Diep Nguyen, the Chief Technology Officer at WARP, a tech-powered freight network specializing in middle-mile solutions, offers his thoughts on what the future of freight technology looks like over the next 12 months and into the future. Having spent nearly five years at Jitsu (previously AxleHire), a last-mile delivery company, Diep was privy first-hand to the siloes in which the different parts of the supply chain operated. This in turn led him to join WARP to help design a way to link the entire supply chain to create more efficiency and cost savings for shippers.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, what will be the biggest freight tech trend(s)?

Right now there is a huge effort to cut costs across the board – shippers, carriers, 3PLs – anyone who touches the supply chain. Finding ways to improve overall efficiency across the entire network, not just one step is at the top of mind for most shippers. Traditionally most logistics solutions were broken down into first, last, and middle mile with different service providers for each piece of the puzzle. This has caused a lot of fragmentation within the supply chain and inefficiencies.

The future of freight in the next 12 months will be focused on optimizing the supply chain from when a finished product leaves the assembly line to when it’s delivered or picked up by the end customer. Utilizing already existing assets and infusing them with the latest technology can help eliminate the many siloes within the supply chain and create a more end-to-end solution that costs less than treating each link separately.

What if you were to imagine the supply 10 years from now?

The future of logistics is open source. That means taking digitalization to the next level and standardizing processes while giving companies more flexibility for customized solutions from various providers. It also means co-opetition, working together with other companies to create better efficiencies within the overall supply chain, spur innovation, and greater customer satisfaction.

In addition, there will be a lot more automation, eliminating errors that come from guesswork and manual processes. This includes everything from digitizing the warehouse, drone delivery, automating quotes and transactions, package delivery optimization in vehicles, and more accurate routing technology – the options are endless.

Why has freight tech been notoriously behind as far as the industry goes?

Amazon has set a high standard when it comes to doorstep delivery, and so it has forced innovation by other companies when it comes to the last mile first. Because this is the step directly affected by consumers' demands, there has been a rush to compete with Amazon and give other brands a chance to meet those high expectations. But when building out a great last-mile system to compete with Amazon, brands quickly realized the importance of the middle mile and how it ultimately affects the whole supply chain. A more efficient middle-mile can help companies significantly cut down on last-mile costs.

Technology adoption in freight has been notoriously slow because many of these legacy companies were built decades before the kind of tech that is the current standard in the last mile existed. Now they need to be retrofitted with technology instead of newer last-mile startups that have tech built in from the very start. This has spurred a new group of logistics tech startups that specifically focus on the middle-mile and/or entire supply chain optimization.

Where have automation and tech had the biggest impact on manual freight processes?

Transparency and tracking in freight have traditionally been a very manual process. Logistics managers are constantly emailing, calling, and texting carriers to see where their freight is at any given time. But by automating this process, logistics managers can access one dashboard and see the location of their loads, when they’ve entered/exited a cross-dock, and when they’ve made it to their final destination with the click of a button.

If a shipper is looking to invest in technology to improve their supply chain, where should they start?

There are many technology companies out there that do one thing well: tracking, routing, last-mile delivery, etc. But there are not many companies that bring all of those things together. The market is still so fragmented. Making a single investment into one service provider that brings all those pieces together in one dashboard can provide end-to-end optimization for the best overall results.

How has routing technology changed in the last 5 years?

There have been great strides made in routing technology over the last five years including more efficiency around getting from point A to B and a variety of capacity solutions. But in the most recent years, we’ve been able to use technology to respond to demand in real time and create more dynamic solutions. The use of predictive analytics and AI has also allowed us to analyze current and historical data to determine the most efficient routes possible based on a specific time of the year or weather patterns.

How does technology at cross-docks work to create more efficiencies?

By giving cross-docks access to technology that tracks scan events (when a pallet enters/exits a cross-dock) the shipper now receives that visibility automatically and can better predict when their load will reach the final destination and if there are any delays without needing to send any emails or make any phone calls.