McLeod Software’s data science initiative leads to freight market insights

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Updated Oct 6, 2020

Data is a signal, and as signal volume increases, users quickly will reach the limits of their human attention spans. “Analysis paralysis” takes over, and users begin to lose sight of the most critical signals, which causes productivity and business results to decrease.

McLeod Software’s new MPact platform shows critical movements in market rates for users.McLeod Software’s new MPact platform shows critical movements in market rates for users.

Criss Wilson, a data scientist for McLeod Software, offered these insights Sept. 29 during a breakout session at the company’s 30th annual user conference. McLeod Software hosted the conference virtually due to the COVID-10 pandemic.

Getting the right information to users at the right time – at the “event horizon,” as Wilson called it – is critical to capitalize on opportunities before they are lost for good.

During the breakout, he demonstrated a new business intelligence platform that McLeod Software is developing. The MPact platform uses aggregate rate data from more than 1,000 freight brokers and motor carriers that use McLeod Software’s PowerBroker and LoadMaster enterprise software.

“When we share data, we become wise beyond measure,” Wilson said. “It makes us stronger together.” The rate data goes through data science models that use machine learning to provide market insights to users and redirect their actions to achieve success, he said.

The top portion of MPact’s home screen resembles a trading tool for stocks. Instead of listing stock prices, a scrolling “ticker tape” shows week-over-week changes in the origin and destination markets for the motor carrier or freight broker customer.

The lower screen has four quadrants. Each has a different listing of the top five or bottom five markets (origin to destination) and the customers with the biggest and lowest weekly rate gains.

Additional MPact screens are Order Trend and Rate Trend, and both are useful for researching new and existing market opportunities, Wilson said. Users can view macro trends and zoom to a micro level by narrowing the time window to see how rates change for different lane pairs by week and day. The charts show the number of companies that contributed rate and shipment data to each data set.

Another screen, Net Margin Trend, is useful for transportation companies to participate in bid events by viewing the profitability of lanes before they bid and commit to the business, he said.

Weathering the storm

The McLeod Software conference began with a video message from Tom McLeod, the company’s founder and chief executive.

“If there has ever been a time when I’ve got on my knees and thanked God for serving the trucking industry, it’s this year,” said McLeod, who credited the resilience of the company’s motor carrier and freight broker customers, some of which have had a record year.

Tom McLeod, CEO for McLeod Software, stressed the need for transportation companies to develop a two-year plan for process improvements and technology adoption.Tom McLeod, CEO for McLeod Software, stressed the need for transportation companies to develop a two-year plan for process improvements and technology adoption.

McLeod said the company of more than 500 employees in Birmingham, Alabama, has seen a steady stream of new customers with business ahead of where it was in 2019, which also was a good year.

He noted how new trends emerged this year, such as employers offering greater flexibility to employees to work from home, and other accelerating trends such as e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that companies are best prepared to weather the storm by using business process automation (BPA) and business intelligence (BI), said McLeod.

“So many of our customers are taking advantage of this and proving its worth,” McLeod said. “In a time of a pandemic, [companies] need to be working in a paperless environment.”

McLeod Software’s BPA product, Flow Logix, is used by several hundred of its customers, and the company is continuing to expand the product and its automated workflows, he said.

McLeod also stressed the need for transportation companies to put together a two-year plan for process improvement and technology adoption.

Transportation companies often start with high aspirations for technology when they adopt a base product from McLeod Software and begin to dispatch drivers, pay them and process freight bills. Where companies fall short is by not having a plan to use more advanced features and improve the processes they originally envisioned.

McLeod reviewed the latest advancements in his company’s version 20.2 of LoadMaster and PowerBroker, which was released in August. Highlights from that release were covered previously by CCJ here.

McLeod said the new MPact product builds on the company’s Market Insight product that has been available for nine years. Market Insight shows users how their company’s rates compare to market rates on a lane-by-lane basis and how the rates are trending. He said the company is planning to roll out MPact by year’s end to customers who run Market Insight.

“This is just the beginning of the ways we think we can contribute to your business through data science and business intelligence,” McLeod said. The company already has a BI product, McLeod IQ, that now is available in a cloud-based version that comes with a variety of dashboards and custom reporting tools.

McLeod Software is planning to hold its user conference in person next year at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.