Episode 18:
The importance of data and visibility with Michel Stekelenburg

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What are the benefits shippers experience through data and visibility?

We explore this topic in the latest episode of Freight to the Point as Michel Stekelenburg, Senior Director Strategic Accounts at project44 joins Helena Wood to talk about the advantages of visibility in the supply chain.

They explore:

  • The importance of data in the supply chain
  • The starting steps shippers should take to achieve good visibility
  • How the events of COVID has accelerated the adoption of visibility from shippers

Michel Stekelenburg
Michel is the Senior Director Strategic Accounts EMEA at project44, a supply chain technology company that offers an end-to-end visibility platform. With over 20 years of experience. Michel holds a background in both the transportation, logistics and supply chain software industry. Michel is also a Board Member at the CSCMP Benelux, where he works with other supply chain professionals to educate the transport, logistics and supply chain industry.


Helena WoodHello, and welcome to Episode 18 of Freight to the Point, a podcast by Zencargo. I am Helen Wood and today I’m thrilled to be joined by Michel Stekelenburg, the Senior Director of Strategic Accounts at project44 and if you’ve not heard of them project44 is the world’s leading advanced visibility platform for shippers and logistics providers. So it’s great to have Michel here today. Welcome Michel, thank you for joining us.

Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodExcellent. So let’s get Freight to the Point. Tell us a bit about how you got into the supply chain space.

Well, quite an interesting story. So I’m actually located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands still housing one of the biggest ports in the world. So I kind of grew up with logistics, you could say it’s in my veins. It’s part of my nature. I also have quite a bunch of family members who ended up in logistics. So you can imagine what the talk was during birthday parties when they talked about their work. So I just rolled into it as kind of a natural thing. I love logistics. I love the dynamics and I see it all around me on a daily basis being a local citizen born and raised in Rotterdam the Netherlands. Yeah.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodExcellent. I can imagine. So I’m thinking about you maybe as a child playing with perhaps a little vessel or a little boat with containers while everyone around you talks about supply chain and logistics.

I did, yes. Yes. Yes, you’re right.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodWhat a sweet image. Tell us a little bit more for anyone that’s listening to the podcast that doesn’t know what project44 do or what your role at project44 is. Give us a bit of an intro.

Sure. Yeah. Well, you already kind of touched based on it. So what we aim to do is to support the industry both from a carrier side, but also from a shipper’s side to create more agile, more digital future proof supply chains. We all know about the ongoing day to day disruptions. Unfortunately, we cannot resolve the disruptions but we can mitigate the pain companies are experiencing caused by these disruptions by providing the right data. So what we do is we provide real time end to end transportation visibility data and we do that across all modes of transports, road, ocean, rail, air, barge and we do that globally. Right?
So what we achieve here is that all of our clients and partners they know at each and every moment of the day what is the status of my shipment. Where is my container? My truck? Where is my order? Do I need to worry about specific shipments which potentially are late? So what is the ETA? The predictive ETA?Is the ETA received from the carrier correct? Or is there a predictive ETA which diverts from that? If so what actions do I need to take? So how can we support companies in becoming more proactive but also allowing these companies to better serve their end clients basically.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodWhich is fascinating and you’re preaching to the choir when it comes to the Zencargo audience, obviously we are very passionate about data. Also, we’re very passionate about giving our customers visibility of all the movements in the supply chain and of course that’s why we’re working together and that’s the sort of end goal that we’re working towards. I’d love to hear from you Michel in your own sort of words and with your own stories. What are some of the tangible benefits of using this kind of visibility data to shippers?

