Every month we select one logistics startup which represents a positive example of innovation in Logistics and Supply Chain and has the potential to alter the way the industry operates. This month, Transmetrics selected ClearMetal, the predictive logistics company that unlocks unprecedented efficiencies for global trade, as the September “Logistics Startup of the Month” for its outstanding contribution to the development of data science and AI in logistics and supply chain.
In order to learn more about ClearMetal and what they do, we talked with Adam Compain, CEO and Co-Founder of ClearMetal, about their business and how data science and AI can bring the positive influence to supply chain and logistics.
First of all, congratulations for becoming the Logistics Startup of the Month! Can you please briefly introduce our readers to ClearMetal? How do your predictive transport and supply chain visibility platforms work and what kind of technologies are behind them?
ClearMetal is a predictive supply chain visibility company that helps retailers and manufacturers transform their supply chains using data science. Supply chain teams typically receive poor information and visibility from their service providers, which results in excess inventory, unnecessary transportation cost, and a challenge to meet customer demands. ClearMetal solves this problem through a cloud-based software-as-a-service application, which leverages proprietary machine learning and AI technology to first clean and make sense of inaccurate supply chain data, then delivers end-to-end inventory visibility with proactive exception management, alerting, functionality, and collaboration capabilities never before possible.
This technology was custom-built by ClearMetal’s data science and software engineering teams over several years of research and development. As a result, supply chains can reduce inventory on hand, reduce transportation spend, optimize inventory position for logistics & distribution, and increase personal productivity and customer service. Moreover, through clean supply chain data and predictive intelligence, companies will be able to drive competitive advantage and increased profitability from its supply chain.
Why do you believe that ClearMetal is the best predictive supply chain visibility solution on the market? What are the outstanding features of your platform, that set you apart from the rest of the market?
We empathize with how hard it is for shippers to differentiate between software providers when everyone is using the same buzzwords and our industry is littered with technology companies that have failed to deliver on their promise. And while many vendors tout their features – we have some stunning ones too – we believe visibility can only be gained and business problems can only be solved when the underlying data problem is solved… and there are very few companies with such mindset and capabilities in the world, so we are proud to be among them.
Your initial focus was on forecasting of upcoming volumes for logistics providers but then you shifted your focus more on the predictive track and trace solution for shippers. Why did you shift from the initial idea?
We always believed the future of the supply chain would be about data intelligence versus scale and we founded the company in order to deliver as much value to our industry as possible. While the mission of ‘streamlining the supply chain by making trade data organized, accessible, predictive and actionable’ has remained unchanged, we discovered that we could deliver the greatest value to the industry by helping shippers gain better visibility and understanding of how their inventory moves in transit; doing this would also help improve collaboration with service providers and carriers. And while ClearMetal’s customers are the shippers, we’re proud to now be engaged with many of the industry’s largest 3PLs and carriers as well.
In your opinion, what are the areas of logistics and supply chain where AI can bring the most significant impact?
“While there have been visibility providers for decades, shippers still aren’t getting the visibility they need. Why is that? Because the underlying data in supply chain is quite poor—latent, incomplete, and erroneous– and unless you can make sense of that data, you cannot get the visibility you need. AI can be used to clean and make sense of the data.”
1) Visibility. In order for shippers to optimize inventory (let alone digitally transform), they need visibility. And while there have been visibility providers for decades, shippers still aren’t getting the visibility they need. Why is that? Because the underlying data in supply chain is quite poor—latent, incomplete, and erroneous– and unless you can make sense of that data, you cannot get the visibility you need. AI can be used to clean and make sense of the data. This is of course what ClearMetal does and by doing so, we provide shippers with the visibility they’ve always needed but have never been able to find and aren’t able to get elsewhere.
2) Being proactive vs reactive. Many people in the industry spend a lot of time manually cleaning and correcting data or doing detective work to chase down the whereabouts of their shipments by making phone calls or searching multiple carrier and terminal websites. By using AI, data from multiple sources can be automatically aggregated, cleaned, and reconciled to identify the most reliable information; further, this technology can surface the right information at the right time to the right supply chain professional—thereby preventing a whole lot of boring, manual, reactive work and instead enabling the people in this industry to be the strategic professionals they truly are. It’s the equivalent of having to do long division by hand or using a calculator to allow financial professionals make the strategic business decisions they’re best at. ClearMetal has been providing the advanced calculator.
Being a logistics startup ourselves, at Transmetrics, we know how difficult sometimes it is to find the right investors and right advisors. You have quite notable names supporting ClearMetal. How did you manage to bring such forward-looking people on board with you?
Thanks for the compliment. Generally speaking, I believe the best investors and strategic advisors want to work with teams who think big, have solved a previously unsolvable problem, and have proven ability to transform an entire industry. We’re fortunate to have the team, advisors, and investors that we do and appreciate their continued contributions to help us deliver value to our customers.
You have been operating in several regions – Europe and the US included. What are the main differences in business styles and maybe challenges of your customers in the US and overseas?
Interesting question. We have customers across 4 continents and you know the saying that ‘no two supply chains are alike’. Rather than regional differences, we notice a greater difference between those who are progressive and proactive to transform their businesses vs not—and I’d say this is more a corporate cultural difference than regional. And to be honest it reminds me very much of when I was at Google in 2009 helping retailers and manufacturers take advantage of the then new “mobile” (i.e. smartphone) technology. We watched some of the largest companies hesitate, believing no one would ever buy anything on a phone and that ‘mobile’ was just a fad. They didn’t pay attention nor act quick enough and we literally watched some companies die. I think a similar trend is happening in supply chain today and it’s very apparent to us who is acting now to get a hold of this next generation of technology and its benefits, and which companies are hesitating and will fall dangerously behind.
What kind of advice can you give to the fellow logistics startups? What is the recipe for successful growth in the Logistics and Supply Chain industry?
The supply chain industry is an incredible one and its people deserve tremendous respect for how they literally make the world go ‘round. The industry is also a very physical one and will remain people-driven. We’ve always been hellbent on empowering the professionals in this industry, not replacing them, and trying to introduce solutions to painful problems rather than trying to “disrupt” or “sell” cutting edge technology for the sake of it.
If it is not a secret, what are ClearMetal’s big plans for the upcoming year? Do you have any important announcements that our readers can expect from you soon?
We’re having a lot of fun solving massive problems with our shipper customers and we’ll deliver even more value in the future—which will include every mode of transportation and benefit both up- and down-stream in the supply chain.