Flexport Secures $1B in Funding from SoftBank Vision Fund.

Apr. 18, 2019

For Freight Forwarding, Data and Security Are the Pearls in the Process

Flexport

For those involved with global shipping and logistics, an industry characterized by a constant drumbeat of weighting supply and demand, and time and expense, data is -- or can be -- the holy grail that can help businesses. When companies are able to make sense of the huge volume of data that exists through the course of doing business, interesting -- and informative -- patterns begin to emerge.

Flexport’s digital freight forwarding platform was built on the belief that data that is already being collected as part of the freight forwarding process can unlock huge advantages in terms of cost and time savings, as well as strategic business decisions that can transform operations. The platform, known as the Operating System for Global Trade, removes the traditional barriers to allow every party involved in the shipping process to be able to share real-time information. That data becomes instrumental in creating huge time and cost efficiencies and swift problem resolution in an industry known for routine unpredictability.

Such reporting and analytics are not just nice-to-haves. They can also have a notable impact on the balance sheet. For instance, when American Metalcraft, a 100-year-old wholesale producer of kitchen and restaurant ware, switched out of its legacy systems for managing in-transit inventory and measuring total product cost, it discovered several advantages: it gained visibility and real-time notifications that helped it assess the financial health of its supply chain. And, as a result, it reduced stockouts by 10 percent

The Power of Data and the Need for Security

The power of data is indisputable. But, in the immortal words of Voltaire -- or Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben -- with great power comes great responsibility. Nothing could be more true in today’s world, which is why Flexport recently hired its first Chief Data Officer (CDO) in Dr. Mehmet H. Göker and first Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) in Kevin Paige -- two roles that the company firmly believes go hand in hand.

“Flexport is transforming freight forwarding with its data and technology-first mindset. Hiring top talent for the CDO and CISO roles was an extremely important priority for us. Data and security are at the heart of the Operating System for Global Trade,” explains Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen. “We were fortunate to attract a CDO and a CISO with strong experience and a global perspective. Mehmet and Kevin’s contributions will help our clients drive their businesses forward and will help Flexport become the most trusted company in global trade.”

As indicated by the American Metalcraft example, looking at historical data patterns and trends can indicate ways to optimize when or how to best plan shipping. From a retail perspective, the data might suggest that certain colors of clothes sell better at different times of the year, or similarly, that there is less demand for types of items like home improvement tools during winter months. Says Flexport CDO Mehmet H. Gӧker, “With that information, we can help businesses identify the most cost-effective and efficient method and timing to arrange to ship their freight. It all comes down to supply chain optimization by knowing how to read -- and use -- the data.”

As chief data officer, Gӧker will be responsible for strengthening and scaling Flexport’s data and analytics functions, optimizing how data is collected across the company and its ecosystem, as well as how it is leveraged for analysis and predictive models.

Gӧker previously worked at SurveyMonkey, Salesforce, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and DaimlerChrysler. His focus throughout his career has been leveraging data for enabling intelligent business decisions.

Having a clear understanding of data sets can translate to better time estimates, delivery of focused services, and predictive alerts, which can help customers improve performance and their products, points out Gӧker.

For data to hold its value, though, it needs to remain secure. And that’s where Flexport CISO Kevin Paige comes in. A veteran in the cybersecurity space, Paige was the CISO at MuleSoft and has held technical leadership roles at Salesforce, xMatters, the U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force.

Says Paige, “Managing cybersecurity is imperative when it comes to ensuring the trust and safety of our data, systems, people, goods, and facilities. As a data-centric tech company, we want to be the most trusted company in global trade and that’s why our infrastructure is built around a data defense model.” In other words, full data encryption and protection, and regulating access to data so that not everyone has the same level of authorization.

As Paige points out, data security is not just about blocking cyberattacks and outside threat actors. To illustrate, he points to the past few years, during which the world has seen high-profile attacks that have come in through third parties with lax security or internal staff being duped. It can’t just be about regular security awareness. We do continuous testing and validation with our partners to evaluate the integrity and performance of how our systems integrate. In addition, we regularly work with a third-party risk manager to test partners’ security and performance,” explains Paige. “From an internal perspective, we are focused on rigorous cybersecurity training that includes phishing curriculum and other initiatives designed to raise the bar on our cybersecurity posture.”

With shifting business dynamics, it’s no longer about shipping goods to a handful of retail locations in major hubs. Instead, to meet changing consumer demands merchants today are being forced to hold larger amounts of inventory in diverse locations. To do that requires having a good grip on your organization’s data to be able to get it right in terms of juggling the supply and demand equation. But having a good grip means making security part of that scenario. Otherwise, data is just a liability.

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