Kristian Kaas Mortensen: project44’s visibility approach echoes that of bank card systems

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What does project44's desire to cooperate with more carriers have in common with Visa and Mastercard? In this Trans.INFO exclusive, Kristian Kaas Mortensen, Senior Director of Global Partnerships & Alliances at project44, explains

Kristian Kaas Mortensen: project44’s visibility approach echoes that of bank card systems
Kristian Kaas Mortensen is the Senior Director of Global Partnerships & Alliances at project44

The visibility sector has grown rapidly since the pandemic as more companies come to realise how vital it is to keep track of their supply chains. Despite there being no shortage of players in the market, in the last 12 months in particular, it’s arguably been project44 making the headlines thanks to some high profile acquisitions and investments.

To add to this, the company recently reported Q2 ARR that exceeded that of the next six visibility companies combined – an indication of its strong position in the sector.

In light of these developments, we took the time to sit down with Kristian Kaas Mortensen, Senior Director of Global Partnerships & Alliances, to learn about project44’s ‘Visa/Mastercard’ approach, how supply chain visibility can boost sustainability, and what the company’s plans are for the European market.

Hi Kristian, thanks for talking to us. Since we last spoke to project44’s founder, Jett Mcandless, the company has raised $202 million in Series E Funding, acquired ClearMetal and Ocean Insights, and been named Magic Quadrant leader in the real-time visibility sector by Gartner. The investment, growth and developments at the company seem to be coming thick and fast. What’s it been like for you since joining the team at the turn of the year?

Thanks Greg, I’m truly proud and privileged to have had the opportunity to join project44 around eight months ago and, as you’ve just described, what a positive ride it has been in 2021.

Our organic growth, combined with our acquisitions, is driven by a strong market for large multinational shippers to create a more resilient supply chain by implementing end-to-end, real time visibility that is fully integrated with their transportation management systems, operations and capabilities.

As you said, we acquired Ocean Insights and ClearMetal, further strengthening our go to market offering and I am very proud of our leadership position.

We earned our position in the Gartner Magic Quadrant that you mentioned through years of hard work, taking the right decisions and, the one thing I am most proud of, our ability to execute.

Nowadays, the importance of having visibility in the supply chain appears to be common knowledge. However, there is a lot of competition in this space, and now the visibility platforms not only need to offer a degree of visibility itself, but a better product and service than the competition. What have you been working on at project44 to ensure that your offer is a cut above other companies working in this area?

To answer your question directly, understanding the shippers’ supply chain and logistics challenges, being able to fulfill their needs, having the best implementations and project executions, combined with a value driven engagement with the carrier community, is what sets us apart and makes us the clear industry leader.

When it comes to specifics, the prescriptive analytics offered by project44 allow users to proactively identify different strategies to mitigate supply chain risks or eliminate inefficiencies. And with a deeper understanding of global multimodal shipments and operations, companies can explore that data to discover patterns that will then allow them to act.

Also, at project44 our differentiation and value exists equally both in the software platform we deliver as well as the experience we provide.

For example, our platform, applications and APIs are all available globally, from end-to-end and across all modes, at the order-level, and with the highest quality, made possible by the most sophisticated technology, and built by the most experienced team on the planet.

In addition, project44 has the world’s largest network and automatically onboards carriers, allowing for more data at scale, an implementation that works quickly and has a low burden on data providers. That, in turn, keeps the network strong.

Finally, the acquisitions of Ocean Insights and ClearMetal multiplied the breadth, depth, and quality of project44’s platform, adding the deepest set of international/ocean capability, unparalleled market intelligence, best-in-class order-level visibility & use cases, industry-leading UI/UX, customer experience & patented AI/ML.

As for supply chain visibility becoming recognised, there are naturally good reasons for it.

When a single mother on a budget wants to buy a brand name baby food because this is the one luxury she can afford and the shelf is empty then we do not face a logistics problem,we face a sales challenge – an attack on the baby food brand value and a potential loss of consumer confidence.

When the supermarket chain expects a truck full of products on Thursday, so it can do a last-minute replenishment before the long holiday weekend, then a delay of even a few hours will create a lack of confidence, not just in the trucking or logistics company, but in the FMCG supplier that now leaves them with empty shelves.

In many companies, a shipment, regardless of transportation mode, ocean, air, road, rail – from containers to pallets and parcels, is something we do not really think about. At least until a factory runs out of product packaging and production stops for two shifts. Or a key account is missing three shipments in the same month.

Shipments typically go into a black hole until something is missing or someone complains.

If the loving grandmother goes online to Amazon to buy the hard-to-find snacks that are the favorite of the wolfpack of grandchildren arriving on Saturday and they are sold out, then we have a problem.

The grandmother is not the only one facing the wolfpack; there are other snack giants ready to move in, other producers and supermarket chains even have their own snack brands, brands that sometimes look like they just copied the original brand.

This analogy is just one example that highlights why supply chain visibility is so valuable to so many companies.

