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West Coast Port Tests New Technology to Increase Supply Chain Efficiency

After the contract calamity that caused unreasonable pileups at West Coast ports, those same ports are testing new ways to improve supply chain efficiency and mitigate potential backlog problems going forward.

Last week the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) announced that it’s testing a mobile app by Los Angeles-based Cargomatic that matches trucking capacity with shipments. The app’s incorporation is expected to speed up the flow of containerized cargo at the country’s No. 1 port.

Cargomatic developed what it calls the “Cargomatic Free Flow” program, a Web-based solution that optimizes container moves for cargo owners, terminals and trucking companies.

“We’re an operating system,” said chief operating officer Brett Parker, who co-founded the start-up in 2013 with CEO Jonathan Kessler. “We provide the technology and do all the coordination between shippers and carriers so cargo can get where it needs to go.”

Cargomatic started as an online marketplace where trucks with unused capacity and shippers that wanted to fill it could connect, and last year the company began adapting its offering for port drayage, or transporting containerized cargo between ocean ports or rail ramps and shipping docks.

Perry Ellis and Williams-Sonoma are among brands already using the app solution, but shippers of any size can participate—being a beneficial cargo owner (BCO) with a sizable number of containers isn’t a requirement. Anyone can join the online market by registering with Cargomatic. Drivers are vetted to ensure they meet all licensing requirements and hold any required insurance and certifications.

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“We support trucks picking up a specific container, as well as the free-flow model where trucks stream through for any container in a designated stack,” Kessler said.

With no more than a smartphone, drivers can document a pick-up by entering, or snapping a photo of the container number, and once they confirm the delivery, tracking and payment functions are triggered.

Cargomatic then bills the shipper based on a rate it sets for the drayage service, and pays the carriers within eight to 15 days.

“Great minds are working on smart solutions for moving cargo faster and more efficiently across the supply chain,” said POLA executive director Gene Seroka. “We’ve always supported innovation and we’re proud to be the gateway where new strategies are emerging.”

Tapping into the new technology is just one way the ports are working to improve efficiency.

Last month, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—which combines are the tenth largest port complex in the world—announced the creation of seven supply chain working groups that will focus on peak operations and terminal optimization to strengthen the ports’ competitiveness.

Those groups include Peak Season 2015, Container Terminal Optimization, Chassis, Off-dock Solutions, Key Performance Indicators/Data Solutions, Intermodal Rail and Drayage. The working groups will comprise shipping lines, cargo owners, labor, railroads, trucking interests and equipment owners, among others.

The Peak Season working group is meeting early this month to “drill down on this year’s peak demand needs” and “build upon the economic benefits the port complex provides to the region,” a statement noted.