The Biden Administration is planning a digital infrastructure to connect the supply chain. Led by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the administration’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) initiative hopes to produce a proof-of-concept freight data sharing exchange by the end of summer.
FLOW was announced March 15 with 18 initial participants covering all corners of the supply chain, from private businesses to logistics companies and ports. Those stakeholders will work with the administration to develop “a proof-of-concept information exchange to ease supply chain congestion, speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately cut costs for American consumers,” according to a White House fact sheet.
Among those initial participants are UPS, Albertsons, Target, True Value,
Gemini Shippers, Land O’ Lakes, CH Robinson, DCLI, FlexiVan, FedEx and Prologis, as well as the Georgia Ports Authority and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Terminal operators Fenix Marine Terminal and Global Container Terminals are also involved, along with carriers CMA CGM and MSC.
The Biden Administration cited recent supply chain disruptions that have spotlighted the need for improved information exchange.
“Supply chain stakeholders deserve reliable, predictable, and accurate information about goods movement and FLOW will test the idea that cooperation on foundational freight digital infrastructure is in the interest of both public and private parties,” the White House said. “FLOW is designed to support businesses throughout the supply chain and improve accuracy of information from end-to-end for a more resilient supply chain.”
In addition to its pilot program, the DOT announced plans to unveil a website in the coming weeks that will gauge industry interest in participating in the data exchange.
Since supply chains are largely run by privately owned and operated shipping lines, ports, railroads, warehouses and ports, the government is limited in its ability to directly shape cargo flow. Those private entities have made strides in digitizing their information, the White House says, but they often don’t communicate that information with each other. Those gaps in information can create shipment delays and increase the cost of consumer goods.
The industry has shown an openness to sharing its data. In a statement, U.S. Port Envoy John D. Porcari said he was “pleased with industry’s willingness to partner, share data, and develop new information that will help the goods movement chain operate more efficiently.” His statement encouraged the private sector to continue working toward a standard for data sharing.
In how own statement, Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero highlighted the advantages of better communication between shippers, carriers and ports. The port’s customers, he said, “are ready for a new era of data visibility that maximizes efficiency and minimizes delay in goods movement.”
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