19 Dec 2023

EDEN PRAIRIE, MINNESOTA (December 19, 2023)—Real-time visibility into their freight is especially critical for retailers this holiday season, and global logistics company C.H. Robinson has marshalled its data-science team, its digital carrier network and its data on 3 million shipping lanes to enhance the most significant element of visibility: the predictive ETA.

The inventory glut retailers experienced after the pandemic left them cautious about over-ordering for the holidays. They’re ordering merchandise in smaller amounts – just what they need as they need it. With many retailers expecting same-store sales to be down because of inflation-weary shoppers, they’re also hiring less holiday help to keep shelves stocked.

“To maximize holiday sales with less inventory and less staff means you need to know with more precision where your inventory is,” said Noah Hoffman, head of retail logistics at C.H. Robinson. “Before, a retailer would bring in 50 truckloads of TVs in October to make sure all their stores were covered for the holidays. This year, they were more likely to pull from existing inventory to start and then replenish only if, when and where they need to. If that TV sells fast in Philadelphia but not in Chicago, they’re ordering more just for that city or transferring inventory there. Without safety stock lying around, the timing of a retailer’s inbound freight really matters.”

C.H. Robinson has now reached 98.2% accuracy in predicting that a truckload shipment will arrive within the appointment window and 92% accuracy in predicting that a less-than-truckload shipment will be on time. When a shipment is predicted to be late, the advanced visibility tools in C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere platform automatically trigger an alert to check on the customer’s shipment and intervene if needed.

To increase the accuracy of predictive ETAs, C.H. Robinson took a different approach than other companies that provide real-time visibility. C.H. Robinson

  • Determined which tracking data makes the greatest contribution to accurate ETAs
  • Stopped collecting data that is unreliable but typically required of carriers across the industry
  • Instituted rules for carriers to provide tracking data at different, more meaningful points in time

“More tracking data or more frequent tracking data doesn’t necessarily equate to better performance,” said Madhu Dutta, C.H. Robinson’s Vice President of Technology. “A late shipment could have 150 status updates in a row that seemed to indicate it’ll be on time. What we homed in on is the most critical tracking information at the most critical points: on the way to pick-up, when the driver leaves the pickup appointment and the final two hours before delivery.”

That required setting new standards for the largest carrier network in North America. Unlike most logistics companies, C.H. Robinson stopped asking carriers to report when their truck was empty after delivering their last load – information that actually lessened the accuracy of predictive ETAs – and began requiring carriers to provide automated updates starting at four hours and again at two hours before pickup.

Another unique element in C.H. Robinson’s predictive ETAs is historical data on 20 million shipments a year in 3 million shipping lanes, taking into account factors like dwell time at specific warehouses and enabling the model to assess what a driver is likely to do in certain situations. With this advanced real-time visibility and proactive mitigation, C.H. Robinson customers can save on average 10% of their annual supply chain costs.

“Scale matters when it comes to data science and artificial intelligence, and C.H. Robinson moves more truckload freight than anyone,” Hoffman said. “Other companies providing real-time visibility can notify a retailer that merchandise has arrived late. What retailers actually need is an accurate prediction of whether their merchandise will be on time or not, and people who can do something about it.”

About C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson solves logistics problems for companies across the globe and across industries, from the simple to the most complex. With $30 billion in freight under management and 20 million shipments annually, we are one of the world’s largest logistics platforms. Our global suite of services accelerates trade to seamlessly deliver the products and goods that drive the world’s economy. With the combination of our multimodal transportation management system and expertise, we use our information advantage to deliver smarter solutions for our 100,000 customers and 96,000 contract carriers. Our technology is built by and for supply chain experts to bring faster, more meaningful improvements to our customers’ businesses. As a responsible global citizen, we are also proud to contribute millions of dollars to support causes that matter to our company, our Foundation and our employees. For more information, visit us at www.chrobinson.com (Nasdaq: CHRW).

Maria Lettman
[email protected]