Michel Stekelenburg: (03:21)
I think it’s very broad. So a couple of aspects. So first of all, every single client nowadays is looking for ways to differentiate themselves. How can we increase customer service levels? The customer experience, right? Customer comes first and if you go back couple of years I think Amazon is a good example. For example, who was quite a trend setter who kind of kicked off this visibility piece and very much driven by the customer B2C. Right? What you saw, they were very successful that it basically transferred over to the broader industry. So now it’s kind of a new standard for both B2C, B2B and the market is basically demanding. They’re expecting that you as a shipper or as a carrier are able to provide realtime insights on their shipments. So in terms of benefits from a client perspective, it’s really all about making sure that you adhere to the new standard of this let’s say digital age.
Where you are able to provide that real time insight and where you are able that if there’s a delay you can act and you can inform the client about that so they can take any precautions if needed. On the other hand, if you look at the industry how conservative and how inefficient they’ve been running their business for many, many years. Just an example, if they wanted to get insights on their shipments they needed to call freight forwarders or they needed to exchange emails, which was okay maybe years ago. But nowadays it’s kind of old school, it’s very inefficient because you can automate that process. Right? So also from an efficiency point of view, why do you have operational teams continuously sending emails, doing phone calls? Which is inefficient, a lot of firefighting, which doesn’t typically make them very happy as well. It’s not the funnest nicest thing to do, whereas they can get that in an automated fashion which will allow your operational teams to become way more efficient. So you can save cost, but also allowing your operational teams to really work more from a strategic point of view.
So further develop the relations with the end clients, talk about how can we better collaborate, expand collaboration, do more business instead of just firefighting. So also from that point of view, it’s very key and this is a very important value bucket or benefit for the industry. Then the last thing is data. If you have access to the right data, there’s so much more you can do. You can look into potential pain points. Why do I always experience certain delays at specific trade lanes and how can I use the data to drill down, find the cost and try to resolve that? But also how can I use the data on behalf of my organisation to create a more sustainable supply chain? Right? So it’s not only about tracking your shipments, but it’s also about how can I get insights on carbon emission for example at trade level. So there are enormous amounts of benefits to gain from visibility from an operational point of view, efficiency, cost perspective. How much fuel am I burning? What does my carbon emission footprint look like and so on.

