The Biden-Harris Administration on Tuesday announced the launch of Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW), an information sharing initiative to pilot key freight information exchange between parts of the goods movement supply chain.
FLOW includes 18 initial participants that represent diverse perspectives across the supply chain, including retailers, trucking, warehousing and logistics companies, and ports. These key stakeholders will work together 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.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) will lead the effort, playing the role of a broker and convener to bring supply chain stakeholders together to problem solve and overcome coordination challenges, the White House said. This initial phase aims to produce a proof-of-concept freight information exchange by the end of the summer.
The White House noted that recent supply chain disruptions have raised national awareness of the need for improved information exchange. Supply chain stakeholders deserve reliable, predictable and accurate information about goods movement, the administration said, and “FLOW will test the idea that cooperation on foundational freight digital infrastructure is in the interest of both public and private parties.”
“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,” the White House said. “Resiliency–the ability to recover from an unexpected shock–requires visibility, agility and redundancy. The lack of digital infrastructure and transparency makes our supply chains brittle and unable to adapt when faced with a shock.”
The administration noted that the goods movement chain is almost entirely privately operated and spans shipping lines, ports, terminal operators, truckers, railroads, warehouses and cargo owners such as retailers. These different actors have made great strides in digitizing their own internal operations, but they do not always exchange information with each other, it said, and this lack of information exchange can cause delays as cargo moves from one part of the supply chain to another, driving up costs and increasing goods movement fragility.
Initial partners in FLOW include the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the Georgia Ports Authority; ocean carriers CMA CGM and MSC, and terminal operators Fenix Marine Terminal and Global Container Terminals.
From the business sectors are Albertsons, Gemini Shippers, Land O’ Lakes, Target and True Value; trucking firms CH Robinson, chassis suppliers DCLI and FlexiVan, and logistics and warehousing companies FedEx, Prologis and UPS.
The White House said these first partners are committed to working with the administration to identify and operationalize a first information exchange that will support a more resilient and fluid supply chain. FLOW will be able to address issues such as ensuring early return dates are consistent across partners, measuring more accurate chassis availability and understanding aggregate dwell time throughout the supply chain.
Within one month of the FLOW launch, DOT will launch a web page to gauge industry interest in participation and data sharing for a potential long-term FLOW effort.
The FLOW initiative builds on previous Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force initiatives to ensure cargo is getting from ship to shelf. These include reduced dwell time in Los Angeles and Long Beach, alleviated congestion at the Port of Savannah by funding the Georgia Port Authority pop-up container yards project, securing commitments to move toward 24/7 operations via a Presidential call to action to encourage every link in the goods movement chain to move toward that pace to increase the volume and pace of products flowing through the system.