I spent the last three days in Las Vegas attending the MercuryGate Velocity user conference. This was my third time attending a MercuryGate conference and with over 450 attendees, this was the largest one yet. The theme of the conference this year was Innovate Today, Own Tomorrow. This was an extremely fitting theme for both the company and the changing nature of transportation today. MercuryGate CEO Joe Juliano kicked off the conference by talking about how MercuryGate is changing in order to enable their customers to succeed. He referred to this change as MercuryGate 2.0. Juliano noted that MercuryGate 2.0 will be more transparent with its customers when it comes to innovation and new developments. Juliano pointed out that intelligence is critical for preparing for the future. The company is investing in machine learning and artificial intelligence to drive greater results.
The ultimate goal is to make the system smarter and easier to use. One area that the company is looking to improve upon is customer education and training. The only way to get the most out of your TMS is to use every feature and function that can drive results. MercuryGate is trying to get its customers better prepared. To that end, the company announced a new set of microlearning module training courses. The new courses are designed to bring users up to speed at a quicker rate. The courses are also designed to make it easier for users to become power users. The microlearning courses are designed to not take up too much time and are focused on a single objective and educate on best practices. According to MercuryGate, the courses rapidly upgrade skill sets by incorporating learning into every day “on the job” experiences from users that are expert within the system.
MercuryGate CTO Beth Hendricks gave a presentation on the company’s product roadmap. She indicated that the roadmap strategy will drive the most value for customers for MercuryGate 2.0. There were four main goals of the roadmap. First, is to maximize the customer’s return on investment (ROI). Second is to enable customers’ competitive differentiation. Third is to embrace customer feedback and provide visibility. And fourth is to deliver TMS industry innovation. Hendricks pointed out that there are multiple inputs to the roadmap, including competitive information, partner inputs, and customer input to name a few. MercuryGate has historically been customer-driven. By that, I mean that the company has worked with its customers to find out what improvements and innovations are needed in the solution. However, often times these requests were customer specific. Now, the company is moving from customer specific to a roadmap driven strategy.
There are four themes that run throughout the product roadmap.
- Business Agility / Personalization: this theme allows customers to go at their own pace. The customer GUI is integrated into the MercuryGate workflow. This enables the customer to enhance the GUI with extensible user interface, essentially making the GUI their own. Within in this theme, MercuryGate is also standardizing the TMS API, which will increase API compatibility to industry standardization.
- Efficiency and Simplification: this is all about optimizing and simplifying planning and execution workflows. The key pieces are to improve data visibility, reduce manual work with enhanced automation, non-linear rules, improved to-do lists, and in-line optimization. These enhancements will drive results as well as improve customer satisfaction.
- Customer Influenced: a good portion of the roadmap is driven by what MercuryGate hears from its customers. Recent and coming improvements from this process include mobile application in Fleet, control tower evolution in TMS, ETA calculator in TMS, load optimization in Fleet, and an enhanced customer portal in TMS to name a few.
- Best in Class: this is where MercuryGate sees its product going. This includes providing strong international capabilities, making it highly scalable, and improving usability to make it simpler for customers to use and consume the data.
At the heart of the roadmap is innovation. MercuryGate is making improvements across a number of areas to its TMS. First, the company is investing in data analytics and visualization. This allows users to design their own reports, display a summary or detailed view of profit and loss, facilitate change management, and manage capacity and demand. Customers can start at a very high-level view and then drill down deep into the data. MercuryGate is also investing in machine learning. Customers can predict and specify transit times based on history, weather, or traffic patterns. The route guide can also be updated in real-time based on performance and demand. Additionally, pricing can be updated based on market conditions. And finally, MercuryGate is exploring blockchain technology. This is primarily for custody of freight via a virtual ledger.
MercuryGate is continuing to build out its partner ecosystem as well. One area of interest in transportation right now is around freight visibility. Real-time visibility is critical for improved ETAs and has a big impact on planning and carrier relationships. MercuryGate partners with Descartes (MacroPoint), project 44, and FourKites, to name a few, for improved visibility. These companies are collecting various third-party data streams that can give customers improved visibility. Harnessing that data and making it actionable as part of the TMS can drive efficiencies and greater customer satisfaction. MercuryGate and Descartes in particular have strengthened their partnership around freight visibility and freight matching, which enables companies to spend less time booking trucks, find new carriers, and reduce dead-head miles.
During the awards ceremony, MercuryGate announced that Truckstop.com was selected as the technology partner of the year. Truckstop.com is the largest neutral freight matching marketplace in North America. The company helps drivers find loads at the best rate, brokers to increase capacity, and shippers to manage freight. MercuryGate selected Truckstop.com for its trusted load board and freight marketplace.
MercuryGate also announced a new partnership with Convey for last mile. Convey is a provider of Delivery Experience Management (DEM) software. According to Convey, DEM is the art of proactively ensuring that your customers get their orders how and when they expect, taking intelligent action to correct issues along the way and continuously communicating to uphold the brand promise. There are three pillars to DEM: total visibility, take action, and customer experience. Total visibility means that carrier, customer, and order data is all in one place and ensures live monitoring and alerts of shipments. Take action is broken down into two parts: exception recovery and insights & analytics. And customer experience encompasses branded tracking, appointment scheduling, and intelligent notifications.
MercuryGate already adds value to last mile. Namely, the company enables customers to manage all modes through a single platform, consolidate inbound and middle-mile freight from LTL to TL, reduce miles using route optimization, and synchronize all upstream activities to ensure last mile success. The partnership integrates Convey’s DEM technology into MercuryGate’s TMS to allow shippers to launch DEM programs that provide complete visibility through the last mile of delivery. This means that shippers can manage the entire shipping experience down to the final delivery. Shippers also will have access to end-to-end visibility which can help in future planning of shipments. Essentially, customers can run everything through MercuryGate TMS and then pass off the last mile to Convey all within the same system. This provides better visibility across the entire delivery.
MercuryGate Velocity is in the books and it did not disappoint. The theme of Innovate Today, Own Tomorrow was a very appropriate one. The supply chain industry is going through a transition, and innovation is driving the change. The capacity crunch is not going away, and in order for shippers to succeed tomorrow, they need to innovate today. MercuryGate is putting its customers in a position to succeed. MercuryGate CEO Joe Juliano made it clear throughout the conference that the company is on a technology evolution with the success of its customers as the driver. Two days of sessions only confirmed this. An enhanced roadmap, better training, more partners, and improved visibility are the key components to MercuryGate’s future success.