Michel StekelenburgHelena Wood

Which is really interesting and you’ve touched on a few things that remind me of the sort key points that we talk about a lot here. So if we think about your example on operational efficiency, which is of course old world supply chain as you say is a unrelenting, non stopping trail of communications, chasing, firefighting, working out what’s burning. Something that we advocate for a lot here at Zencargo is around shifting from that micro mindset of having to track and manually handle every piece of the puzzle to management by exception. Because of course the more sophisticated your data picture, the more understanding that you have of the movements of all of the goods, all of the different stages throughout their supply chain journeys. Data doesn’t mean you never have to operationally get hands on, of course you do let’s be realistic. But if you are able to then surface where your attention is needed, you’re much more able to resolve problems and then coming onto your second point data of course leads to insight. So a metric we talk a lot about here at Zencargo is origin dwell.
So the amount of time it takes from the production of goods, factory, or manufacturer to the departure of a vessel from port or an airport or whatever it is. There are so many micro steps in that journey, from the loading of the goods that the manufacturer, to the haulage time, to the delivery, to perhaps the consolidation facility. To the time that the consolidation takes, to the pickup and then it sits at a port, etc, etc. Of course, if we are able to give the shipper all of the different data points within that journey that’s where you start to see a picture forming, oh isn’t that interesting? I’ve got one particular manufacturer who always holds me back and misses the time. But without the bigger picture of the dat, you’d never be able to find those stories or those trends. So it’s definitely interesting. But I wonder if we can go back to that first step of visibility because I think visibility, it’s a buzzword that we all use in the supply chain space. We all use it a lot.
Something that we see when we talk to customers and when we talk to shippers is there are definitely those who are the haves and there are the have nots. So some businesses have worked out how to gain visibility, they’ve grappled with their data. They’ve built everything up that they need and I think there are other businesses who recognise that they need visibility, but they kind of don’t know where to start. So if you were to talk to that second group of shippers who want and crave visibility of all the different steps in their supply chain but aren’t there yet. How do you think they should get started?
Yeah. Very good question and I recognise that it has to do with maturity levels but also industry verticals. Some industry verticals are just more mature. They have been focusing on digitisation for longer than other industry verticals. I think getting started with visibility could be pretty easy, you don’t need to go for the full bang. Right? First of all, it’s important that you understand what are my challenges? What are my objectives? What am I trying to resolve here? Then it is a matter of focusing on your biggest pain point. For example, ocean nowadays is quite messy you could say, so there are huge challenges in the ocean industry. So a lot of our clients they prefer let’s kick off with the ocean piece, for example. Why? Well, first of all as I mentioned huge challenges in the global maritime world still ongoing as of today. But also from a more technology point of view it’s pretty easy to activate it.
The only thing for example for activating and having real time ocean visibility in place is you need basically two data fields. It’s a master BL number or an order reference number and the name of the carrier, the SCAC code and that is it. So if a client can send us these two data elements we can start tracking their shipments and it doesn’t need to be a fully integrated solution yet. Where we build APIs, where we ask the organisation for IT resources. It can be as easy as a standalone solution where these two data elements are being exchanged via a simple CSV exchange file. Right? So that could be a first. Then you have the visibility in a standalone tool. You get the alerts, you have everything in place to optimise your ocean flows. Then the next step could be, okay I want to have end to end visibility across different modes. Let’s add the road piece and that could also be first in a standalone setup where you start exchanging that type of data manually or semi-automated via FTP for example.
Then you have the basis, right? The next step would be, and again it’s all a growth phase, it’s a maturity growth path. The next step would be that you look into ways okay. Now, how can I further integrate it into my internal organisation? How can I make it more part of my internal business processes? Then the next step could be that you look into things like, okay now I want to have the data also in my let’s say existing operational system. Could be TMS, could be an ERP, could be a WMS, it could even be a Control Tower or SOP solution. Where you set up API connections to make sure that the data flows of these data elements which are required for ocean and other elements for roads and rail and air, etc. Where you start automating the data flow and with the automation comes an additional benefit. Which is that at that point you can also make sure that all the shipment’s milestones, but more importantly and you just touched base on it. The exception alerts, because it’s all driven by exception right? Exception management is the key word here.
It flows back into your existing operational system and as soon as there’s an alert, excessive idle time, dwell time, there’s a delay in the predictive ETA. You go to the P44 or a Zencargo platform to really get that granular overview, okay what’s going on and how can I resolve this pain? Then if you have that another next step of maturity could be, okay now I have visibility at let’s say high level. I know what is the state of my stock in transit, where is my container, where is my truck. But maybe you want to go even further down granular and you want to have visibility at order level or inventory SKU level. That would be the next step and that’s something we see in practice. Most of our clients, they start very low profile because they typically don’t have anything it’s all manual.
So they’re already happy if they can cut out that manual piece and automate that first step. But in the end you see that most of the companies they want to have that granular way of visibility that they know, where is my order, where is my inventory, really go down to the smallest details of visibility.
Michel StekelenburgHelena Wood
That makes sense and I like the way that you think of the sort phases of that journey. Bit of a you have to walk before you can run scenario, isn’t it? About getting the foundations and then moving. Do you think to any extent the chaos that COVID and the COVID crisis brought to supply chain, do you think that changed the way that the industry thought about visibility or accelerated things?
100%, yes. 100%. I’m in the industry for plus 20 years, but I haven’t been in visibility of course all of those years. However I think 10, 12 years ago I already had some projects where we touched based on visibility, because then people started talking about data collaboration. We need to collaborate, we need to start sharing data and I was that guy who said, okay well let’s start a pilot project. Typically the response was, it became quiet because they saw a lot of risks versus what is the actual value and over time that whole perception has changed. Over the last 10 years I would say and it has been driven by well disruptions, but also technology. Technology might have not been ready 10 years as now it’s IOT driven, telematics, technology is there to make it work. When I joined P44 about two and a half years ago now we already saw huge differences compared to 10 years ago. But still we needed to sometimes explain why visibility is not a nice to have, it is a need to have. It is what the market is demanding.
It’s the new standard. We needed to explain what are the benefits of visibility, why is it important for your organisation? How can it help you for example lowering safety stock levels? Why are you keeping so much stock? Well, I don’t have the visibility. What are you paying for the detention and demurrage? Are there ways to cut that down? To lower that, right? Then indeed COVID kicked in and that has been a huge accelerator really. It came with so many challenges for all companies globally, right? No matter if we’re talking about outbound, inbound, large shippers, large manufacturers, we all shared the same challenges in the global transportation industry. So for us it has been a huge accelerator, all companies who were thinking of implementing visibility, “Well maybe next year we’ll put it on our roadmap.” They immediately realised we can’t wait any longer and it has been top of mind for all companies since ever. COVID is well partially or mostly luckily behind us, however disruptions are still there right? We are still dealing with the backlog and there are new disruptions popping up, scarcity of containers, you name it, scarcity of drivers.
So visibility is key and coming back to your core question, certainly the crisis in the Suez Canal for example where the Ever Given got stuck, accelerated. COVID accelerated, Long Beach strikes. These are all huge accelerators for our business luckily, and I love visibility. I love the value it offers to the industry and I can recommend any company don’t wait any longer. Right? It’s just key.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodOf course mean we have seen, and I think it’s happening less now than it was maybe a year ag. But the COVID crisis and the inflated rates really meant getting supply chain right or not was make or break for some businesses and there were businesses that are not here today. Because they were not in the place to make the right decisions and they didn’t invest correctly and maybe they were holding too much stock. All of these issues really they were very real and tangible and the measurable impact obviously was huge. But anyway, here we are today as you say visibility is not going anywhere. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a need to have. The market is starting to unwind from COVID, we’re seeing the early signs of softening. I can’t bear to use phrases like we’re going back to any sense of normal, because I think just the concept of normal is gone now. Because there’ve been so many, many events and so many things happening in the industry. But if you were to give advice to a shipper today, particularly a shipper who’s maybe in a sort of mid-sized business.So the amount of time it takes from the production of goods, factory, or manufacturer to the departure of a vessel from port or an airport or whatever it is. There are so many micro steps in that journey, from the loading of the goods that the manufacturer, to the haulage time, to the delivery, to perhaps the consolidation facility. To the time that the consolidation takes, to the pickup and then it sits at a port, etc, etc. Of course, if we are able to give the shipper all of the different data points within that journey that’s where you start to see a picture forming, oh isn’t that interesting? I’ve got one particular manufacturer who always holds me back and misses the time. But without the bigger picture of the dat, you’d never be able to find those stories or those trends. So it’s definitely interesting. But I wonder if we can go back to that first step of visibility because I think visibility, it’s a buzzword that we all use in the supply chain space. We all use it a lot.So they might not be working directly with the carriers, they might traditionally have worked with a forwarder. How do you think they ought to approach the visibility struggle? Should they be looking to achieve visibility on their own? Should they rely on a forwarder? And if so what should their expectations be of the forwarders that they work with?

Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s a tough one. It’s a tough one. If we look at those midsize company it all has to do with their maturity level and also what data do they store? Do they have a mature IT landscape? Again, I think it’s a very tough question to answer. I think for the smaller parties who are less mature I would recommend work with a digital freight forwarder because they can easily provide you that service. It’s already there, you don’t need IT resources, you can just plug and play I would almost say right? And you have to have capability of benefiting from visibility. It could be also a maturity point of view, right? A maturity journey where they start like that and in due time they might want to decide to take visibility to the next level where they want to pull in the data themselves. But yeah, it really depends on where the company is sitting from a supply chain maturity level I would say.
But what I could say is that also companies in that mid-market should not wait because as you already said, there are companies they are not here anymore. Because they didn’t make the right strategic decisions on how important visibility actually is and there are so many ways to easily do that, right? Standalone solution, work with a digital freight forwarder like Zencargo. It could even be a combination because we are an niche player in visibility we do a lot of things. Additionally, next to providing visibility which could be more granular. But the question is, does a small midsize company need that? I think companies like Zencargo can do a great job serving these type of companies.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodYeah. I think that’s what I would say to the companies as well, because if I think about the customers that we work with. Some come and on day one they’ve already actually got quite a good grip of what’s going on in their supply chain. They’ve got the visibility and they want someone else to handle then the booking, the pricing, the procurement and then also giving them a platform to bring everything together to connect the network, to manage the communications and we’re obviously super happy to do that. But we also have customers who come to us and they almost want to outhouse as much as possible of their supply chain and we can take it on. Of course, the benefit of working with the business like Zencargo and there are other digital freight forwarders out there. But we’ll give you the platform, we will start to bring you on that visibility journey while we are doing the hard work to get your data in place and to work with your manufacturers and to work with the carriers.

