© Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Creating supply chain visibility in air freight is “quite difficult”, Jett McCandless, CEO of Project44 has admitted.

Following calls from air freight shippers to increase visibility, Mr McCandless told The Loadstar that, despite higher API connectivity in air, end-to-end visibility was still complex.

“The real problem is that the pain point isn’t in the air, it’s elsewhere. The difficulty is in the trucks that take the shipments to and from the airport – connecting those is the difficult part. It is often small truck carriers, with very low technology and tens of thousands of routes. How do you fix that? It’s quite difficult.

“That’s where freight forwarders add value.”

He argued that forwarders should create external APIs and share the data with Project44.

“That becomes valuable. The more LSPs work with us, the more market share they get. Those who invest in digital become the winners.”

He added that carriers of all modes would likely “come to the table for more and more collaboration” as the market softened.

“Not sharing data is not a winning strategy,” he said.

In common with many other founders of tech disrupters in logistics, such as Flexport’s Ryan Petersen and Freightos’s Zvi Schreiber, Mr McCandless was moved to start his company after seeing “a lack of connective tissue” linking the supply chain, while working at a trucking company.

“So I set out to build one,” he said. While Project44 has “done a good job on visibility”, there is a lot still to do, he explained.

“Visibility now is ‘read-only’. I can tell you when something is going to be late, but to take action would be better. You need to figure out what to do next, which requires engineers.”

So far, the visibility companies have had to wait for the industry to modernise and support APIs. But the next move will be to give users alternatives if their shipment is held up.

“In some geographies, we have the ability now to make a suggestion as to what to do. You can see the value. But once you can do that globally, it’s a massive unlock.”

Of Project44’s 1,300 customers, some 700 are BCOs, with the remainder LSPs, which account for 40% of revenue, so the aim is to work with LSPs, not cut them out, he said.

“We don’t want to hurt them, we want to give them more business. When there is a delay, we can recommend shippers use a certain LSP that has an alternative.” Mr McCandless added that about 1,000 LSPs “have a way for us to connect with them”, not just customers.

The new vision will start to be realised in about a year, he said, but full digitisation will take three to six years.

Along with airfreight shippers, smaller shippers too have called for affordable visibility – but noted that companies such as Project44 and FourKites tend to focus on blue-chips.

“The math doesn’t really work for us on selling to smaller companies,” admitted Mr McCandless. “But I believe in people, and I think SMEs are the engine of the world. We do offer a free intelligence tool, and we also offer some access to smaller companies with the swipe of a credit card.”

Project44 is undergoing a slight change of direction and has had to let go of some 63 staff, mostly in recruitment and marketing. Normally it employs about 100 new staff a month, but has committed to just 223 over the rest of the year, who will primarily be placed in product and engineering, with some in sales.

“The capital markets have changed, we’ve listened and made adjustments to our structure for the next chapter in our business cycle.”

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  • Stan Wraight

    August 08, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    Sorry but this is not a solution, airports installing community systems and GHA and forwarders working with airports to solve the total issues of transparency iOS the only way forward.

    We need all, customs, authorities, regulators and stakeholders to engage and that wont happen if the work to achieve transparency throughout keeps splintering off to companies trying to create partial solutions.

  • Louis-Paul Tardif

    August 09, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Good identification of problems but wrong solutions.