Crux Systems Insights

An age-old problem

July 6, 2016 by Allen Thomas |


I recently attended the Gulf Shipping Conference and my logistics engine for the week was Uber ― to and from the airport and all meetings. One of those meetings with a Houston-area freight forwarder revealed quite a different engine critical to their logistics operations…a fax machine.

Today, most forwarders, brokers and trucking companies still rely on fax machines, and many use it as their primary means of doing business.

Despite all this whiz-bang technology like Uber, much of our container supply chain runs on tools like phones, faxes, email, and spreadsheets…all of which depicts a shipping landscape that hasn’t changed much since its inception. Sure, the container has helped spawn a dynamic global marketplace of buyers and sellers, ships are bigger and a few terminals are mostly automated, but, the underlying components of the port and inland logistics network still look and act like they did decades ago.

A key intermediary of freight in this network, sitting squarely between shippers, their brokers/freight forwarders and the ocean carriers, is the marine terminal operator. What really happens at a terminal (and exactly when it happens) remains a mystery even to those needing the information most. The result is an opaque marketplace that lacks information transparency about a whole host of critical events such as when a ship will arrive, when cargo will be available for pickup and how best to schedule the trucks and people to fetch those containers.


For congestion-riddled US marine terminals, what’s needed is a technology-driven marketplace that creates two essential missing elements: transparency and efficiency. Transparency of information can dynamically balance a marketplace. Think about how easy it is for consumers (and drivers) to use Uber; these self-organizing marketplaces epitomize efficiency-driven consumption.

Now think about how (or how little) the players in a port community share information.

Crux Systems is building a platform that will create transparency and efficiency throughout an entire port community, exposing data to all those needing information on not just a local, but also a national scale. For freight forwarders and brokers, Crux Systems creates automated, real-time visibility into their freight status ―when it’s expected to be available and what’s stopping them from an efficient pickup or delivery. This solves the basic problem of searching multiple terminal and shipping liner websites for information every day.

Trucking companies can use the same data and processes to optimize their fleet movements, and streamline arrivals in lock step with the marine terminals who would love to process them automatically when they arrive.

When combined together this ubiquitous data flow gives each party real, measurable efficiency and productivity increases by tearing down the information silos that contribute directly to congestion. The result is a more healthy, dynamic ecosystem of cargo flowing – all through the same terminal footprints, using the same truck fleets and without additional hardware or software to buy and maintain.

It’s a new approach to an age-old problem I’ve been trying to help solve for nearly 20 years…nothing personal against fax machines.

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