Actually one of the things that I think is great to see over time is through partnership there’s an education. Because actually what tends to happen when we work with the customer is in month one and month two, yes they want to see the visibility but it’s not their number one priority. They want to get their goods moving, they want to be confident in service levels. But we love working with customers over time to start to build up a picture from their data of the health of their supply chain and based on that health to then be able to make the recommendations around where there’s room to make changes. Where there might be opportunities to optimise things and of course the natural benefit of working with a forwarder is on the whole we’ve seen these problems before and we know where to look for the challenges and when they come up we tend to know how to advise how to resolve them. So of course, for anyone that is struggling and thinking God how do I get on this journey?
How do I get my data together? What do I even do with data once I have it? Naturally we at Zencargo would recommend working with a digital freight forwarder who can partner with you on that journey.
One comment on that and which is also a huge benefit I think for smaller companies, mid-sized companies is that working with digital freight forwarder also comes with the benefit that Zencargo in this example. They can measure, monitor performance of the carriers they operate with and I’m 100% sure they utilise that data to sit down with their partners and to see, okay how can we improve performance? Which is beneficial to a lot of midsized companies who might not have the resources, the time, the focus to do that. Right? So there’s a lot of work being taken out of their hands to create this beautiful, most efficient supply chain. Where a digital freight water does all as you already mentioned the hard work, right? Not just providing that visibility but also making sure that they get the best possible quality of service.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodWhich is a great point because of course it’s not… It’s when we speak to an individual shopper. It’s not just your movements and your goods that we’re looking at the data of. We are looking at macro trends whether they relate to the carriers, to particular ports, whether it’s maybe even related to particular manufacturers. That’s where actually I think the power of data, which actually for us it’s in cargo, for possibly you guys at P44. All of us are still relatively early on that journey of big data benchmarking, querying, bringing together the whole network. Because the more rich that this overall picture becomes the more informed we are and the more power we have to influence outcomes, the more ability we have to share, troubleshoot, etc. It’s this incredible opportunity that I have to say I’m not a data person at heart. So when I have to wrap my head around it takes a bit of time and it’s almost like thinking about space. Because it’s so big and it’s so vast, but the potential is just huge.

Yeah, I must agree. I must agree. I always say data is the new gold, make sure you have the data and make sure data starts working for you. Because there are two sides of data, right? One side is real-time data which is all about shipment in transit. Which is all about how to mitigate risk, how to act fast, look for ways to reroute if possible if your shipment ends up being late. But the other side of data is historical data. So if I can go back half a year, a quarter, a year and see how have I been performing from a supply chain performance point of view. Based on the data I collected on my shipments you can address trends. You can see what are the pitfalls, where are my pain points? Where do I need to focus on to improve my overall supply chain performance and that’s historical data, right? It’s all about today, real time. But also utilise the data you collected to make sure that you are better prepared for future and to improve your supply chain performance.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodWhich is the goal we’re all working towards isn’t it?

Oh, yeah.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodNow let’s change tact a little bit because I love talking about data. I love talking about the potential for supply chains. I love talking about visibility, but I want to know a bit more about you Michel and I want to ask you a question that we ask all of our guests on this podcast which is about a ship happens moment in your career. We talk a lot about when ship happens at Zencargo because it certainly does in the supply chain space. So what’s a story that you like to entertain your friends and family with?

Well, it’s a fun question and I’m not sure how fun it was back at the time for our clients, but I already touch point on the Suez crisis. As soon as the Suez crisis happened literally the phones were ringing continuously at P44 because everyone was panicking, right? It was also kind of as we mentioned earlier this accelerator. They didn’t have a clue what is the impact of a crisis like that for our business and they were kind of panicking calling us, how can you support us here? Ship happens. We have a big problem, which containers are on that Ever Given vessel? Which clients do I need to call? Then we started working for our clients and literally within approximately one hour we were able to provide feedback to all of our clients who actually had containers on the Ever Given. Or who had a shipment, which was pending to also go through the Suez Canal afterwards which was of course also impacted within about an hour.
So within an hour all of our clients they received a report exactly telling them these orders, these SKUs, these shipments are actually impacted because of the Suez crisis. Now the fun part is that it took away so much stress on these organisations and we were able to mitigate risk so intensively, it was just huge the impact and they didn’t realise companies like Zencargo, like P44 can do that. We literally received a lot of presents afterwards, flowers, boxes of chocolates. Because they literally told us with great letters on it you’ve helped us so much, our whole organisation was panicking. Within an hour the panic was not gone because there was a lot of work to do, but at least we could put our fingers on it, who to call, what actions to take and they were so grateful that we were able to support them and it’s just a great story. It makes me really happy because it really proves the value digital data can deliver to the clients and it starts with a lot of panic and then it ends with a box of chocolates. How great is that?

