Digitizing Freight Forwarding with Graham Parker

Future of Supply Chain Podcast, Episode 9

To kick off 2019 on The Future of Supply Chain, we share our conversation with Graham Parker, Co-Founder and CEO of Kontainers. Graham started his first freight forwarding company at the age of 22 and within a year, reached his $1M revenue goal. It didn’t take long for him to recognize the opportunity and demand to transition shipping from paper and spreadsheets to a more developed online platform.

Due to the complexity, fragmentation, and multi-stakeholder dynamics of international shipping, freight forwarders are essential to global trade. Importers and exporters need to ship products from point A to point B, but the assets owners (steam ship lines and airlines), are not capable of handling the entire transaction that almost always involves drayage (trucking or rail), customs, and duties/tariffs workflows. Graham and his team at Kontainers are leading the charge in completely digitizing the freight forwarding process and changing the industry along the way.

The four things forwarders need to compete: thousands of customers, a global network, industry knowledge, and technology. Graham believes that the first three things have always been relevant and that they now need to be augmented with modern technology. With Kontainers, Graham wanted to provide existing shipping brands with that modern technology. In 2017 they launched Enterprise, their first commercial product that was built for and tailored to large shipping brands with custom capabilities. In September 2018, they launched Edge, a product tailored to small-medium sized shipping companies that allows them to have their own branded platform in just 4 weeks.

There is too much unnecessary human involvement. Allowing technology and innovation in the industry’s main processes will cut down some of the gratuitous human interactions. Some of the processes can be drawn out with several phone calls and emails. Kontainers offered “one-click rebooking” with their product Edge. This cuts down on the mundane tasks that operations and sales employees get caught up in, which allows them to focus on customer service and winning new business.

Transitioning to APIs will significantly improve supply chain with actionable insights and enabling improved and automated decision making. Due to the incumbent operations of the industry, there is a lot of data “stuck” in emails and spreadsheets. Accessible data isn’t necessarily actionable due to questionable quality and “cleanliness.” As companies move more towards APIs, the transfer of data through systems and stakeholders will become much more efficient and as a result, provide stakeholders with actionable insights, empower a set of improved and automated decisions. For example, the decision to use a certain drayage provider can be data-driven (simplified)— take cargo information, expected container arrival, chassis availability, service level requirements (destination/delivery), clearance, and tender loads with limited human interaction. Low-friction data flows results in low-friction freight flows.