Photo of Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore

Biden Administration Introduces FLOW to Enhance Provide Chain – Thrilling as a Go to from Aunt Flo

On Tuesday (March fifteenth, 2022), the Biden Administration put out a “truth sheet” in asserting a freight knowledge change program with the intention of enhancing the nonetheless badly congested provide chain. The data change is dubbed Freight Logistics Optimization Works or FLOW. Ah, I see what you probably did there, White Home: it’s referred to as wishful pondering.

FLOW clearly received’t be any sort of instant repair to get the provision chain flowing, however extra transparency within the provide chain is definitely a very good factor. And who higher to cleared the path than the extremely clear Biden Administration? Even when a easy lack of transparency was the largest or one of many greatest causes of the “provide chain disaster” we’ve been dealing with, which it’s not, it received’t be till the top of summer time that the White Home expects to actually have a proof-of-concept.

Photograph of Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore

After I say extra transparency within the provide chain could be a very good factor, I notably imply on the a part of ocean freight carriers. Carriers notoriously lack transparency of their operations. It’s been an issue within the worldwide delivery business since lengthy earlier than I began writing about it over a decade in the past, throughout which era I’ve made point out of carriers’ transparency challenge a number of instances in Common Cargo’s weblog.

The Precise Reason for the Provide Chain Disaster

Whereas an absence of transparency on the a part of carriers does add to their unreliability, which is one thing they’re additionally infamous for, it isn’t one of many greatest components within the main provide chain issues we’ve been experiencing for the final two years and that has gotten a lot worse during the last yr. Repeatedly, I’ve gotten into the foremost causes of the provision chain disruption we’ve been experiencing, however let’s do it yet one more time for the Biden Administration, sitting at the back of the room.

Coverage-Pushed Demand Growth

The “provide chain disaster” was triggered by lockdowns and authorities stimuli making a growth in client spending on items that prompted, in flip, delivery demand to growth with month after month after month after month of near-record to record-high quantity hitting the ports. However there have been years of different components constructing as much as make the demand improve such an issue.

A lot-Decreased Provider Competitors

One issue was carriers consolidating into simply three service alliances, which allowed them to govern capability (provide), which they shrunk beneath market demand by way of tons of of blanked (cancelled) sailings firstly of the pandemic when demand was anticipated to lower. This prompted delivery containers and tools to be maldistributed all over the world when demand boomed. These service alliances are all accredited by federal regulators – one thing I’ve been calling out as an issue for years on this weblog.

Unions Towards Automation

One other issue is that the highly effective dockworker unions have fought in opposition to automation at US ports for years. The result’s ports within the US which can be much less environment friendly than their counterports (hey White Home, I can play with phrases too) all over the world. Who thought this could ever be an issue within the face of an increasing number of items being shipped yearly? Oh, everybody? Everybody who knew about it thought it was drawback?

Further Elements

Further components creating the “provide chain disaster” are Covid restrictions and even closures at ports (additional decreasing effectivity and productiveness) and different provide chain factors and a trucker scarcity that’s been a difficulty for years and was exacerbated by vaccine mandates. In case you go actually far down on the listing, you’d finally most likely get to an absence of transparency within the business contributing to the inefficiency of the provision chain.

Enter Circulate

Fortunately, we have now FLOW to the rescue, the place the Division of Transportation (DOT), headed by the extremely skilled Pete Buttigieg, will lead the knowledge change efforts. The White Home’s “truth sheet” says, “DOT will lead this effort, enjoying the position of an sincere dealer and convener to carry provide chain stakeholders collectively to drawback remedy and overcome coordination challenges.”

A part of the Biden Administration being an sincere something definitely appears like “enjoying a task” to me. However I definitely do hope FLOW is profitable in creating extra transparency and effectivity within the provide chain and doesn’t evolve into pointless laws requiring compliance on gamers inside the delivery business that finally ends up inflicting much more inefficiency within the provide chain.

One factor I do like is that, of the 18 companions enjoying a management position in shaping this knowledge change, there are two main ocean freight carriers recruited: CMA CGM and MSC. As said above, ocean freight carriers lack transparency. After all, in the event that they’re shaping what info is shared, shippers could not see enhancements in transparency the place they’d wish to see it with carriers. We’ll have to observe and see the way it seems.

Full Textual content of Biden Administration’s Announcement of FLOW

Right here’s the total textual content of the White Home’s “truth sheet” on FLOW:

Truth Sheet: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Publicizes New Initiative to Enhance Provide Chain Information Circulate

March 15, 2022 • Statements and Releases

Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) Will Pace Up Supply Instances and Cut back Shopper Prices

White Home to Host Launch Occasion At present with Key Trade Stakeholders

Since taking workplace, the Biden-Harris Administration has been targeted on addressing provide chain vulnerabilities and congestion, working to hurry up the motion of products, and decrease prices for households. Final yr, the ports and the non-public sector moved a historic quantity of products with report vacation gross sales and supply instances beneath pre-pandemic ranges. At the moment, actual retail inventories excluding autos are six % increased than on the finish of 2019 and merchandise at grocery and drug shops are 90 % in inventory, simply 1 share level beneath pre-pandemic ranges.