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodI mean, anything that ends the box of chocolates is great but it’s such a good example because it’s recent. We all felt the pain when the Suez crisis happened and if that had happened two years earlier, five years earlier, 10 we just wouldn’t have been able to respond in the same way and we had very similar conversations with Zencargo. There were particular customers, we were able to talk to them, they knew exactly what might happen and they knew straight away how to mitigate. That would’ve been days, weeks and you might have just not known in the old world.

I hope you also got some chocolates.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodShout out. If anyone at Zen cargo did get chocolates and they didn’t make their way to marketing for us I’m not sure whether they came or not, but I have no doubt the team certainly deserved some. Let’s talk a bit about the future Michel. So we’ve spoken about visibility, we’ve hinted at some of the great things are to come. But if you could get your crystal ball out and you could talk about what change you think is going to come to the industry or should come to the industry. I’d love to hear how you imagine that sort of ideal future.

Sure, I think there are a couple of things. We are all in a very young industry, right? Visibility is pretty young as an industry, also P44 is still a scale up company and there are a number of players in this industry and most of these players all started with a particular vision. Some of them were very much driven by ocean visibility, others roads and what you saw in the industry and it’s still an ongoing thing is that these companies are evolving. They’re becoming more mature. So let’s say an ocean visibility specialist tried to also add the road piece, etc, etc. I think what the next step in visibility is, is that companies they prefer not to work with a vendor for ocean visibility and maybe a different vendor for a road and that could also be regional. So you have an ocean visibility vendor and you have a road vendor, a visibility vendor in Europe but another one in APAC or wherever in the world. In the end, everyone wants to have a single version of the truth, a single source of the truth.
They want to have this one stop solution, which can provide them this real time end to end supply chain experience and that is really the next step. We are very far already in that journey where you just provide a single stop solution. Which provides you visibility across all modes of transport in real time and globally, right? Where you just have a single screen, you have a multi lag shipment just an example. It starts with road in North America and it crosses the ocean and it ends up on rail for final delivery for example and everyone wants to have that single screen where you see the different lags with the different ETA’s and that is really the next step in visibility. Then there are also some challenges in the industry which are very common, P44 is trying to tackle that. For example, if you tell freight forwarder I want you to pick up my shipment at point A and deliver at point B and they don’t have any data on how is it actually being transported. Which modes of transport? Which lags are being used?
Then it will be very hard for a visibility provider to track those different lags and to provide accurate reliable ETA’s. We are working hard with machine learning and AI technology to let’s say auto detect lags, shipments, asset IDs. Customers sometimes tell us we not always have that data, it depends how we book the actual shipment. Is it outsourced? And is that LSP is that digital freight forwarder, is it mature enough to provide it with the data and can they provide it on time? If not they don’t have the visibility. So can a visibility provider tackle that issue? It is a very complex issue. But this is a beautiful thing being in this digital revolution where we are all in technology like machine learning and AI and IOT makes it doable to tackle that industry challenge basically. So that is also a step we are working hard on to tackle that.
So it’s end to end visibility within a single stop solution but also if our customer only has limited data. How are we still able to utilise technology, machine learning, AI, to detect these different lags and to stitch them together and still being able to provide visibility to the end client? Another future benefit from visibility is sustainability, I already touched base on it earlier. It was all about intrinsic visibility and historical set of data to improve supply chain performance. But now sustainability specifically in Europe and globally as well is of course a hot topic. We all see climate changes so we need to collaborate together to create a cleaner environment and to reduce carbon emission. Well data, again data steps in and can support that process right? So what we now do is we put a new layer on top of transportation visibility. Which is carbon emission data, Scope 3 carbon emission data. Scope 3 is the most hardest piece to measure because you don’t control it yourself and what we basically do is at the shipment level.
We make sure that our clients are having visibility on very detailed, very granular, very concrete carbon emission data. How much fuel has been used, what type of truck engine was being used for that specific transport which is also being driven by new regulations. So there’s a new mandate coming in 2023, so companies need to start reporting on sustainability. There are new ISO standards, also the market is driving that right? So customers nowadays if they go to a website and they can order a product. There are more and more consumers who will prefer to buy a product from a vendor and who is heavily focusing on sustainability. So I think it’s something we should be doing together to create this cleaner environment. But also consumers are pushing that new trend that they expect that the vendor of their products cares about the planet and is focused on sustainability. So I think end to end visibility across different lags, different modes in a single stop solution.
Sustainability are very important topics besides tackling some very much transport industry related challenges. Which no one so far has been able to tackle and where we are using machining learning and AI technologies to tackle that specific challenge.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodThey’re all good points and hopefully it’s a world that we get to soon. I mean, it’s easy to talk about the potential of a completely connected supply chain network. Talking about sustainability is something I think resonates with so many of us and until recently really understanding the potential to make more sustainable choices in the supply chain, where to focus, how to do it. It’s not been possible without the data. So it’s so exciting to think of the potential and then that kind of dual force of consumer pressure. Because as you say consumers do want to make more sustainable choices and they will vote with their feet when it comes to that. Well, with their wallets maybe more than their feet and of course there is political pressure coming down as we all have to report more accurately and we have to work on our Scope 2 and three. So hopefully that sustainable future is one that we will all work towards because it’s something we are equally committed to here.

