Interview: Sixfold CEO reveals how data science and machine learning can predict the future
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Sixfold is a platform for real-time visibility that works with world-famous brands such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola. Other target customers include global shippers, logistics providers, and freight forwarders in sectors such as FMCG, retail, building and construction materials.
In this exclusive interview, Wolfgang Wörner, the co-founder and CEO of Sixfold, explains how the startup has grown since its foundation in 2017, and how the company provides the real-time visibility craved by giants from the manufacturing and food & drink sectors.
Hi Wolfgang, thanks for taking the time to talk to us at Trans.INFO. First off,what exactly does your company do?
Sixfold is the leading real-time logistics visibility platform in Europe. We work with shippers and carriers that move thousands of shipments around the continent every day. Before us, they and their customers were unable to tell when exactly shipments would be picked up, where they were at any given time and when they would reach their destinations. We make the supply chain visible to all stakeholders.
Moreover, the constant flow of data and insights that we provide make it possible for our customers to further digitize their logistics processes and shift from manual work to automation. Logistics departments can focus on shipments that will be delayed, procurement teams have access to historical performance data to back decision making, more informed customer service reps can proactively reach out to customers, and scheduling in warehouses becomes automated. Overall, this results in increased efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.
We don’t just make the current situation visible on the map – we predict the future with high accuracy thanks to data science and machine learning algorithms doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Constant, predictive visibility over the supply chain is the key to actually making these benefits available for our customers.
When and how did you come up with the idea for Sixfold?
My co-founders had been developing a data-driven digital road logistics marketplace in their previous startup, Palleter. By the time we met they had already built brilliant technology (dynamically matching demand with excess capacity), but were pessimistic about the viability of their business model (digital spot marketplace).
We decided to join forces and launch a new company that would build upon the existing base technology to form a much more market-ready solution – providing real-time visibility to large shippers. We secured funding from Transporeon’s investors, which also provided us with an excellent go-to-market strategy and helped us roll the service out across the largest logistics network in Europe.
You started Sixfold in 2017. What was your vision for the company back then and how has that vision developed over the last three years?
When my co-founders and I started Sixfold three years ago, our vision was to build the leading real-time visibility network in Europe. The inefficiencies in transport logistics due to issues such as fragmentation and a lack of digitisation can be extremely costly both financially and for the environment, and we felt the time was right for serious change.
In the time since, improving sustainability has grown to become a key part of our vision. It’s well known that the supply chain generates a huge amount of waste and CO2 emissions – around 25% of all truck kilometres travelled in Europe are driven empty. But, by gaining deeper insight into how trucks are being used and how transportation networks operate, businesses can reduce empty mileage, more effectively match capacity and demand, and reduce their carbon footprint.
What is unique about your product?
As said, the true value is extracted from real-time visibility when combining it with transport execution and other core logistics processes. None of our competitors have seamless symbiosis with an execution platform like we have with Transporeon. Our mutual customers get an end-to-end transport execution experience where real-time visibility is more than just a step in the workflow. The insights extracted from real-time data streams help to automate and inform decision making in various processes, from procurement and planning to assignment and billing.
Transporeon’s network – now enhanced with real-time visibility by Sixfold as a core functionality – is the biggest RTV-enabled network in Europe, bringing the benefits of network effect and economies of scale to our customers. Any new customer signing with Transporeon today will find a large portion of their carriers already connected and ready to provide visibility.
In addition, our data science-centric approach sets us apart and is essential to efficiently solving real-world problems at scale. As a result, our platform has excellent ETA accuracy, cleanses low quality data like broken addresses, adjusts geofence sizes based on topography and predicts capacity demand.
Finally, a highly automated onboarding process coupled with powerful machine learning algorithms at the core of our platform, have helped us to quickly scale across Transporeon’s network with 100,000 carriers and 1,200 shippers around the world.
Who are your target customers and what business problems do they need solved?
We work with companies that operate incredibly complicated international supply chains, including world-renowned brands such as Nestlé and Coca-Cola. Other target customers include global shippers, logistics providers and carriers in sectors like FMCG, retail, construction & building materials and manufacturing.
For a long time, these types of businesses have been hampered by a lack of real-time transportation visibility. As well as impacting their ability to gain accurate insights into the location and status of shipments, this creates inefficiencies that reduce sustainability, increase costs and impact customer satisfaction. In short, it can have a big impact on a company’s long-term success.
This is where we come into play. By integrating with transport management and telematics systems, our platform shines a light on everything that is happening across a customer’s supply chain. As a result, businesses can optimise processes to increase efficiency and overcome key challenges.
Customers also no longer have to worry about missing important insights, without having to sift through large volumes of data to find out what’s important. Our AI and predictive analytics capabilities make sense of the data that is being collected – the likes of telemetry, map, traffic and weather data – in real time, proactively predicting transportation delays and delivering valuable business intelligence.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting up Sixfold?
While there were various hurdles related to scaling a startup across multiple countries, we always saw carrier buy-in as the toughest challenge to overcome. The carrier market is heavily fragmented with a long tail of hundreds of thousands of small asset owners. At the same time, its limited digitization makes it very complex and costly to consolidate data from all the players.
Thus, we needed to find ways to make carrier onboarding very simple, low-cost, and highly scalable. As we were so focused on solving the carrier challenge from the get-go, we were able to address it pretty successfully. The share of automated, self-service carrier onboarding already stands at over 60% and is still growing.
Where do you see the company in 5 years' time?
Real-time visibility in itself is just an enabler. We see that the biggest value lies in combining it with transport execution, capacity planning, procurement and other existing logistics processes which today lack the real-time component. This is exactly what we are now working towards as part of the market-leading Transporeon Group.
Our work over the coming years will be dedicated towards enhancing Transporeon’s services with our real-time data driven insights and creating the first true real-time execution platform in the process. This will put us at the front and center of the biggest shift in how logistics is handled in Europe and beyond. There’s a lot of exciting work ahead of us!
What advice would you give to other founders who are just starting out?
The go-to-market strategy is the key. Assembling a great team and building a great product doesn’t cut it if you can’t figure out a way to scale, if there are no promising channels to sell to and a rock solid USP to draw customers in with.
Of course, you don’t need to solve the GTM issue before you have the hypothesis set and an MVP to test it. Scaling too early or scaling the wrong product must be avoided at all cost. But in the end, the GTM strategy is what makes or breaks an otherwise great startup.
Wolfgang Wörner, CEO and Co-Founder
Wolfgang Wörner is CEO and co-founder of predictive supply-chain visibility provider, Sixfold. Prior to founding Sixfold, he spent seven years at McKinsey & Company serving global technology and telecoms companies on technology, supply-chain, and transformation topics. Based in Vienna, he served companies in more than ten countries across four continents.