By Gene Marks
It’s almost a miracle that I can ship a product from Philadelphia to Miami and it can get there safely, in one piece and even overnight. Imagine if my grandfather, a business owner who passed away in the early 1980’s, were to suddenly re-appear today and see this himself. “What kind of magic is this?” I bet he would say. And he’d be right. The complex logistical process that goes on behind the scenes just to get one company’s parts to another company’s warehouse a thousand miles away is truly a kind of magic.
And yet, the Business to Business (B2B) shipping process is still hugely inefficient. As great as today’s logistics companies are, even their senior management will admit that they face challenges tracking packages, fully utilizing shipping space, clearing regulatory hurdles, finding the right people, processing enormous amounts of information and investing in the right systems in order to respond to their customers’ ever-increasing demands.
There is much still to be learned and much progress to be made. But that progress is happening. The answers to all of this, of course, lies in technology.
“Logistics needs to be more connected into a company’s inventory and order management systems,” says Chris Grubb, a managing director at UPS told me. “From there we can create networks that are more efficient, that are more utilized, that don’t require as many assets or can overcome some of the challenges that we might be facing in the future.”
Like many great companies, UPS is investing heavily in technologies and services that will bring together these different processes and improve efficiencies for B2B shipping. One of these investments was recently made in Inxeption a San Francisco based company that has designed the first blockchain-based e-commerce platform for B2B companies – particularly online merchants – that catalogs and digitizes product information. Businesses who set up e-commerce sites powered by Inxeption technology will now get a product that includes competitive UPS shipping, tracking and logistics solutions built in, making it easier for them to set up an online channel to drive e-commerce sales. Customers, in turn, get the shipping expertise and reliability of UPS.
Grubbs is part of the team that vets different technologies through UPS or identifies partners to provide a seamless, end-to-end shipping experience for its B2B customers. Another venture, Ware2Go, was launched in 2018 to connect small and medium businesses with warehouses and help streamline online orders
“We believe that there are a lot of opportunities for us to insert logistics into the overarching value chain of buy and sell and who to order from and where’s inventory located–all these things that can make that whole process more efficient,” Grubb says. “That’s why it’s important for us to move upstream and really start working with companies like Inxeption (and platforms like Ware2Go) that are really managing the entire end-to-end process, and even beyond that.”
It doesn’t end there. Innovative logistics companies like UPS are continually investing in more technologies that will not only make shipping easier for their customers but also more efficient, faster and – hopefully – less expensive. That’s why, according to UPS Chief Executive Officer David Abney, the company spends more than a billion dollars a year on technology. “We’re using innovation and technology to give our customers more choice, control and convenience,” he recently told the Birmingham Rotary.
In my opinion, too many small businesses spread themselves out too thin among too many freight and transportation providers. The best road to travel is to make the upmost use of the freight company you trust the most. Talk to their salespeople. Follow their corporate activities. Offer your company up to test new technologies. Partner with them as they try out better ways to improve their services. In the end it will all benefit your company
Big companies like UPS will continue to spend billions on their magic: technologies and partnerships with companies like Inxeption – so that they can provide the most efficient and affordable service possible. As a business manager, it’s your job to do your research, stay up to date and take advantage of all that they have to offer.
“What I’m trying to accomplish and what UPS is trying to accomplish in the space is to help our customers sell more,” Grubb told me.
Shouldn’t we let him?