Maybe also, we talk a lot with our clients to understand what is missing. What do you feel like is the next step? While sustainability is one of these topics, it has been addressed by one of our major clients and that’s why we heavily started working on it and we have that live as of today. But another aspect is why do you stop providing visibility at our gate? I want to have visibility on my yard, in my warehouse and that is also something we are working on hard and is also the future vision of visibility. It shouldn’t stop at the gate, it should continue at yard level. It should also continue in the warehouse and these are also future expansions of visibility platforms in general. Not ending within transit transports until the gates, but even going on the yards, into the warehouse, into the factories.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodThat’s a great point. Now Michel, I hope you’re ready. We have a quick fire question round coming up next. It’s something we go through with all of our podcast guests. You’ve not seen the questions, we want to hear your quick gut reaction answers and we’ll get straight into it. So hopefully you are sitting comfortably and you can tell us a bit about how you think about supply chain. So question number one. Would you prefer to build for supply chain resilience or supply chain agility?

I think it’s very hard to make a one-on-one decision, I think all companies should take both aspects into account. I would say both. Yeah, I wouldn’t live with myself with just one.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodQuestion number two, if you could work in any job in the supply chain just for one day what job would you do?

I would love to sit in the chair of my clients position, working in an operational department of a large shipper with very complex processes. So I can experience myself how great visibility is and how it delivers the value in practice on a day to day basis.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodOkay, perfect. I’m going to hold you, so it has to be three words on this next one Michel. Three words to describe the market today.

Dynamic, still conservative but with a future vision.

Michel StekelenburgHelena WoodI like that. What’s the best lesson that you’ve learned while working in this industry.

That collaboration is key, we need to collaborate. People need to step away from looking at risks, there might be risks but they don’t weight up at all against the value. So markets have been very conservative over the years and we still see that trend going specifically in the logistics industry which is a little bit behind you could say. Forget about the risks, forget about that it’s a need to have, of course people like us tell you it’s a need to have. Sit down with partners like Zencargo, like P44 and others in the market and let us guide you through the journey and how much it will support your organisation to be future proof.

Michel Stekelenburg
Helena WoodGreat. I think your enthusiasm and your passion really comes through in the way that you speak about the industry. So I’m sure our listeners have heard that today, Michel and that’s us. So Michel, thank you so much to you for joining us and for sharing all of your expertise. It’s been really great to hear from you and thank you also to our listeners for tuning into our episode this week. If any of you have any feedback or would like to ask Michel or myself any questions, please do reach out to us on LinkedIn we would love to hear from you. Don’t forget to subscribe and to share this podcast and to let us know if you think you’ve got the voice for a future episode or if you would like to recommend any future speakers. Until next time from me, from Michel, thank you so much for joining us. Goodbye.