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Flexport Decides There's A Place for People in Supply Chain Tech

"There's a strong role for people with a lot of expertise," says Flexport's CEO. We agree with a strategy that combines the best of experts and algorithms.

Recently, we wrote about Convoy’s demise, which in part was hastened by a blind focus on technology over human expertise. 

It seems like other companies are getting that same memo. In an interview last month with the Wall Street Journal, Flexport founder and (once again) CEO Ryan Peterson talked about correcting the tech-first-last-and-only mindset. 

“A tech-only layer on top of the current logistics industry just doesn’t work,” Peterson admitted. “One thing that has really differentiated Flexport from the rest of the tech companies in logistics is that we see ourselves first and foremost as a customer solutions company. We’re going to solve problems for customers, and that means we are willing to pick up the phone.”

Phones might seem quaint, but there’s still a place for them alongside the machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud-based platforms. As Peterson described it, there’s a powerful argument for automation. His company identified nearly 150 discrete tasks in an ocean shipment, for instance. Those all lend themselves to the raw power of computing. 

“When you tell [a computer] ‘Hey, extract this data from this port terminal and apply it to these shipments,’ it’s quite good at that. A lot of stuff that looks manual today, I think we’re going to surprise ourselves with what’s possible.

“I still think at the end of the day, there’s a strong role for people with a lot of expertise,” Peterson says, citing areas like compliance where relying just ont AI could be hazardous.

At Morgan, we’re superfans of technology—so much so that we created our own supply chain visibility and financial automation platform, ChronosCloud.

Peterson is right: Computers can do a massively better job of comparing data, identifying patterns and managing recurrent processes. But, we have built our business over three decades by combining those tech advantages that with a human team rich in experience and expertise.

Tech helps us manage the 80 percent of our clients’ shipments that amount to few or no issues. It also helps to identify the 20 percent that need personal intervention. As Peterson pointed out, sometimes there’s just a lot of value in picking up a phone.

Also, while algorithms give us a force multiplier crunching massive amounts of data and identifying optimization opportunities, our staff remains better at reviewing the quirks of a given supply chain and making the final recommendation.

Interested in customizing your supply chain for maximum efficiency? Let’s start a conversation!

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