The process of locating a carrier or shipper and tracking the trail of grain shipments between points has been simplified in recent months as several leading Internet and transportation companies in North America have stepped forward with integrated e-freight web businesses designed to cut costs, ease distribution and simplify product tracking.
Through the creation of auction sites, freight exchanges and transportation management systems, companies have discovered new ways of doing business.
According to several major e-freight players, the amalgamation of transportation and Internet companies into unified e-commerce ventures will provide shippers, carriers and all participants in the supply chain with better rates, more on-time deliveries and less lost shipments.
In May, four of North America's largest railroads — Union Pacific Corp., CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp. and Canadian Pacific Ltd. — came together to invest in Arzoon, an Internet company based in San Mateo, California, U.S.
Founded in September 1999 by Farid Dibachi, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Arzoon is a transportation management trading network service that helps transportation professionals integrate everyday tasks with the unique attributes of the Internet, to simplify their job, improve efficiency and lower the costs of transportation.
Arzoon's relationship with the four railroads is particularly noteworthy to the grain industry because the bulk of grain shipments in North America is carried out via the railroads, according to Mark Nelson, director of public relations, Arzoon. He mentioned that the railroads were eager to work with Arzoon because the Internet company could design a system that works for the railroads' customers while at the same time allowing the railroads to help influence the development of the Arzoon platform.
Generating profits through the Internet is something that many e-commerce companies have found difficult in the early going. According to Mr. Nelson, Arzoon plans to make money primarily through licensing fees, although there also is a registration fee and a small commission fee on transactions.
FreightWise, an e-commerce initiative based in Fort Worth, Texas, U.S., undertaken by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., has stated its vision to be to "simplify and execute complex transactions between buyers and sellers of transportation."
According to Owen A. Zidar, vice-president, FreightWise, the goal in creating FreightWise, which is a 100% subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., was to be able to give shippers more options. FreightWise is meant to be a one-stop shopping opportunity for shippers in which customers will describe what they need to move between two points. FreightWise will find the most effective way to move a product. Whether it moves on the B.N.S.F. will not be apparent to customers.
FreightWise initially will focus on securing carriers beyond those provided through the B.N.S.F. in an effort to ensure the fulfillment of orders. Over time, the company will bring more choices and expand capacity, Mr. Zidar added.
Prior to the site's launch, which was scheduled for late August, FreightWise made several key announcements. The company named Greg Fox, formerly vice-president of eBusiness for B.N.S.F., as president and chief executive officer of Freight-Wise. Mr. Zidar will continue as vice-president.
FreightWise also announced that it has partnered with the General Electric Co. in a relationship that was expected to be finalized by late September.
According to FreightWise, the addition of General Electric will allow the company to achieve FreightWise's objective of building a faster neutral, comprehensive, Internet marketplace for transportation services.
Describing itself as an "Internet-based transportation execution community for buyers and sellers of freight services. … (that) allows manufacturers, distributors and retailers to rate, optimize, communicate, book, document and track their shipment's entire journey from dock-to-dock," nPassage is one example of a growing list of shipper-focused transportation management systems.
Founded in 1995, Seattle-based nPassage claims to be one of the few on-line companies that handles all modes of transportation. Tom Dowd, vice-president of marketing, nPassage, said the company has established itself as an e-TMS (Transportation Management System) that allows corporate shippers and their providers to create business areas.
With nPassage, customers only need a computer, and fees are limited to a per-transaction fee, with no licensing or subscription agreements.
As part of what it calls its Rating and Routing engine, nPassage provides a way to route truckload and less-than truckload shipments, with base charges, discounts, minimums, interstate and intra-state discount information for each carrier provided right on the site. nPassage is partnered with several freight companies, including Unishippers, WhereNet and Perfect.com.
In August, nPassage announced a partnership with JetForm Corp. As part of the partnership, JetForm will provide nPassage with highly customizable document production for its Internet-based transportation management service. According to nPassage, the addition of JetForm's software will allow the company to "deliver user-defined documents in multiple file formats and output options through a standard Web interface."
Also in August, the company adopted Citrix Systems, Inc. MetaFrame software to provide immediate, high-speed access to nPassage dial-up customers. nPassage said the implementation of the software will allow all customers to conduct quick, efficient shipment transactions regardless of the speed of Internet connectivity.
Founded in April 2000 with the financial backing of Cargill, BP Amoco, Clarksons and the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, LevelSeas.com, London, hopes to provide comprehensive freight management services including on-line chartering, pre-and post-fixture activities and risk management tools, for all seaborne wet and dry bulk commodity shipping.
LevelSeas recently announced the appointment of Richard Hext as c.e.o. Mr. Hext, 42, joins LevelSeas from John Swire and Sons Ltd. and China Navigation, where he was director and managing director, respectively.
Eric Schroeder is associate editor for Milling & Baking News, sister publication to World Grain.