When a large Scandinavian steel company implemented a new supply chain visibility platform in 2021, its primary goal was to keep customers happy with real-time information about deliveries. But there was a bonus: It also delighted the truck drivers vital to its business.
Polish truck company Mexem saw this benefit quickly. It has around 100 of its own trucks, and adds about another 450 through subcontractors. Nearly every day, one of these trucks will take iron ore from steel mills in Sweden and deliver it to Poland.
“You have to be on time,” says Marcin Kaminski, Sales Specialist at Mexem Sp. z o.o. “A steel plant cannot be turning off a furnace just because a truck got held up.”
The company is justifiably proud of its delivery record, achieved through trusted relationships with its own and subcontracted drivers. But being on time is a goal that has been difficult to maintain in recent years.
“There is a massive shortage of drivers across Europe,” says Marcin. “That has the potential to impact our business, that of our customers and our customers’ customers. If you want a good truck business, you have to have the best drivers.”
To keep the steel mills running optimally, it used to be that managers would frequently phone drivers to keep track of their location.
“That was extremely time-consuming,” says Marcin, “and, to be frank, the drivers found those calls to be a little irritating. Now our customers can keep much better track of their deliveries. They’re able to do so in real time. And the drivers can concentrate on driving without interruption.”
During times of tight driver capacity, it’s important to keep drivers satisfied. Turning off the phone and turning on supply chain visibility offers a crucial way to do that.
Mexem has adopted NIC-Place, a carrier visibility solution from FourKites. With its Data Control Center, NIC-Place offers secure data exchange with other real-time visibility solutions, including the one used by the steel works (also FourKites, in this case). This enables carriers like Mexem to participate in a connected logistics ecosystem, while allowing them to maintain control over the data they share with customers like the steel factory.
Germany-based NIC-Place was acquired by FourKites in January 2022. Together, the two platforms have formed the largest multimodal carrier network in Europe.
When the steel company — a big customer for Mexem — implemented FourKites, it did so to give better visibility to its customers. FourKites delivers real-time data from trucks and provides customers with a dashboard where they can keep track of their deliveries at every point along their supply chain.
An important part of that project was to involve as many carriers as possible. And because of NIC-Place’s provider-agnostic integration capabilities, Mexem was able to automate its supply chain visibility quickly and easily. It helped that NIC-Place is so simple and easy to use. “It took us about 30 minutes and two phone calls, and that was it — we were up and running,” says Marcin.
“Of course, if a big customer asks you to do something, you look into it,” he adds. “But it seemed to us like a good idea because, once we were able to offer automated visibility, we knew it was something other large customers would be interested in.”
Mexem is a large trucking company, by European standards. But much of its fleet in Poland is operated by subcontractors — small family firms with just a few trucks each. And although Mexem has around 100 of its own trucks, those account for only about 30% of its business. To get the capacity it needs, Mexem subcontracts work to smaller carriers.
“The question was, could we persuade our subcontractors to come onboard with the NIC-Place visibility platform,” says Marcin. “Many are nervous that someone will be tracking their trucks. Some worry about the workload involved. But the answer is yes — we’ve already persuaded the first of our small subcontractors. They found it very easy to onboard, and after only a few weeks, they have already seen that the platform allows them to offer enhanced service to their customers through real-time visibility.”
And, of course, their drivers see the benefit of staying off of their phones as they negotiate those tricky junctions.