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Chain Reaction: Gemini Shippers’ Ken O’Brien on Providing Technological Help to Improve Logistics

Ken O’Brien, president & CEO, Gemini Shippers Association

Chain Reaction is Sourcing Journal’s discussion series with industry executives to get their take on today’s logistics challenges and learn about ways their company is working to keep the flow of goods moving. Here, Ken O’Brien, president & CEO at Gemini Shippers Association, discusses how the company is helping retailers reevaluate their supply chain to be resilient and flexible in the face of future disruptions, and to also focus more on decarbonization.

Name: Ken O’Brien

Title: President & CEO

Company: Gemini Shippers Association

What is Gemini Shippers Association?

Gemini Shippers Association is a shippers association based in New York City. The company has a history which spans over 100 years, serving over 275 companies that import a wide range of products. However, we maintain a strong emphasis on fashion accessories, apparel and retail.

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Additionally, Gemini goes a step further than other shippers associations because we are a technology enabled association that stays engaged throughout the term of a contract. In fact, our platform provides digitized rate management, rate audit, tracking and analytics for our members.

Does shipping for accessories (jewelry, handbags, etc.) have different concerns than apparel?

While there are some similarities, the timelines for accessories are certainly tighter. Delays between design and production are a fact of life. However, the need to be on the shelf isn’t something that can be adjusted, which puts a lot of pressure on supply chain leaders in this industry.

What is the one thing brands and retailers could be doing to make better use of technology to improve logistics?

Today, the biggest challenge in transportation technology is the overwhelming amount of data available and the number of parties that need to be connected. However, if leveraged correctly, firms can draw insight from the disparate data.

In fact, we see best-in-class firms moving toward application programming interface (API) integration and analytics platforms that help them gain a competitive advantage by leveraging their data to improve efficiency and data-driven decision-making.

What area of logistics isn’t receiving the industry attention it deserves?

The path to supply chain decarbonization is not getting enough attention. While the goal to decarbonize supply chains by 2050 sounds a long way off, any chance of meeting these lofty goals requires firms to immediately start incorporating decarbonization planning into their supply chain design, procurement and execution.

Additionally, consumers are starting to consider brands’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals as a factor in purchase decisions. So, it is not only important for the planet, but also as a lever for brand loyalty and customer retention.

What is your company doing to make the movement of goods more sustainable?

As mentioned above, many of Gemini’s members—and our management team—believe more needs to be done to accelerate the decarbonization of the logistics industry.

To maximize sustainable efforts, we recently partnered with the Greenabl Shippers Association—an association that enables importers and exporters to advance their decarbonization efforts—and we think this will make an immediate impact. By bringing best-in-class technology providers, shippers, carriers and stakeholders together on one platform, we can provide carriers with a clear demand signal on adopting green technology in the market while allowing shippers to decarbonize quicker.

When it comes to creating efficiencies, there are quick wins and longer plays. What are a few things your company is doing to help its partners succeed on both fronts?

Tactically, we create efficiency for brands by taking on the burdensome process of transportation procurement, leaving their supply chain teams the time and space to work on building relationships with carriers. By doing so, brands can discuss service improvements and opportunities versus arguing about rates.

Strategically, we embedded best-in-class procurement practices into their processes while also providing them industry insights and shared learning that helps to inform them on the trends and opportunities shaping supply chain management.

Are you optimistic about the state of supply chains in the next few years?

Over the last 30 months, we’ve all been through a lot. But, the resilience of the United States, our customers and the fashion and accessories industry creating the newest trends in fashion, accessories and apparel remain steadfast.

We don’t know the challenges that lie ahead, but I am very optimistic that our industry will overcome and lead now and into the future.