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Lessons From Convoy's Demise

The innovator's technology strategy failed to disrupt truckload brokers because it lacked their human expertise.

The freight world has been shocked by the steep death spiral of Convoy. The digital load-matching service that went from disruptor to disaster in a little over a year, At its peak, Convoy was valued at nearly $4 billion; last month, it ceased core operations.

We’re not ones to throw more dirt on an innovator’s grave. For all its faults, Convoy prodded the brokerage towards the idea that technology could reduce inefficiencies and make use of wasted capacity. Those goals align with our own strategy. In more than 30 years, we have used tech tools to level playing fields, create visibility across carriers and geographies and manage our clients’ shipments more effectively.

Yet, there is a lesson in the Shakespearean Tragedy of Convoy. Some of its faults lay not in the stars of a changing economy; they were in the company, itself.

Take a look, for instance, at the recent FreightWaves story on Convoy's collapse:"Convoy’s Tech Focus May Have Obscured the Important of Human Element.” Though disputed by some in the article, there’s running theme that Convoy’s leaders thought the answer to every question was more technology. Those rubes who ran traditional freight brokerages didn’t know a thing about how to be successful in the future.

“Is there a need for technology? Hell, yes!” logistics investor and former Conway, Coyote Logistics and Project44 executive C. Thomas “Tommy” Barnes told FreightWaves. “At the same time, it is vitally important to have traditional problem-solvers on the inside to make everything work.”

Those brokers do a better job of managing tricky exceptions, understanding the opportunities and risks that come from working with individual owner operators and guaranteeing load profitability. According to FreightWaves sources, suggestions to add people to the tech equation fell on deaf ears.

We have long argued that innovation requires the best of both algorithms and human expertise. Our supply chain control tower services, for example, rely on a backbone of proprietary ChronosCloud technology to normalize visibility across suppliers and all their reporting platforms. Truth be told, the power of that system lets us run the normal flow of supply chains with very little intervention.

But we back that tech up with a global team of supply chain engineers and managers, who use the system’s analytics to identify and manage potential exceptions to an industry-best level of performance. I

Call it a marriage of artificial intelligence and human intelligence. The transportation business needs outsiders who see a better way and can bring Silicon Valley methods to steer us towards those solutions. But they’ll be lost without the insiders who know how to use those systems to solve problems or steer around them altogether.

If you are ready for the innovation and efficiency of Morgan’s people plus technology, let us know. We’re eager to hear about your own supply chain—and to custom tailor transportation and control tower solutions for you.

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