One of the goals of project44 and its competitors is to attract a significant number of carriers to come on board and join the network. Why is this so important to the company?

For shippers, having a single source of truth based on high fidelity data from a large number of disparate sources is a game changer.

If you take a large global shipper, and this shipper had all their global and local transport providers, every freight forwarder and container vessel, each trucking company and each subcontractor, directly send them detailed shipment information with ETA and milestone data, constantly and in real time, in all their individual and unique formats, then the information would be completely impossible to receive, digest and use.

But today, they don’t have this information, do they?

Visa and Mastercard provide the global digital infrastructure that enables banks to issue credit cards, companies to acquire merchant transactions and you personally to walk into a restaurant anywhere in the world, knowing that, at the end of the dinner, your card will be accepted and the transaction approved.

Imagine all the banks in the world communicating to each other without Visa or Mastercard’s infrastructure?

Behind Visa and Mastercard are many global API-driven networks that very much resemble what we in project44 have created and continue to extend.

It would be impossible to imagine a real time visibility world, functioning without project44’s Visa/Mastercard approach.

When a consumer – it could be a truck driver on his day off – buys anything on an e-commerce platform, they expect immediate visibility to the shipment status and they get it with the purchase confirmation.

When a shipper procures billions of Euros of materials from suppliers for their factories, should the shipper not receive the same visibility?

When the shipper’s global B2B customers spend billions of Euros with the shipper every year, should they not receive the same visibility as a truck driver gets when he or she personally spends €20 on Amazon?

For the shipper, having valuable employees diverted from their regular job to chase down a hopeless, outdated and inaccurate ETA promise from a transport supplier, and forward this to a now angry customer, is something they cannot afford.

To me it’s a simple & clear proposition. Each and every single truck is as important a part of creating this global shipper visibility as Visa and Mastercard’s payments are to a small restaurant or newspaper store.

When I can safely travel and expect the local taxi, restaurant and kiosk to accept my payment card – then the need to onboard trucking companies seems very understandable. 

In the same way a small local restaurant is valuable for Visa and Mastercard, small trucking companies are valuable for project44. In essence, carriers are the lifeblood of real time visibility. 

That’s why we make it free for them to join the project44 network, with no hidden costs. To make it easy, we have a simple self-service onboarding process and an expert carrier team speaking 19 languages. We also continue to strive to deliver added value to our carrier community, for example, by providing them with no-cost access to the same visibility data we provide to their customers.

We do hear from carriers that they are – understandably – concerned about data privacy and there can be misconceptions around the data we share with our customers. To set the record straight, it is our carriers who control what data they share and with whom. We also don’t receive any data that doesn’t relate to an active shipment – our customers don’t need it so why would we?! And, it goes without saying that we abide strictly by data protection regulations such as GDPR.

Is a telematics system still enough in 2021?

Let us roll the clock back to the late 1970s and early 1980s; back then an international truck delivery was conducted blind.

The driver would from time to time go to a petrol station and send a fax back to the office saying “I’m here.” A few hours later, he/she would get a fax back telling them where to go next.

Since then, we have seen the proliferation of pagers, followed by mobile phones and, today, most trucks are online via their telematic systems or a smartphone with an app.

However, just because the truck has a telematics system, it does not mean the LSP or the shipper will have any information. Even a simple ETA can be hard to get and even harder to trust when the standard response is often it will be there in 15 minutes.”

I believe visibility is a booming industry and that every shipper and every LSP in the next few years will be onboarding full visibility. We in project44 will do our best to continue our leadership position and capture this growth.

As the world hopefully begins to recover from the harm caused by the pandemic, a lot of focus in the industry appears to have shifted towards sustainability. How can supply chain visibility help companies make strides in this area?

That’s a good question. To me, it all starts with the environment. 

We have many opportunities to become much more sustainable when we talk about trucking. That includes reducing empty kilometers driven and significantly reducing unnecessary waiting times before loading and unloading.

These are areas where digitalization can help trucking companies become more sustainable, while having the drivers spending more time driving than waiting.

That in turn will have a positive impact on the bottom line of the trucking companies and also on driver satisfaction – a crucial factor in the context of the current driver shortage.

Trucking companies are primed to have these sustainable solutions available to support their businesses growth.

Also, imagine the possibility to extend visibility data by integrating it with slot booking solutions or warehouse management systems.

Imagine how efficient it would be if the unloading place can see your trucks one hour out and dynamically schedule the unloading time according to the actual arrival time.

Imagine how much time, money and lost opportunity both the shipper and the trucking company might be spending today due to unnecessary waiting and old, outdated and misaligned legacy transit times and missed arrival slots. 

Finally, what are project44’s future plans as far as the European market is concerned?

Well, it’s clear that we have a strong strategic focus on Europe as a growth market.

This is not only true when it comes to shippers, SPs and carrier growth, but also hiring employees and opening up more offices.

Today, we have offices in Denmark, the Netherlands and France, as well as Poland and several other places in Europe. So Europe is a very strategic area for project44.

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