In a world inundated with data, the true challenge lies in the precision and accuracy of that data and how it is being used in the logistics industry.. Fluent Cargo, the industry leader in route planning for logistics has been making big strides in real-time route planning, elevating user experience through the efficient use of data..
In the latest episode in the Executive Insights series, Andrew Greig, CTO of Fluent Cargo, unpacks the intricacies of route planning, its current strategies, and its future trends.. Greig delves deep into the challenges, the solutions, and the innovative journey of Fluent Cargo in the ever-evolving landscape of cargo logistics..
SFR : How ready is Fluent Cargo’s software in its current form and would you say it has been tested many times over and is completely accurate..??
When we say “completely accurate”, it is hard to quantify because everyone has their own interpretation of what completely accurate means. As far as we’re concerned, the product works correctly and the routes do exist as far as the data we utilize is concerned.
We have of course gone through many thorough rounds of testing and changes, updates, and improvements to the routing algorithm and all the related data are being done periodically.
In terms of accuracy, there were no inaccuracies. If anything, there may be routes that might not come up for whatever reason and we are working really, really hard to try and get that sorted out as soon as possible. But I feel like it’s something that would never be finished, never be completely done.
SFR : Are you sourcing these data directly from the carriers, both for air and sea via API or other sources..??
We are currently using aggregators for ocean shipping, but we are on a drive to get direct integration with ocean carriers, so we get even more up-to-date schedules as they seem to change them quite regularly.
For air as well, most schedules come directly from aggregators because it is very, very, very hard to get schedules directly from airlines themselves and a lot of them just don’t publish them. They actually get their own schedules through these aggregators.
We are looking to try and start some direct integrations with some of the bigger ocean carriers such as Maersk, MSC, and Hapag who are providing a sort of standardized and pretty straightforward API system.
At the moment we’re a bit conscious about trying to integrate with all these different ocean carriers all upfront, considering that almost all of them have a different way of doing that, so it would overwhelm us very quickly. So, working with an aggregator works well for the moment, but of course, going directly to the carriers, does offer us a lot of value which is under consideration.
SFR : How do you factor in real-time traffic data, and how do you see this important feature evolving in the future..??
We currently collect and process historical vessel location data to help provide predicted departure and arrival dates for specific vessels on a route to help users who are in the planning phase of their booking make more informed decisions around a specific carrier or service.
Whilst I wouldn’t consider this data to be “real-time”, we do get updated vessel location information every day or so. Which we currently believe offers enough precision for our users to be better informed about that vessel’s current location and ETA (and if it is still even running to schedule as planned).
We are also collecting regular Port congestion and delay information which helps us form a better picture of what is happening in particular Ports and to be able to inform users through our App. We intend to further expose both these types of data as they are currently a bit hard to find.
In the future we see real-time data becoming even more important as we look to introduce Air Tracking data and Airport Congestion data and look towards the possibility of providing post-booking real-time tracking (visibility) capabilities to allow users to not only make informed planning decisions but also be able to utilize our platform to get real-time updates on where their cargo is once it is on route.
SFR : At the moment, the carrier information mentioned in your system is dependent on the operator of the ship, but you display all the carrier information on your site for that particular route..?? What is this based on and are there any new developments in this area..??
The current information is based on the operator of the vessel, but we are working towards adding alongside the vessel sharing information which we show, who else has capacity on that vessel based on the name of the actual service that’s running so that we can give a proper understanding of not just what the operator calls the service, but what all of the different shared capacity carriers also call the service.
Yes, we are working on some options whereby the customers will be able to filter routes and delays, etc. by carriers which will enable them to choose specific carriers on specific routes based on the historical and current performance.
We’ve been working on the data in the background, especially delays in performance, on-time performance measurements, and metrics and we’ve got a relatively good model around measuring that for certain sorts of vessel events, for example, scheduled to come into Durban port, this time on this day was either early or later, how alike were they and how often do these sort of delays occur over a certain period.
SFR : Are there any use cases currently that you can share where companies have reduced their operational costs or increased efficiency using Fluent’s services..??
Whilst we currently don’t have any public case studies around these use cases we have had some great feedback recently from a few companies in our pilot (trial) program who have been able to massively improve the speed and accuracy of their research and planning capabilities for new shipments.
A great example was one customer planning a shipment from Washington DC to Sydney, Australia who spent close to two days of research trying to find a direct service that fit their timetable appropriately.
They said that Fluent Cargo was able to find the exact same service they ended up using (a direct Maersk service out of Philadelphia) in a couple of seconds. This type of feedback is very common and we believe that providing all the different air and ocean services (+schedules) in one easy-to-search index is by far superior to the old manual way of visiting multiple carrier websites and platforms to try and find the answer.
SFR : What are some of the trends you foresee in route planning over the foreseeable future..??
We definitely foresee a trend in shippers, BCOs, and of course, Freight Forwarders wanting to be more informed about all the possible shipping options at their disposal. Having easy access to routing options, schedules, service capacity, and delay information all come together to help businesses make smarter and more time & cost-effective decisions.
In the past, this type of information has been really quite hard to access (and in some instances, still is). But we see a growing trend where more and more carriers are digitizing and moving towards a more open model of data sharing. Both in regards to scheduling, available capacity, and real-time visibility/tracking.
We see this becoming the norm as opposed to the exception and carriers who don’t move online might be left behind as their competitors step ahead of them.
SFR : What are some of the future plans and strategies for Fluent..??
One of our main strategies currently is focusing on data quality and data integrity. We are going really, really deep now, because I think we’ve gone quite broad across all the different modes and now going really deep into ocean and air, getting them as close to as perfectly accurate as we could get.
We are also looking at incorporating European river barges, and connecting feeder services where possible so that we are building out the full transport graph or transport network and providing full coverage. Our roadmap includes incorporating rail in the near future.
We are also in the process of building out a SaaS business model and getting people to purchase subscriptions and support the business that way as opposed to being a free resource. While we always remain free for a certain tier, it will be limited in its scope and have some usage restrictions.