments in real-time at the part, VIN, SKU, or order number level
“The complex enterprises we serve can’t afford any visibility gaps across their origin-destination pair.”
FreightVerify’s ability to track multiple carriers simultaneously is a boon for OEMs that typically have various third-party logistics (3PL) companies managing their businesses. “In the past, they have had to approach each 3PL for visibility and route the information accordingly. Even if the 3PL providers have visibility, OEMs have to track multiple carriers separately. We solve this pain point by going into each client’s supplier network (carrier by-mode), consume information from those partners and integrate it within our platform,” explains Christine, who has been a key leader in developing the business requirements for the solution.
To summarize, FreightVerify captures a client’s list of service providers by mode, in its entirety, and portrays their whole network on its platform.
Ultimate Differentiator: A Pioneer in Part Number Tracking
None of this real-time, multi-mode, carrier visibility would be possible without FreightVerify’s vast hub of data sources and domain expertise. Besides acquiring just telematics or GPS positional data, FreightVerify is a pioneer in consuming and providing access to part numbers, vehicle identification numbers (VINs), and order numbers at the shipment level— information that has typically not been available from other logistics solution providers. This level of detail enables the FreightVerify platform to incorporate a lot more than just optimized location and modal assets management features. Pirrotta explains, “Due to our domain expertise in the automotive sector where part number is critical to the logistics network, our technology team has done the heavy lifting to track shipments in real-time at the part, VIN, SKU, or order number level and understand the details of plan versus actual parts.”
Besides tracking the part and order number at the granular level, the FreightVerify platform takes into account information such as carrier, trailer, and route, allowing users to track their shipments through various entry points. “By keying in part number to search for shipments, our clients can track every shipment in transit and make better decisions,” adds Christine,” and for the first time, can understand their in-transit inventory at the Part/ SKU level”
The “better decisions” that FreightVerify’s clients can make—by tracking their shipments at the part number level—are worthy of being highlighted.
For starters, FreightVerify enables automotive manufacturers/suppliers to effectively support “just-in-time manufacturing” by giving them accurate inventory visibility at each element of their supply chain. By doing so, OEMs can align their production cycles with consumer demand trends, and develop the foresight to predict future requirements based on changing marketplace tastes. Also, FreightVerify users can look at inefficient routes and identify opportunities to reduce in-transit inventory in a way that doesn’t constrain their manufacturing operations. By integrating critical freight data with part and order numbers, carrier and service providers are also able to address intricate issues such as data integrity and compliance.
By examining the part number of shipments, FreightVerify’s clients can also ascertain when a shipper has “short shipped” them or when there’s a change in schedule at a customer plant. Christine explains, “Our clients can search by part number to study every single conveyance that has arrived at a plant, or even if it is in transit or scheduled to be shipped. The big benefit here is that workers at the plants or core follow-up groups can make critical judgment calls such, as ‘can we transfer the stock?’ or ‘can we pull ahead the load ’ without having to, as they did in the past, use a chartered f light or premium expedited truck to protect their production.”
Christine Krathwohl, VP Global Business Development
Analytics & Business Intelligence
The unique modal tracking (multiple carriers on the same pane) and content tracking (part numbers, VINs, order numbers) features notwithstanding, FreightVerify has invested heavily in its data integration capabilities— analytics and performance reporting. By leveraging data analytics, FreightVerify offers a dynamic and intelligent Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) for each shipment in its platform, a feature that Pirrotta sees is of great value. “Our customers tell us, ‘you have the most accurate ETA of any of the logistics solutions.’ We’re pleased to be recognized for this value from our customers, and we are constantly working to enhance the intelligent ETA” he says.
Based on the intelligent ETA, Pirrotta adds, “If a shipment is running late, clients can proceed with other plans, and decide whether they need to keep a dock open or let the team go home. It’s no longer a question of waiting and hoping that a shipment will show up.”
"With a shipper’s sponsorship, we onboard their service providers to our platform, rather than depend on a shipper’s operating plan as the only source of supply chain data"
Lastly, the FreightVerify platform also offers integrated performance reporting, such as dwell time, detention, and demurrage. By leveraging AI and BI, the platform maps relevant shipping information across all supply chain locations and provides users a holistic view of every activity taking place in their particular networks. Christine elaborates, “The core performance reporting highlights where the inefficiencies lie within a network. It gives our clients the capability to confidently make decisions in real-time rather than waiting for an event to occur.”
The prudency of FreightVerify’s real-time performance reporting was on full display when the company served a large OEM. Before switching to the FreightVerify platform, the client experienced inaccurate and delayed freight information, which prevented them from communicating where they wanted areas of improvement with their logistics service providers. “In some cases, they were paying additional fees based on inaccurate data, and had no way of challenging the information. After we provided them with the facts of what was happening in their network, they were able to negotiate costs (with the provider) from a position of strength and accuracy,” recalls Pirrotta.
As for FreightVerify’s product deployment process, it’s just as unique as the platform itself. According to Christine, the company offers a “proof of value” rather than a proof of concept, “We have demonstrated that we can reduce a shipper’s material follow-up, expedited freight, inventory, and logistics costs significantly. As such, when we meet a new client, we present a proof of value that is relevant to their particular segment.”
A neutral platform, FreightVerify is purpose-built for every player across the logistics ecosystem. More importantly, FreightVerify is not beholden to any carrier or 3PL and operates independently.
The future is evidently bright for FreightVerify, which is expecting to grow and continue to deliver high customer value in the coming years. Besides concrete plans to expand its footprint to the European and Asian markets, FreightVerify intends to serve a clientele that isn’t restricted to the automotive and OEM sectors. “Having built a solution to serve the complex enterprise in automotive, we believe we can replicate the same approach in other verticals,” says Pirrotta.
Headquartered in picturesque Ann Arbor, Michigan, FreightVerify is invested in ramping up its “data collecting” efforts and eventually segue into building advanced supply chain capabilities. FreightVerify is looking at effective ways to apply data science and predictive analysis to the significant amount of data it accumulates on a daily basis. “Be it AI or machine learning, or other technologies to improve location management, we are constantly seeking ways to add new components to the platform and drive value for our customers,” reveals Christine.
In the next step of its evolution, the FreightVerify platform will collect data from smart vehicles (IoT tracking data) and integrate the same with its shipment and part number data. Pirrotta concludes, “We’re just as customer-centric as we’re innovative. That’s why we partner with our customers to solve critical issues. This will always be our approach to driving solutions that the supply chain needs.”