Last week I attended FourKites Visibility 2023 in Chicago, IL. The conference as a whole was fantastic, from the location and networking events to the conversations I had and sessions I attended. This was the largest conference that FourKites has put on to date, with nearly 800 customers, partners, prospects, and thought leaders descending on the Hyatt Regency to learn and, as the conference theme says, connect. The conference did not disappoint.
CEO Matt Elenjickal kicked off Visibility 2023 with his keynote. Mr. Elenjickal noted that over the last 36 months, supply chains have become more complex than ever before. This leads supply chains to continue to operate in silos, rather than in a connected manner. As a result, supply chains continue to be wasteful when looking at time, inefficiencies, and emissions. I’ll have more to say about the FourKites approach to supply chain sustainability in a future article, but Mr. Elenjickal made the point that every year, there are 9 billion hours of wasted time for truck drivers due to planning inefficiencies, especially when it comes to loads not being ready, not being able to be unloaded, or congestion around ports and warehouses. This equates to an economic impact of $350 billion a year, not to mention the environmental impact of idling trucks.
For the C-Suite, there are three main themes where supply chains make a definitive impact: increased customer retention, revenue growth, and lower costs. Mr. Elenjickal discussed how the FourKites platform helps leaders with real-time decision making. This is achieved through the company’s cloud-native architecture, network density, and partner ecosystem.
As I mentioned above, the theme for FourKites Visibility 2023 was “Connected”. Mr. Elenjickal focused on the three main areas where FourKites is looking to improve connections across supply chains: geos, teams, and ecosystems.
Connected geos is all about the continuing evolution of the global supply chain. Companies are sourcing materials from all over the world, and need to identify those regions which are most important, and which provide the greatest risk for disruptions. These disruptions occur for myriad reasons, such as factory disruptions in China or ships getting stuck in the Panama Canal. In fact, over the last twelve months alone, more than 10 million ocean shipments have been impacted. As these disruptions continue to occur, shippers and carriers need to have their supply chains across the globe connected for risk mitigation and improved ETAs for their customers.
As part of its connected geo strategy, FourKites has expanded its operations to Japan, as it sees the country as an important link in the global supply chain.
Mr. Elenjickal said that we are living in a time of silos, which creates a lot of waste across teams and the entire supply chain. A disruption in one function impacts all other functions across the supply chain, including supplier management, order management, transportation management, warehouse management, and demand management. Teams need a single source of the truth that creates a seamless workflow, enabling immediate action. As a result, FourKites has moved from a single product company to a platform company. The company started with shipment visibility and quickly expanded into tendering by integrating to TMS. FourKites then expanded to warehouse visibility, inventory visibility, and dynamic yard management with WMS integration, before adding order visibility and network visibility with ERP integration. The end result of this platform approach is a real-time decision platform which can map out the end-to-end supply chain in a single platform.
The final theme that Mr. Elenjickal touched upon was connected ecosystems. Supply chain ecosystems are made up of customers, partners, suppliers, vendors, and carriers, and none of these can operate in a silo. This means connecting these different stakeholders and facilitating data sharing that will make the entire supply chain run more efficiently. Mr. Elenjickal said that 35 percent of shippers are using 10 or more systems to manage their supply chains. Rather than replace these systems, a platform approach can bring them together and share data across the entire supply chain. A few examples of where connected ecosystems can make an impact are within sustainability, especially when it comes to measuring emissions, and perfect order delivery. Connected ecosystems can reduce dwell time and increase asset utilization, both of which will have positive effects on profitability and sustainability goals.
Visibility 2023: Product Roadmap
One of the more interesting sessions, and one that I believe is a highlight for attendees every year, is the product vision roadmap presented by Priya Rajagopalan, Chief Product Officer at FourKites. One of the aspects of the FourKites innovation roadmap that is compelling is that the company co-innovates with its customers. All enhancements and new functionality are vetted during a weekly customer feedback call. I will highlight two product announcements that Priya shared on the main stage: My Workspace and Fin AI.
My Workspace is a customizable dashboard that displays connected insights from across the FourKites product suite in a single, unified view. It is essentially a bird’s-eye view of all the FourKites applications rolled up into a real-time decision platform. My Workspace is integrated across FourKites’ product suite, allowing users to see information such as on-time performance, emissions by mode, equipment by detention status, and more. Additionally, FourKites added a sustainability widget with more attributes so a company can get more granular as it measures sustainability initiatives.
Fin AI, which is short for FourKites Intelligent Network, enables users to use AI-powered insights from their data for faster decision making. The solution combines network data, company data, and external data to uncover insights, improve optimization, and automate supply chain orchestration. Additionally, Fin AI applies generative AI to the FourKites platform for improved usability. According to Ms. Rajagopalan, Fin AI provides three main benefits for users when it comes to proactive decision making:
- Assess the impact of disruptive events on their supply chain, so they can quickly isolate impacted shipments and take action.
- Quickly diagnose why a shipment isn’t tracking, and bring it online to increase visibility throughout their network.
- Obtain product guidance across the entire FourKites’ product suite, and distill the most relevant insights in just a few sentences.
FourKites Visibility 2023 was a great show to attend and shows the direction that FourKites has taken to become more than just a supply chain visibility provider. The company clearly demonstrated that it is on the leading edge when it comes to real-time decision making, and the theme of connection showed how. FourKites is connecting geos, teams, and its entire ecosystem while introducing cutting edge technology to the market. As global supply chains continue to evolve, and disruptions become the new norm, FourKites is positioned to help leaders make real-time decisions that will positively impact their business and the world. In his closing statement, Mr. Elenjickal shared a quote that certainly rings true “Supply chains save the world.”