The Administration can also be targeted on addressing the longer-term weaknesses in our nation’s provide chains, the results of a long time of underinvestment, outsourcing, and offshoring as an alternative of funding in long-term safety, sustainability, and resilience. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Legislation (BIL) is now making a generational funding in our ports, highways, and different elements of our bodily infrastructure, which can assist velocity up the motion of products and decrease prices. However we are able to additional strengthen our items motion provide chains by making a equally daring enchancment in a digital infrastructure to attach the provision chain.

To take step one towards addressing this problem, the Biden-Harris Administration is asserting the launch of Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW), an info sharing initiative to pilot key freight info change between elements of the products motion provide chain. FLOW contains eighteen preliminary contributors that symbolize various views throughout the provision chain, together with non-public companies, warehousing, and logistics firms, ports, and extra.  These key stakeholders will work along with the Administration to develop a proof-of-concept info change to ease provide chain congestion, velocity up the motion of products, and finally reduce prices for American shoppers. DOT will lead this effort, enjoying the position of an sincere dealer and convener to carry provide chain stakeholders collectively to drawback remedy and overcome coordination challenges. This preliminary part goals to provide a proof-of-concept freight info change by the top of the summer time.

A Novel Information Sharing Partnership

Latest provide chain disruptions have raised nationwide consciousness of the necessity for improved info change. Provide chain stakeholders deserve dependable, predictable, and correct details about items motion and FLOW will take a look at the concept cooperation on foundational freight digital infrastructure is within the curiosity of each private and non-private events. FLOW is designed to help companies all through the provision chain and enhance accuracy of data from end-to-end for a extra resilient provide chain.

Resiliency—the power to get well from an surprising shock—requires visibility, agility, and redundancy. The dearth of digital infrastructure and transparency makes our provide chains brittle and unable to adapt when confronted with a shock. The products motion chain is sort of solely privately operated and spans delivery traces, ports, terminal operators, truckers, railroads, warehouses, and cargo homeowners resembling retailers. These totally different actors have made nice strides in digitizing their very own inner operations, however they don’t all the time change info with one another. This lack of know-how change could cause delays as cargo strikes from one a part of the provision chain to a different, driving up prices and rising items motion fragility.

This effort reveals a robust and deliberate response by the Administration to sort out this problem head-on and set the nation on the fitting trajectory for a resilient and globally aggressive twenty first century items motion chain. The Biden-Harris Administration is laser targeted and inventive in figuring out methods to hurry up the motion of products from ships to cabinets and reduce prices for American shoppers. With FLOW, the Biden Administration will play a management position in bringing firms collectively to drawback remedy for the American individuals. Preliminary companions in FLOW embody:

Port Authorities:

  • Port of Lengthy Seashore
  • Port of Los Angeles
  • Georgia Ports Authority

Ocean Carriers:

Terminal Operators:

  • Fenix Marine Terminal
  • International Container Terminals


  • Albertsons
  • Gemini Shippers
  • Land O’ Lakes
  • Goal
  • True Worth


Logistics and Warehousing:

  • FedEx
  • Prologis
  • UPS
  •  CH Robinson

These first companions are dedicated to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to establish and operationalize a primary info change that may help a extra resilient and fluid provide chain. They symbolize stakeholders all through the provision chain together with massive BCOs (useful cargo homeowners) like Goal, small and medium measurement companies represented by True Worth and Gemini Shippers, in addition to agricultural producers resembling Land O’Lakes. FLOW will be capable of tackle points resembling guaranteeing early return dates are constant throughout companions, measuring extra correct chassis availability and understanding combination dwell time all through the provision chain. The rules of the pilot embody the next: it’s a voluntary, safe nationwide change for freight info, it’s accessible to contributors who share knowledge, and it’s sustained by provide chain operational enchancment.

For extra events, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching a webpage to gauge extra stakeholder curiosity in supporting foundational freight infrastructure:

Whereas beginning with a restricted pilot, DOT needs to listen to from others who’re considering partaking as a part of FLOW as a participant because the initiative grows. Inside one month of the FLOW launch, DOT will launch an internet web page to gauge business curiosity in participation and knowledge sharing for a possible long-term FLOW effort.

Constructing on Ongoing Provide Chain Achievements

The FLOW initiative builds on earlier successes of the Biden-Harris Provide Chain Disruptions Job Pressure to make sure cargo is getting from ship to shelf, together with:

  • Decreased Dwell Time in Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore. Firstly of November, with help from the Administration, the Ports of Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore proposed charging the ocean carriers for cargo that dwelled on the docks for 9 days or extra, which led to a few 60 % discount within the variety of long-dwelling import containers on the docks so far.
  • Alleviated congestion on the Port of Savannah by funding the Georgia Port Authority pop-up container yards mission. With this coverage change, the Georgia Port Authority was in a position to reallocate greater than $8 million to transform present inland services into 5 pop-up container yards in each Georgia and North Carolina.  Because the short-term container yards opened in late November, the container yards have supplied aid to about 5,000 containers over eight weeks and freed up extra dock area, dashing items stream out and in of the Port of Savannah.
  • Secured commitments to maneuver in direction of 24/7 operations by way of a Presidential name to motion to encourage each hyperlink within the items motion chain to maneuver in direction of a 24/7 tempo to extend the amount and tempo of merchandise flowing by way of the system. The Ports of Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore and Worldwide Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) staff joined collectively to make the primary dedication. A number of the nations’ largest firms joined in as nicely—together with Walmart, Goal, FedEx, UPS, Residence Depot, Finest Purchase, The Hole, and Samsung—committing to attempt a brand new answer.

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